(See photos at end of story)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Shouts of “tuck your chin,” “arch your back,” and “keep moving” filled Kleber Kaserne gym Thursday as 50 junior officers from the 29th Support Group did hand-to-hand battle in a combatives tournament during the unit’s junior officer competition.

The tournament was one of several events during the three-day competition that had 50 lieutenants, captains and warrant officers face off against each other in four teams that were dubbed task forces Ord, Lee, Lewis and R-O-B (short for Kaiserslautern’s Rhine Ordnance Barracks).

During the competition, the teams responded to mock roadside bombs and suicide bombers during convoy operation scenarios, disassembled and reassembled various weapons, wrote a military history essay, took shots at each other during a paintball battle and went on a roughly four-mile run with Col. Robin Akin, 29th Support Group commander.

The aim of the competition was to test officers’ physical fitness, leadership skills, teamwork and performance of basic warrior drills, said Capt. Megan Jordan, officer in charge of the competition.

“It really tests their skills to show what they’re made of when they deploy,” Jordan said. “A lot of them have just redeployed so they are sharing that wealth of knowledge they gained during the last year to 15 months downrange with their peers. And (Akin) wants them to have fun.”

On Friday, Task Force Lee was crowned the overall team winner, and 1st Lt. Gabe Legendy was named the competition’s most valuable player. Legendy was also the male champion in the combatives tournament. Warrant Officer 1 Valerie Bridgham was the female champion in the combatives tournament.

Thursday morning’s combatives tournament saw some intense match-ups that had officers applying various choke holds and submission moves on each other, causing some to give up, or “tap out.”

As two officers wrestled, grappled and writhed about on padded mats, Staff Sgt. Joshua Montalbano, the combatives tournament instructor, offered them some heady advice.

“Think about what he’s giving you,” Montalbano shouted. “The most effective weapon in combat is your mind.”

The combatives tournament was based on a scenario that some of the officers could face downrange. A placard near the mats read: “The unit is conducting urban operations in Baghdad, Iraq and you are the first soldier through the door. Upon entering the room, you are immediately taken to the ground by an insurgent. Take action!”

In May, the 29th Support Group held a more individual-based junior officer competition in which participants took a physical fitness test, performed weapons qualifications and underwent a road march. This week’s competition had more of a team focus, Jordan said.

On Wednesday, the teams took aim at each other during a paintball battle in which the task forces planned on how best to attack and suppress their opposing team. Officers, armed with paintball guns, donned protective face masks and goggles during the battle that took place on a wooded course near Pulaski Barracks. Paintballs whizzed through the air in the midst of intermittent snow showers as the teams closed in on each other.

The camaraderie and friendships forged are just a few of many things 1st Lt. Daniel Fields, with the 66th Transportation Company, will take from the junior officer competition. Fields gave his thoughts on the competition following a paintball battle.

“When we showed up Tuesday, I knew maybe two people in my task force,” Fields said. “Especially things like this with the paintball, it helps you get to know people and work together with them. Whether you think it or not now, you’re going to see them again down the road.”

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