FORT STEWART — Three First Army soldiers competed in the 2007 All Army Combatives tournament this past weekend at Fort Benning.
Staff Sgt. Justin Simpson of Vallejo, Calif., Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Valarezo of Pensacola, Fla., and Capt. George Chittenden of Oakridge, Tenn. from the 188th Infantry Brigade are the first representatives from the brigade to compete in the All Army Combatives Tournament.
These three soldiers utilized their off duty hours to train and prepare for the event. They came together with a variety of skill sets and put in many hours of training in preparation for the event. These soldiers illustrate the “Train like you’re gonna fight” motto used by First Army units to instill the warrior ethos and training mindset into the thousands of soldiers they prepare for war.
“Combatives can provide a number of things to the soldiers. It can provide physical fitness, promote mental and physical discipline and helps to increase moral through team building individual competition,” Chittenden said.
Simpson is assigned to 2nd Battalion, 349th Logistical Support, and attached to the brigade Automation as communications section non-commissioned officer in charge. Simpson brought with him a strong background in folk style wrestling. He represented the brigade in the cruiser-weight class (less than 185 pounds). Simpson’s relentless work was apparent when he started his training weighing a fit 212 pounds and through hard work and dedication was able to cut down in just five weeks to a very lean 184.5 pounds.
Valarezo is assigned to the brigade Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, serving in the Operations and Training Section as the Improvised Explosive Device (IED-D) master gunner. Valarezo brought a strong boxing and a Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) level II certification. He represented the brigade in the heavy weight division (over 205 pounds). Valarezo fought the heaviest and strongest competitors, but through determination and technical superiority was able to acquire a 3-2 overall tournament record.
Chittenden is assigned to the brigade Plans Section as the assistant plans officer. Chittenden brought Jiu-Jitsu, submission wrestling, and kickboxing to the table. He represented the brigade in the light heavy-weight division (less than 205 pounds). Chittenden, the lightest competitor in his division, made it to the quarterfinals with an overall 4-2 tournament record.
The team manager, Master Sgt. Kenny Burgos, assigned to the brigade Plans section, provided much needed support for coordination of transportation and lodging. He worked all the administrative and registration procedures for the event and provided audio-visual support. Burgos is an important member of the team, taking care of all the administrative requirements allowing the fighters to focus on their matches.
“Training for the combatives tourney was tough at the point that only training time was in the morning starting from 5:30 -8:30 a.m. Training was also difficult as well do to lack of members to the team: heavyweight trained against smaller fighters instead of the same weight or bigger,” said Valarezo.
“We trained together just about every morning before work for about five weeks. We worked on standing and ground technical skills as well as cardiovascular and strength training,” Chittenden said.
The three soldiers worked together sharing techniques and providing motivation to push through many early morning training sessions. Their efforts brought home eight wins in this past weekend’s event.
The All Army Combatives tournament is held every year at Ft. Benning. The competition serves to motivate individual soldiers to train and practice their warrior tasks and drills, to react to man-to-man contact, and inspire units around the Army to support their soldiers in the area of combatives. Competitors are able to improve real world timing and match their skills against some of the greatest fighters in the world. The event is open to active duty, National Guard, reserve soldiers, or other service members who are attached or assigned to Army units, and to soldiers of any experience level or gender.
Valarezo was very enthusiastic about the experience. “The competition was great! Experiencing and seeing units from everywhere; 82nd Airborne, 101st Air Assault, 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Division, Guam, Alaska and more. Up to 305 fighters army wide. We found out that majority of the teams competed at Fort Benning’s last four - seven tournaments prior to the All Army tournament. Combatives build self-esteem, confidence, and a champion within a unit. Pride!”
Where are these soldiers going next? Back to Fort Stewart to train for the next competition and to pick up a few more members of their team.
“I will continue my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training in the evenings and weekends as always. Since the event there has been an increased interest in combative type training, we plan to continue to work together, along with a few new faces, throughout the week in the mornings,” Chittenden said.
Valarezo noted, “Hopefully I’ll get continue with army combative level (III-IV) and continue to compete at a later time, if not teach others to build their confidence and technique.
Chittenden is with the 199th Infantry Brigade.