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Minnesota National Guard
Female competitor trains for All Army combatives tournament

Ever since Staff Sgt Kailey Carlson of Apple Valley saw the tryouts during her Annual Training in 2010, she knew she wanted to be a part of the Minnesota Army National Guard Combatives team

"I watched the state tournament and said, "˜I want to do that'," Carlson said

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Carlson, of Echo Company with the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, tried out the following year and has been on the team ever since

Other female fighters have competed in the Army combatives tournament, and aside from a slight weight allowance, Carlson doesn't expect - or get - any special treatment when she fights She does, however, acknowledge that it's a bit different to fight as a woman in a sport occupied predominantly by men

"What other chance do I get to stand there and go head-to-head against the guys?" she says

The fighters she saw in the 2010 tryout resulted in a team that finished in fourth place in the All Army tournament - fourth out of more than 50 entrants The Minnesota team finished behind only Fort Bragg, Fort Riley, and III Corps from Fort Hood, the overall winner that year Minnesota's team, without even fielding the maximum number of two fighters per weight class, scored ahead of teams from Fort Bliss, Fort Campbell, and Fort Benning - the host of the tournament The team also finished a spot ahead of the Illinois National Guard, the only other Guard team to reach the top ten

Minnesota's 2011 combatives team also won the All Guard tournament before finishing seventh in the All Army competition That was Carlson's first year, and she finished third, winning a bronze medal

Most recently, the Minnesota team placed first in the 2012 All Guard competition at Fort Benning in March - outscoring the next closest team, the Missouri National Guard, by a score of 465 to 281

This year, Carlson will fight in the 110-pound class of the All Army tournament as will Spc Sean Stebbins of the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery, who placed second at the All Army tournament in 2010 before missing the 2011 tournament due to deployment

In order for the Minnesota team to field the best fighters, tryouts are held before each big event Tryouts in May for the All Army team attracted about 36 Soldiers, said 1st Lt Chad Malmberg, coach of the team That number was a bit smaller than the team expected, but as in previous years, the real story was the quality of the fighters, not how many tried out

"What we found was the Soldiers trying out were all very skilled combatives fighters," said Malmberg "It was very evident everyone trying out had trained hard, got in excellent shape"

Considering the Minnesota Guard team does not have the geographical advantage of training together, the high placements at the All Army tournaments are even more impressive The fighters train wherever they are in the state and will not meet until the tournament

Staff Sgt Carlson trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy in Brooklyn Center, under head coach Greg Nelson The Academy has developed several Minnesota Guard fighters in the past and supports Carlson's combatives training at the school along with the regular Jiu Jitsu training

"She's very disciplined in a gym full of super tough fighters, and she's always game to train," said Nat McIntyre, another instructor at the Academy

Carlson especially credits her first coach, Nate Homme, with not only instilling in her the techniques and competitiveness necessary to compete at a high level, but also for mentoring her through a healing injury so that she's in top shape for the All Army tournament in July

Learning combatives and Jiu Jitsu has been yet another challenge for Carlson, who joined the Guard in 2002 and is working towards a doctorate in Psychology But her main focus right now is the Army competition ahead

May 29, 2012
Story by Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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