Dec 2, 2013 -- CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Unit events like field meets or warrior nights are routinely hosted to promote unit cohesion and help Marines and sailors maintain a positive focus on everyday life.
3rd Medical Battalion expanded upon that concept by conducting a grappling tournament Nov. 15 on Camp Foster designed to increase morale and promote the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program among the Marines and sailors of the unit.
“We had a great turnout for this event,” said 1st Lt. Andrew J. Gelbach, the Headquarters and Services Company commander with 3rd Med. Bn., 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “We had 25 participants in the tournament and around 120 spectators who supported them.
“Being a small battalion, and with many from the unit having already left for the Philippines, the amount of people who showed up to the event is incredibly significant,” added Gelbach.
Several martial arts instructors were present during the tournament to enforce safe and proper techniques while corpsmen were present to ensure that the Marines and sailors were able to participate in their matches without injury.
“I am a big proponent of MCMAP, and our battalion (considers it very important),” said Gelbach. “It is great that we are getting both Marines and sailors into the program, and this event is a great representation of that support.”
Following an explanation of the rules and regulations for the tournament, the Marines and sailors were placed into brackets based on their weight class.
“A lot of people, including myself, have been (engaged) in MCMAP since we have arrived on island,” said Lance Cpl. Derris L. McCastle, a small-arms repairer/technician with the battalion. “(The tournament) improves our grappling techniques, and allows us to analyze how people perform during their matches.”
The contestants were instructed to conduct each bout in the kneeling position to ensure that excessive force was not used. During the tournament, the participants grappled during five 60-second rounds. The winners were determined by one participant conceding the match, or one participant displaying overall dominance over their opponent during the match.
“The Marines (and sailors) performed really well during their specific matches,” said Staff Sgt. Duane C. Pineda, a martial arts instructor and a water support technician with the battalion. “Some of them have developed better grappling techniques and all of them have improved their stamina.”
The winners of each match progressed to the next round to determine first and second place respectively. The loser of each round, prior to the final round, would be set in a losers’ bracket to determine who would take third place in the tournament.
“You can hear the spectators coach the participants during their matches,” said Gelbach. “That’s the type of support we’re looking for during this event.”
Among the winners of the tournament were Navy Lt. Joseph F. Labarbera for the heavyweight class, Seaman Justin B. Hampton for the welterweight class, and McCastle for the lightweight class. Labarbera is the administration officer with S-1, administration, 3rd Med. Bn., and Hampton is a hospital corpsman with the battalion.
The attendance, enthusiasm and participation from the battalion have kept this tournament an ongoing event, according to Pineda.
“The (battalion commander) said she wants more events like this in the future,” said Pineda. “Anything that increases fitness, competition and morale is positive for the battalion.”