Inside the Gates: How punches to the face prepare soldiers for war
If you’ve ever been punched in the face, how did you take it?
If not, how do you feel you'd react?
Taking a punch and defending yourself is the idea behind the U.S. Army Alaska’s Spartan Crucible Open Combatives Tournament at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson this week.
During this hand-to-hand combat tournament, soldiers protect themselves without using firearms and practice non-lethal responses to their enemies.
Executive head of training, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Yeagley, says the contests simulate battlefield situations.
"We try to expose them to those types of scenarios here so, like I said, on the battlefield is not the first them they are being engaged,” said Yeagley. “It's not the first time they are being punched in the face, and they understand that they can take a hit and work through that and come out the back end on top."
Proficiency in hand-to-hand combat is a fundamental part of training the modern soldier. The skills instill courage, self-confidence, understanding of controlled aggression and the ability to remain focused while under pressure.
Command Sgt. Maj. Brandon Dimick with the 59th signal battalion has been teaching Brazilian jiujitsu for the past 13 years.
"This is really about readiness for the Army," Dimick said. "This is what we train to do every single day."
On base, Dimick donates much of his free time to training soldiers and airmen. He himself advanced to the Spartan Crucible finals, along with three of his students.
The championship bracket had Dimick potentially squaring off against one of the soldiers he trained. Instead of fighting him, Dimick forfeited his match.
"Personally, I didn't sign up for this tournament because I felt like I had anything to prove to anybody," Dimick said. "I did it to really lead by example, to show that the training that we are doing, I'm also willing to do the things that I'm asking you guys to do.”
Dimick went on to the third-place pairing, which he won.
The tournament started on Monday with weigh-ins for each of the eight classes, featuring men and women.
Less-experienced fighters fought with basic rules on Tuesday. More advanced fighters, using intermediate to advanced fighting rules, squared off throughout the week, leading up to Thursday’s final matches.
The top three finishers in each weight class won medals.
A trophy is awarded for overall showing. This year, that award went to the first-time host, the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
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