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386 AEW Airmen win 11 medals in multi-national Kuwait Jiu-Jitsu competition

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dalton Williams, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office

Airmen from Ali Al Salem Air Base competed in a multi-national Jiu-Jitsu competition in Jaber Al-Ahmad, Kuwait, Dec. 9, 2022, taking home 11 medals.

The base was represented by 15 members who competed against skilled martial artists from Iran, Syria, South Korea, Peru, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Bahrain and Azerbaijan.

Throughout the multi-day tournament, each match was full of exhausting hand-to-hand battles with a chokehold being just seconds away from eliminating a participant. Each mat was left sweat-drenched from intense effort to represent one’s country to the highest level.

The hard work and sportsmanship each Airman displayed left an impression with a local Kuwaiti Jiu-Jitsu gym. The gym invited them to practice at their facilities shortly after the competition and again anytime in the future.

“Making friendships with them has been great. They invited us to their gym to come train with them…everyone had so much fun when we went over there,” said Senior Airman David Umoette, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment. “It was a blessing; they're very hospitable. They want to go back next weekend.”

This kind of teamwork, drive and Airmanship that the team embodies is instilled inside every practice. Before every takedown comes a hand-slap and a gesture of respect. When it’s time to teach a new submission technique, training is personalized to each person. When someone within the class progresses in belt rank, it’s a joyous celebration for the entire class.

“When I got here, there were a bunch of people who wanted to learn Jiu-Jitsu for the first time,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Leon Guerrero, 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer and Jiu-Jitsu team coach. “They showed up consistently, and put the work in…seeing how they have progressed has been really fun to watch.”

One of the greatest gifts a teacher can receive is watching the successful application of the lesson taught to the student. A perfect example of this was how the team implemented the techniques taught by Leon Guerrero and Master Sgt. Scott Carey, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron fire protection flight, throughout the tournament.

At one point, Umoette seized an opportunity by passing on the knowledge he learned during dozens of classes at the base’s Flex Gym to a teammate. Analyzing his opponent’s weak spots and knowing exactly the way they would react, Umoette passed on the training. The Airman ended up winning the match within seconds.

No matter the success at the end of the day, the Jiu-Jitsu classes and the bonds formed there have been invaluable to help the members destress and grow as individuals.

“The bond I have with the team is one of the best things that could have happened for me,” said Umoette. “I'm always kind of reserved and in the back of the crowd. As soon as I walk into the Jiu-Jitsu room, it’s a place where I can chill and be myself. Being here has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve had and helped me grow as a person.”