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Not allowed in combat, women in U.S. Army take on men in cage fighting to prove they have the right stuff

Mar 19, 2012, 1:21 PM EDT

armycagefighting Getty Images

It may interest you to know that the U.S. Army stages cage fighting competitions — they say is prepares soldiers for hand-to-hand combat in rooms or other tight spaces. And you should also know that, while women are not allowed in combat, they are allowed to mix it up with the men in these competitions.

Here’s Army Staff Sgt. Jackelyn Walker (pictured) pummeling Pfc. Greg Langarica like Moe whacking Curly. It was part of a cage-fighting tournament last month at Fort Hood, Texas, that included 300 men, and 25 women. In last year’s competition, there were only five women. The cage fighting competition began in 2008, when commanders realized it helped with recruiting.

The brawls are an outgrowth of mixed martial arts training that began in all-male Ranger units in the mid-1990s and soon spread to the rest of the Army. Tournaments were started on mats and in boxing rings at bases around the country.

One woman made it to the finals. But at least three female fighters were carried out on stretchers. Others limped to a green canvas tent that served as a first-aid station. One fighter burst into tears, upset that a referee had halted her fight before she felt beaten.

Unlike participants in Army boxing matches, cage fighters wear open-fingered gloves with thin padding and no headgear. They mostly fight barefoot, wearing camouflage fatigues or T-shirts.

Even though 109 service women have died in Iraq (all in non-combat jobs), the Army still bans females from fighting in combat. Some service women like Walker hope that cage fighting will help change that policy.

Alas, Walker did not become the first female cage fighting champion at Fort Hood. She lost her match.

Langarica was magnanimous in victory. He hadn’t beaten a woman, he said.

“It was a warrior.”

Denied combat roles, Army women battle men in cage fighting [Stars and Stripes]

  1. lewp - Mar 19, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    Question for the guys:
    Were you taught as a kid NOT to hit girls?

    So, what happens if you were to get in the ring with a woman? It’s a no win situation. If you beat the woman, you look like a jackass for beating a girl. If you lose to a woman, you are the laughing stock of the US Army. It’s a no-win proposition. And before you check the thumbs down deal, I am an Army Veteran, and never fought a woman.

    • onlyspartanwomen - Apr 12, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      I am also an Army Veteran, and I’m a female. I do understand the no-win situation in Army combatives, and I feel for the guys who struggle with that in training, but I have done combatives training with male soldiers, and co-ed sparring is important (at least at the training level). I don’t know that mixed-gender competitions are necessary or even a wise idea, but I do know that in training, once the males understand that they’re not doing the females any favors by going easy on them, and they’re not going to be looked down on for sparring with a female, it generally works. Just like in all male units, it helps build camaraderie, it helps the males understand what the females are capable of, it helps the females understand what they are up against and what they are capable of. It’s important, and from what I’ve seen, it works. (I actually wrote a post about doing combatives with my husband a while back:

      In regards to women in combat–it is a common misnomer to say women are not allowed to serve in combat. Women absolutely serve in combat–they are not allowed to serve in combat MOS’s, which basically means they can’t be infantry, EOD, SF, and a couple other jobs that are still male only. There are plenty of other “non-combat” MOS’s that females are allowed to have, and they go right out on the line into combat next to the men. Some of these “non-combat” roles are combat medic, MP, tactical intelligence collectors, just to name a few. And they absolutely serve in combat units (I was in the 3rd Infantry division and went out on routine foot patrols with an artillery team operating as an infantry unit).