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Airmen and Soldiers test their fighting skills

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kenneth McCann
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
SOUTHWEST ASIA - Gen. of the Army Douglas MacArthur once said, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.” Deployed Soldiers and Airmen put this mantra to the test in a friendly combatives tournament at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Jan. 22. The event was hosted by the 368th Engineering Battalion and tried deployed service member’s abilities in mixed martial arts including wrestling, Brazilian jujitsu, muay thai and judo.

Airmen of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen and a Soldier from Delta 144th Air Defense Artillery, prepped for the event by training together daily under the guidance of Master Sgt. Royce Kerbow, 386th AEW command post superintendent. The coaching and training proved successful because two of Kerbow’s students ended the tournament as victors in their weight division.

The intense training sessions before the tournament consisted of learning and repeating techniques including rolling so the students could get a feel for a real match.

“The competitors trained six days a week, two to three hours a night,” said Kerbow. “Our guys won two out of the four weight divisions, so I think we did a good job.”

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Zastrow, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group bio-environmental technician, trained and fought his way to become the heavyweight division winner. Zastrow came to fight with eight years of wrestling experience with the Air Force World Class Athlete Program.

“The competition was tough and the Army ran a great show,” said Zastrow. “I was impressed.”

Zastrow’s victory did not come without dedication and hard work during his Middle East deployment.

“We did a lot of awesome combative training here,” said Zastrow. “For the last couple of weeks before the tournament, we were in there every night.”

The lone Army deployer to train with Kerbow’s Airmen, Pfc. Phan Viet, Delta 144 ADA wheel mechanic, earned his way to become the lightweight division winner.

“It felt good to win considering how well we trained over the past few months,” said Viet. “The training here was tough.”

Viet and his fellow mixed martial art students didn’t let inter-service rivalry get in the way of preparing for the fight. Though Viet was the only Soldier to train and fight with the Airmen, he said they took him in as one of their own.

“Everyone has been friendly, Viet said. “ I was the only Army guy around here but they treated me no different, because we all love the sport.”

The other first place winners of the combatives tournament were Spc. Austin Jones, middle weight division, and Spc. Timothy O’Maley, light heavyweight division.