Service members compete in 'Phoenix Support' combatives tournament
Story and Photo by Spc. Michael Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The 63rd Ordnance Company out of Fort Lewis, Wash., sponsored the 80th Ordnance Battalion's 'Phoenix Support' Combatives Tournament Feb. 27 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
Roughly 55 service members signed up for the battalion's second tournament, open to all service members at JBB, said 1st Lt. Aaron Kao, executive officer with the 63rd Ord. Co., 80th Ord. Bn., 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
Service members who competed have fighting experience from both military training and martial arts studies, said Kao, a Los Alamos, N.M., native.
The tournament used standard Army combatives competition rules, which allow grappling techniques but no strikes, said Kao. Strikes were prohibited to promote safety, he said.
Fighters began standing up and were only allowed to use grapples, trips and throws to take their opponent down and finish the fight on the ground, said Kao.
In the Modern Army Combatives Program level-one training, Soldiers learn the basics of grapples and escapes, said Kao. As they advance in levels, Soldiers learn more about strikes and upright combat. Level 2 expands on grapples and fighting techniques, and strikes are taught in level 3, where stand-up combat becomes a focus, he said.
"Once the fighter becomes more advanced, we can incorporate how to box, how to kick and how to strike," he said.
Army combatives teaches Soldiers hand-to-hand tactics while instilling the combat-ready mindset, said Kao. The tournament provided a regulated environment for service members to compete against one another. It is the spirit of competition that drives troops to hone their physical fitness and combat readiness, Kao said.
"When somebody's got you in a choke or … an arm bar, you're going to fight hard to escape that," he said.
The competition was a good demonstration of hand-to-hand combat from MACP and martial arts training, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Mantooth, the corps storage area accountability officer and a level-4 combatives certified instructor with the 63rd Ord. Co.
"We were very impressed," said Mantooth, a Biloxi, Miss., native. "We saw a lot of technique and the fighters seem to come here well trained."
Unarmed combatives has become an important tool in the battle mindset for service members, said Mantooth. The Army and the Marine Corps have incorporated their own unarmed combatives training for years, he said. The Air Force is currently developing their own combatives program, as the needs of combat readiness have evolved. They currently use MACP, he said.
Unlike traditional martial arts and boxing, MACP is designed for the battlefield, said Mantooth. MACP has three major principals: to close the distance and move forward, to gain and maintain a dominant position and to finish the fight. The techniques taught are meant to overcome a noncompliant, unarmed enemy and detain them without the use of deadly force, he said.
"In every one of our fights today, they have to do that," said Mantooth. "If they're willing to move forward with their battle buddy, then they're definitely willing to go forward with the enemy."
The tournament awarded champions in six different weight classes.
Spc. Jaime Velez, a light wheel mechanic with 514th Support Maintenance Company and a Jayuya, Puerto Rico, native, won the lightweight (126 pounds to 140 pounds) championship.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Raymond Elizalde, a force protection escort with the 332nd Expeditionary Force Protection Squadron and an Imperial, Calif., native, won the welterweight (141 pounds to 150 pounds) championship.
Pfc. James Williamson, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response specialist with the 51st Medical Logistics Company and a Virginia Beach, Va., native, won the middleweight (156 to 170 pounds) championship.
Spc. Lionel Sierra, a special electronics repair specialist with E Company, 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment and a Reedley, Calif., native, won the cruiserweight (171 pounds to 185) championship.
Air Force Senior Airman Andre Lewis, a C-130 Hercules crew chief with the 777th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit and a Winamac, Ind., native, won the light-heavyweight (186 pounds to 205 pounds) championship.
Capt. Jason Norwood, commander of C Battery (Target Acquisition), 26th Field Artillery Regiment and a Morristown, N.J., native, won the heavyweight (205 or more pounds) championship.
The tournament also brought awareness to the 80th Ord. Bn. combatives classes, said Mantooth. The MACP level-one classes are open to all service members at JBB, and level-two classes are slated for later in the year, he said.
Kao said the 80th Ord. Bn. plans on holding a third tournament before they redeploy later this year.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Raymond Elizalde, a force protection escort with the 332nd Expeditionary Force Protection Squadron and an Imperial, Calif., native, puts his opponent into an arm bar during a match at 80th Ordnance Battalion's 'Phoenix Support' Combatives Tournament Feb. 27 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Elizalde won the welterweight (141 pounds to 150 pounds) championship.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Camacho)