FORT HOOD, Texas — Two soldiers are locked, nose to nose, in a fight to gain the upper hand. Each move and counter is calculated on the fly, much like a physical chess match, with the goal of gaining an advantage. In an instant, the advantage is won, and one soldier is slammed to the mat.
For the sons of various Tucson area residents who recently engaged in this type of battle, it is as much about strategy and instinct as it is about training and strength during the 2012 U.S. Army Combatives Championship held here July 26 -28.
Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Seth M. Stout, son of Jerry and Wendy Stout of Tucson, Spec. Zac R. Pearson, son of Steve Connely of Tucson and Tracey Becker of Marana, and Spec. Ryan C. Jensen, son of Clayton and Jody Jensen of Vail, were representing the Arizona National Guard during the tournament. More than 300 soldiers from 28 Army posts competed for the chance to be called the champion.
“It feels great to be one of the select few people to get to represent Arizona,” said Pearson, a 2006 graduate of PPEP Tech High School.
“It is a huge honor,” said Stout, a 2004 graduate of Florence High School. “I’m cpompeting with the best the Army has to offer, and it means a lot to fight here.”
The Modern Army Combatives Program, or MACP, was developed in the late 1990’s by Army Rangers to train soldiers in “close quarters, hand-to-hand combat.” The MACP is constantly evolving to meet combat standards in not only hand to hand, but tactical submission techniques as well. This tournament is a testament to the skills developed in the program.
Every soldier is required to be MACP level one trained. Some, like Stout, Pearson, and Jensen, are more motivated to advance in training.
“I have competed on the civilian side and wanted to further the competition,” Jensen said.
“I started training in mixed martial arts, and when I joined the Army, my sergeant major suggested I give it a try,” added Pearson
The annual tournament is broken down by weight class, and each day the soldiers advance, the skills required to demonstrate are increased. Day one was about demonstrating the basic ground grappling skills. Day two added basic strikes, and day three, the championship rounds, were full contact. This format is used to determine the best in the Army that can demonstrate the skills required at all levels of the program.
The tournament also serves as a motivational tool to encourage more soldiers to advance in their combatives training. For some soldiers, the benefits outweigh the pain.
“I’ve gotten myself into amazing shape and been fortunate enough to meet some incredible people,” said Stout.
“It has helped tremendously,” said Pearson. “Not only does it help you physically, it helps you become mentally strong.”
Jensen and Pearson competed in the light heavyweight division and Stout in the welterweight division.