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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard Combatives places 6th in All-Army

Members of the Minnesota National Guard combatives team placed sixth, finishing above the Fort Sill, Fort Drum and Joint Base Lewis-McChord teams during the 2012 US Army Combatives Championship, which ended Saturday at Fort Hood

Spc Sean Stebbins, Minnesota National Guard, attempts to kick Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Mejil, Fort Sill, in the championship bout of the bantamweight division during the finals of the 2012 US Army Combatives Championship Saturday at Fort Hood Behind Stebbins' appearance in the finals, the Minnesota National Guard team finished in sixth place Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Sports Editor

The MNG team captured 320 points, including a second-place finish in the bantamweight division by Spc Sean Stebbins, a member of MNG's 34th Infantry Division

"It feels pretty good I was the runner up in 2010, and then I was deployed last year, so I couldn't compete," Stebbins said

After a deployment to Afghanistan, Stebbins was ready to return to the Army's most successful Army National Guard combatives team

"This isn't the first year that we've done well, though," Stebbins said "We've consistently been competitive"

Before traveling to the All-Army tournament, the MNG team captured top honors at the fifth annual National Guard Combatives Tournament in March, marking their second-straight championship in that competition

"We've been working on the program since about 2004," 1st Lt Chad Malmberg, 34th Inf Div, said "I think 2010 is when we really broke out To be able to come down here and compete at such a high level, that's really something I think it brings a ton of pride to the Minnesota National Guard and the Guard in general"

Unlike the other Army combatives teams competing here, the MNG team had limited time to train together because they only drill once per month

"The guys on our team are paying for their own gym memberships," Stebbins said "It's coming out of their pockets and their own time For us, we're self-motivated as opposed to having a coach there to push us there all the time"

Despite their decentralized practice, Malmberg said the team works together as well as any other squad

"Our fighters are spread out through the whole state," Malmberg said "A lot of us all ready know each other from the years past, and for the guys that don't, they fit in so quick The camaraderie is built almost overnight"

More than 1,000 miles from home, the members of the MNG team knew they faced a daunting challenge at the All-Army level

"We don't ever try to think that because we're 34th Infantry Division that it's already won We have to try and go out there and earn it every time," Capt Joachim Eitenmiller, the division's combatives officer-in-charge, said

Staff Sgt Jeffrey Yurk, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the 82nd Airborne Division combatives program, said the MNG's emphasis on combatives has an impact on everything they do

"What they're doing is making them better Soldiers, better NCOs and better officers," Yurk said "As corny as it sounds, they're instilling the Warrior Ethos in all of these guys"

Eitenmiller said that combatives is fully supported at the highest levels of the MNG

"Our command, from the state level to the 34th Infantry Division command, have supported us and pushed us," he said "That is one of the biggest contributions for us to be so competitive is that our chain of command continuously backs us and wants us to do well"

Despite advancing only one team member to the final round of competition, Malmberg said the tournament was a great learning experience

"I think every year we come here guys learn stuff The competition here has gotten better every time," Malmberg said

Eitenmiller intends for the MNG team to remain a force in Army combatives for years to come

"We're going to continue to improve," Eitenmiller said "We're going to continue to find the best 16 guys we can put together on a team, and we're going to come here and continue to fight for that first-place trophy"

By Sgt Nathan Booth, 4th PAD
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