Soldiers competing on mat. One with blue belt, one with red belt.

Photo by Staff Sgt. George B. Davis, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Richard Scott (right) of Joint Force Headquarters-Ohio competes in a lightweight (140 pounds and under) bout on his way to earning a silver medal in the division during the 2017 Ohio National Guard Combatives Tournament in Columbus, Ohio where more than 80 Soldiers competed for championship belts in six weight classes.

Combatives tournament seen as more than just fighting

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Chad Menegay, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

COLUMBUS, Ohio (09/12/19)

“The combatives tournament is a leadership training event,” said retired Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who invented the Modern Army Combatives Program.

Its students attentively and safely attempt to influence one another to submission with a choke or strike. They exhibit self-confidence, self-awareness and self-reliance while providing purpose and motivation in opposition with a guard or grapple. They strategically make decisions and give direction with a throw or trip.

It’s all intended to build character — the pride and humility, the victory and defeat — which, if successful, can only lead to an improved organization.

The first Modern Army Combatives tournament was held in 2000, and its aim was to enhance unit combat readiness by building Soldiers’ personal courage, confidence and resiliency, as well as their situational responsiveness to close-quarters threats in the operational environment.

“We wanted to pump life into the (Modern Army Combatives) Program,” Ferriter said. “If you know you’re going to be tested, then you practice.”

Ferriter said that teams from active-duty installations such as Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, plus the National Guard and Army Reserve began preparing and selecting their teams with pre-tournaments. The tournament provided a renewed focus on combatives, Army-wide.

“So now you have this layer cake of activity,” Ferriter said.

For its part in this Army-wide, layered activity, the Ohio Army National Guard is preparing for its sixth annual combatives tournament to be held this weekend (Sept. 14), at the Maj. Robert S. Beightler Armory in Columbus. Ninety-two male and female competitors are expected to compete for state championships in six weight divisions.

The tournament will start with six-minute preliminary rounds in a double-elimination format. The semifinal rounds will be 10 minutes and conducted under intermediate combatives rules, which in addition to grappling and wrestling techniques, incorporate body strikes to include punches, kicks and open hands to the face.

This year the tournament is open to Ohio Air National Guard members, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Kervick, a cyber surety liaison for the 180th Mission Support Group in Swanton, Ohio, will compete.

“We figured, ‘why not open this up and make it more of a collaboration between both sides, green and blue,’” said Capt. Zachary Shawver, the officer in charge of the tournament.

Last year there were under 50 competitors, so tournament organizers have already achieved their first goal, which is to have a good turnout.

“Next year maybe we have to look at doing this as a two-day tournament because there are so many competitors,” Shawver said.

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Annual OHARNG combatives competition exhibits warrior spirit

Nearly 50 Soldiers from Ohio Army National Guard units across the state battled to be the best during the 2018 Ohio Army National Guard Combatives Tournament. The tournament called on Soldiers’ skills and hand-to-hand combat techniques learned through the Modern Army Combatives Program, a core Soldier competency in which all Soldiers have some training.


Soldiers from across state do battle during 2017 Ohio Army National Guard Combatives Tournament

More than 80 Soldiers traveled from across Ohio to fight their way to claim the championship belts in the 2017 Ohio Army National Guard Combatives Tournament. From early in the morning lasting until late in the afternoon, Soldiers battled Soldiers — kicks, throws and arm bars. Bouts packed with strength and struggle. The mats on the drill floor were full of energy the entirety of the day.


First Lt. Valerie Stearns stands with Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr.

Citizen-Soldier steps out of comfort zone for growth opportunities

Ohio Army National Guard 1st Lt. Valerie Stearns has been in the military for the past nine years, and during that time has been deployed to Afghanistan and was one of the first females integrated into combat arms and the first female platoon leader at the 812th Engineer Company (Sapper). Stearns, who is also a licensed elementary school teacher, says that “it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in new ways. It’s how you become better.”