CONTINGENCY OPERATING STATION KALSU, Iraq – The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division held a brigade-wide combatives tournament at Contingency Operating Station Kalsu that ended, July 10.
Fighters representing each of the brigade’s five battalions came together for two days of competition to determine who would go on to represent the “Sledgehammers” in the All-Army Combatives Tournament later this year.
“It’s unreal to me,” said Spc. Sarah Lanphear, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd HBCT. “I just started combatives in March. It really means a lot that I have achieved so much in such a short time.”
Winners of the tournament earned a plaque and a coin from brigade commander, Col. Peter Jones. They will continue their training at Fort Benning, Ga., in preparation for the All-Army tournament.
“We have had support from the brigade,” said Sgt. Seth Mendel, 3rd BSTB, “but to compete successfully at the All-Army level, it takes an incredible amount of personal dedication.”
The fighters said they are ready to work on improving their abilities.
“I need to work on my stand-up game,” said Lanphear. “Right now I’m really looking forward to working on my boxing skills.”
For Lanphear, winning is not all about brute strength.
“Some people might think that because I’m smaller, I might not be a very good fighter,” said Lanphear, “but I think it’s interesting that it doesn’t matter what size you are; it’s all about your heart.”
Lanphear credits more than heart for her success.
“Staff Sgt. [James] Vincent has been an incredible mentor to me,” she said. “He has really made it his goal to help me succeed, and Sgt. [Craig] Obeso, who calls himself my manager, has been my number one support channel. He pushed me and reminded me how much I like this sport.”
For Mendel, it is a chance to become a student again.
“I will be refining every aspect of my game,” he said. “It will be nice to have someone at a higher level train me and point out where I am weak so I can improve.”
Entering the All-Army ring is a natural progression for Mendel.
“What helped me was a long history of interest in martial arts and fighting, anything to do with combat,” he said.
As one of the brigade’s combatives instructors, Mendel trains fellow Soldiers in the Army Combatives Program.
“All that it takes to make every Soldier a hardcore fighter, something they can be proud of, is an instructor that has a passion for fighting,” he said.
Although he won his weight class at the brigade tournament, Pfc. Jeremy Myers, 3rd BSTB, is not satisfied.
“I wouldn’t call myself a success yet,” he said. “I can call myself a success after I win the All-Army tournament.”
While some identify coaches and friends as their driving force, Myers fights for someone else.
“I fight for everyone that says I shouldn’t be here,” he said. “I win for them.”