JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. - The 7th Infantry ‘Bayonet'
Division is a team of teams, providing mission command and
training oversight for seven brigades – comprised of more
than 20,000 soldiers. How does such a large element promote
esprit de corps, overall fitness and heritage throughout its
ranks? The Bayonet Division decided to pit each brigade
against one another in a weeklong tournament of sporting
events, May 18 through 23.
The weeklong bash, known
as Bayonet Week, was essentially a tournament of tournaments
for the team of teams. Each brigade sent teams of soldiers
to compete in various events, ranging from time-honored
sports, like basketball, to less traditional ones, like
dodge ball. The soldiers were all fighting for the trophies
that would earn their brigade the bragging rights as the
best in the division.
U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Okins, medical evacuation non-commissioned officer in charge with 8th Battalion, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, lands a high kick against Spc. Andrew Ramos, vehicle commander with 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, during the 7th Infantry Division Bayonet Week combatives tournament, at Soldiers Field House, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 23, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nathan Goodall)
During Bayonet Week, 17th Fires Brigade hosted the division
combatives tournament and the division video gaming
tournament – two seemingly unrelated sporting events that
are ultimately linked through the Bayonet Week theme and
motto: celebrating resilience through fitness.
Combatives, the U.S. Army hand-to-hand combat program,
exudes resilience through fitness in a very blatant sense,
said Sgt. Sarah Spencer, an East Galesburg, Ill., native and
horizontal construction engineer with 14th Engineer
Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade.
During a match,
soldiers are constantly struggling in an attempt to stay in
the fight and gain the upper hand, changing strategies as
necessary and applying different techniques and tactics to
get out of a bad spot, Spencer said.
“You're literally trying, with resilience, to make sure they
don't hurt you and you don't lose,” Spencer said, adding
that lasting an entire six-minute bout feels “like you just
ran five miles at the fastest pace that you possibly can.”
According to Spc. Mitchell Peterson, a Des Moines, Iowa,
native and combat medic with 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense
Artillery Regiment, the large amount of physical resilience
one needs to compete in a tournament has to be met with an
equal amount of mental resilience.
since I was four years old, [I was] taught never to quit, to
basically just fear no one, even if they are better than
you...the match isn't over until it's over,” Peterson said.
“That's the way I always think about it. It's easy to
mentally break someone down if you're beating them, but you
can always come back.”
Peterson, a regular competitor
in brigade-level combatives tournaments, said the inclusion
of the division's best contenders added a heightened level
“I love it, just seeing all the
different styles out there, from wrestling to jiu jitsu,
judo, it's all here. There are some fantastic fighters in
this,” Peterson said.
The high caliber of fighters
forced Peterson to be more resilient, he fought hard to stay
in the tournament and adjusted his strategy to come back
after a defeat and place third for his weight class in the
While Peterson's obvious use of physical
resilience and never-give-up attitude helped him place in
the combatives tournament, video gaming offered soldiers a
more subtle chance at building personal character and
increasing camaraderie throughout the division.
soldiers like Pfc. Jon Spargur, a Bremerton, Wash., native,
and a fire directions controller with Headquarters and
Headquarters Battery, 17th Fires Brigade, gaming has helped
him develop perseverance and patience that he applies in
other factors of his life.
“If I'm bad at a game I'll
push at it, and that's really gone into other things that I
try in life, like if I try a new sport or something ... it
helps you understand that you can't just be automatically
good at something,” Spargur said.
Spargur picked up
video gaming as a child while watching his father play. He
recognized that reacting to flashes of light on a television
screen, using critical thinking and timing button
combinations has its own developmental benefits, but for him
the act of gaming provides something important that no
soldier should overlook: a way to relax.
fun,” he said, shrugging with a grin. “It's a good escape
Having a way to get rid of stress and
unwind can give soldiers a clear mind, allowing them to
maintain resilience without pushing themselves too hard.
While Spargur was content with testing his gaming skills
against the division's best, he was amazed at the variety of
soldiers that participated in the tournament.
of people you wouldn't expect to be good or even want to
play [were here], so it's really cool to meet some of these
people and hear what they have to say. Their opinions on
strategies and tactics were really interesting,” he said.
The diversity of participating soldiers at the
tournament was one of the reasons that gaming was such an
important part of Bayonet Week, said 1st Lt. Jerome Greene,
a San Diego native and assistant operations officer with 5th
Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Bde.
While Greene is not a gamer, he was in charge of the
gaming tournament and believes recognizing other soldiers'
interests is an important part of the Army.
promotes camaraderie, it gives them confidence, it gives
them somewhere to belong. It creates community,” Greene
Gathering soldiers from the seven brigades in
the division, whether it's through combatives or gaming,
gives soldiers a chance to meet face to face and develop
friendships throughout the division.
morale and cohesion through Bayonet Week, the 7th Inf. Div.
succeeds at keeping their title as a team of teams.
More photos available below
By U.S. Army Spc. Nathan Goodall
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