Photo Information

Sgt. Codie Hendren (bottom), a team member and field radio operator with the 8th Communication Battalion’s grappling team, puts his opponent in his guard during practice aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 21, 2015. The coaches emphasize a more combative style of fighting when they train to keep in line with the foundation of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. At their first official tournament in April, five Marines competed and received a total of nine medals. They run practices every day during their lunch hours to prepare for their upcoming tournament in July. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia McDonald/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia McDonald

In it to win it: 8th Comm. Bn. establishes a grappling team

29 Apr 2015 | Lance Cpl. Olivia McDonald II Marine Expeditionary Force

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Sweat drips onto the mat, muscles contract and Marines grit their teeth. The buzzer goes off, the Marines switch positions and the fighting continues.

Marines with 8th Communication Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, have established a grappling team that travels around North Carolina competing in U.S. Grappling sponsored tournaments.

“It keeps the Marines in shape,” said SSgt. Luke Hussey, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge with the team and a communication security manager with 8th Comm. Bn. “The competition helps you build a good bond with the Marines and it helps them further their combative mindset as Marines.”

The vision came from retired Master Sgt. Edward Raimo who trained the coaches to take over the team. With the dedication of Raimo and the coaches, the team made a statement immediately. After their first official tournament in April, the five Marines returned proudly to Camp Lejeune with nine medals: six gold and three silver.

“I couldn’t ask for any better,” said Hussey, a Robbins, North Carolina native. “We went up against formal martial arts academies that have had more time to train than us and like the Marine Corps does, we did more with less.”

Members of the team practice together during their lunch hours if they can, or the coaches will work with them after work hours.

“We are teaching the team basic wrestling and ju-jitsu. We have a certain style we use which is a more combative style,” said Sgt. Kevin S. Pelzel, a coach and field wireman with 8th Comm. Bn., and a Savoy, Texas native. “We don’t do too much sport-type grappling. It’s all about being combative, staying on top and winning.”

There is no rank bias or prerequisites for joining the team; anyone is welcome if they are willing to work hard.

“Everyone comes from different backgrounds; some have high school wrestling backgrounds, some who have trained ju-jitsu prior to joining the team and even some Marines with no experience but a desire to learn,” Hussey said.

The next step for the team is a tournament in Morrisville, N.C. this July.

“We have about three months to prepare, we’re taking a lot of new guys in, so my main mission right now is to give them the fundamentals they need to go to the tournament and compete successfully,” Pelzel said. “I would say we have come a long way. We are making progress.”

Pelzel wants the team to make a lasting impression. As the team continues to train, build and become more successful, they hope to open the team up to Marines outside of the 8th Comm. Unit.