1LT Jeffcoat, Rachael
Imagine you are on a stage lights beaming on you, eyes of strangers looking upon you, your palms sweaty with anticipation, praying your voice does not quiver as you sing, because after all you could be the next finalist in Operation Rising Star. Then you hear it, you hear the music begin, you begin to sing and after it’s over with you are nervous about how the crowd will react and then suddenly you hear the familiar voices of your friends and family members that have come to support you, cheering for you and holding up posters with your name and unit on them in bright letters and giving you that standing ovation you deserve.
On September 27 through October 13, 2012 two Soldiers from the 1-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion (BSTB) let their voices be heard in the Army’s Operation Rising Star Challenge. The Operation Rising Star Challenge is a singing competition hosted yearly by Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR). Competitors compete at their installation and can advance to the finals hosted this year at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Soldiers compete in three rounds at their home installation where they must each pick an approved song of choice that must be 1:30-4:30 minutes to perform. The contestants are judged by a panel of three judges made up of MWR staff. If the contestant wins overall installation they receive a prize of 500 dollars and a chance to compete in the finals where they could win an all expense vacation to record a 3 song demo CD. For most Soldiers and family members this would be a dream come true, at least it is for SPC Jekimya Tubwell a veteran to Operation Rising Star who has competed three years in this competition said each year she is overwhelmed and ecstatic just to compete in this competition but the best part is seeing the support your unit gives you during the competition.
Not only did the 1-3 BSTB competitors let their voice be heard but the 1-3 BSTB Family Readiness Group (FRG) was also heard, heard so much that 1-3 BSTB won the Operation Rising Star Spirit Award, a grand prize of 300 dollars. The Spirit Award goes to the FRG that has the most support and spirit at the competition. Mrs. Christalyn Lyon who is the FRSA for 1-3 BSTB was there every night with posters that had encouraging quotes and statements written big and bold on them like “We love our 1-3 BSTB Soldiers!” She even recruited Soldiers to come after hours to cheer and applaud for the Soldiers competing from 1-3 BSTB. Mrs. Lyon stated she was proud of the 1-3 BSTB Soldiers and how far they made it in the competition, and also of the FRG coming out to show support for the Soldiers, it shows camaraderie within a unit. When asked about the FRG support for her during the competition SPC Tubwell stated, “I knew if I did not win I had a whole heck of a lot of support.” SPC Tubwell also said it makes me want to try harder for my FRG and fans, and makes me want to do it next year knowing I have the support of my unit.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Blakeslee, 1HBCT Public Affairs
Taekwondo is a Korean style martial art and the national sport of South Korea. With its flashy kicks,
strong punches and focus on the development of its student’s spirit, mind and body makes this one
of the most popular martial arts to study. Taekwondo is currently practiced in 158 different countries and
has approximately 30 million followers. That popularity has also become a passion for one Raider Brigade
Soldier. “I love how Taekwondo and the martial arts focus on building the spirit, mind and body,” said Staff Sgt. Jim Coffey, a career counselor assigned to 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, and current 1st degree black belt with the American Taekwondo Association. “This is a way
of life for me. I love the training and the focus martial arts provide. I had to get out of it for a few years because
there were no ATA schools near where I was stationed, but now I’m training quite a few days a week."
Staff Sergeant Coffey is not the only Dog Faced Soldier to embrace this butt-kicking art. “My wife, Christy, got tired of sitting on the sidelines watching me practice and train, so she signed up for lessons and just tested for her yellow belt,” he said. For Staff Sgt. Coffey there is more at stake than just training and spending time with his wife. It’s about becoming an ATA world champion. “I’m currently ranked first in the state of Georgia for competitive forms and sparing, and third in the state for combat weapons, 1st degree black belt category, men’s age group 40-49 with ATA,” Staff Sgt. Coffey added. “It’s my goal to keep training and competing in tournaments to amass enough points to compete in and win the ATA world competition this season.” It seems this natural affinity for
military members studying martial arts has fully been embraced by Staff Sgt. Coffey and Family. As long as there
is an ATA school nearby Staff Sgt. Coffey will be punching, kicking and fighting his way to the top of the competition
Spc. Emily Knitter 1HBCT Public Affairs
The crowd is on their feet, roaring encouragement as spotlights illuminate the octagon while two fighters circle each other, and waiting for an opening. In an instant, they are tangled on the ground, fists flying with nothing but bad intentions. This is the final match, winner takes all. The challenger pins his opponents arm between his legs and starts punching him in his face for all he is worth. The crowd screams for blood.
Years earlier, a young boy is brought to a dojo and introduced to an old man. After one lesson, the boy is hooked and Brazilian Jujitsu becomes his way of life. The boy is there constantly, and earns the nickname unruly child for his smart-mouthed attitude.
One day, unruly child, you will be in my place trying to teach young kids the mind and how to do the moves perfectly, the old man warned.
The boy kept with it, and now he lies in the middle of a padded octagon, sweat-drenched and still punching the opponent pinned beneath him. He comes out of his fighting mindset as he feels the referee grab his arm, telling him the fight is over. Only then can he hear the roar of the crowd. He has won.
He falls to his knees instantly, taking a silent moment to thank the man who started it all.
Before and after every match I pay homage to my Judo Sensei, who passed away in February, explained Spc. Nathaniel Freeman. Without him I wouldn’t be doing this sport. Specialist Freeman had just won the Heavyweight Division of the All-Army Combatives Tournament.
As the announcer raises his arm above his head, Spc. Freeman, a combat engineer with Co. C, 1-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID, smiles for the cameras and the fans, but says he was only really thinking about one thing.
Believe it or not, after I won the first thing I wanted to do was have a moment of quiet to myself, he admits. After all the interviews and everything else, I just wanted to take a shower and grab a bite to eat.
The peace and quiet was a hard-earned reward for years of training.
I got into combatives because I like to fight, honestly, the Houston, Texas, native explained. Sergeant First Class Keith Bach really got me into it when he was stationed here. He said, You’re strong, you’re agile, try this, and I’ve been doing it on and off for almost eight years now. Specialist Freeman has been to multiple All-Army Combatives Tournaments in the past, but this was the first time any Fort Stewart Soldier has won first in their weight class.
I didn’t know what I was doing when I started training for combatives so many years ago, but I learned, he described. Last year, we worked a lot on visualization, so before every match I will visualize myself being totally destroyed.
Visualizing losing would seem almost like a step in reverse before a big match, but Spc. Freeman explains why it works.
I visualize what I would do to get out of those moves, so if I did find myself in that predicament in real life I already knew how to get out of it, he said.
This training helps not only during a combatives match, Spc. Freeman explains, but in combat as well.
When you go into combat with this training you can step back and see the big picture, he said. You are still moving at that fast combat speed, but in your head you can almost slow it down and make a good decision.
But during Spc. Freeman’s winning match this time, he was not focusing on combat, but his Family running down to congratulate him.
My uncle, whom I haven’t seen in almost 19 years, was there, he said. So all I could think was, I can’t lose in front of my Family.
After the final bell, Spc. Freeman’s uncle came running down from the stands.
It’s hard to miss him, Spc. Freeman said with a smile. He is 6’8” and looks just like me. He flew down with my aunt and I got bombarded. It is always good to be loved.
Although that was the final fight for Spc. Freeman’s military career, it is never truly over, he said.
It is not combatives anymore for me, now it is back to Brazilian ju-jitsu, he concluded. I will continue to train in this martial art until my body tells me that we can’t do it anymore, because there is always something new to reach for.