CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
Booming cheers and thunderous applause from the crowd of U.S. and Kuwaiti service members, police officers and civilians fill the air as two competitors grapple on an oversized blue mat in the center of the Camp Arifjan zone 1 gym, June 23, 2019.
Loud music combined with the crowd noise makes it difficult for people trying to hear the person sitting next to them. Through all that noise, one distinctive voice pierces through like a knife.
“Pass that knee, pass that bottom knee,” yells Sgt. Linsey William, a public affairs specialist with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, as veins bulge out the sides of her neck.
Williams is coaching Staff Sgt. Kenry Trowers to help him remember an evasive maneuver during his match with a member of the Kuwaiti navy in a friendly bout between the two nations.
The crowd noise softens during a less active moment in the match, then suddenly it erupts again as one competitor gains an advantage. The one constant through this fluctuating energy is Williams; even when the cheers subside she coaches.
“Control his knees man, he’s going to try and bring them in,” said Williams as she leans forward in her chair, edging as close to the action as possible.
Williams got her first taste of grappling in the basic combatives course during her initial entry training with the U.S. Army in 2011.
“While I was at Fort Meade, Maryland, I found a gym and kind of got hooked,” said Williams.
"This was my time to help others as they started their competitive journey..."
Not long after she completed initial entry training, Williams deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in 2011. While at Camp Arifjan, Williams joined a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club.
“That’s where I really started, it was such an experience that I knew it was something I had to carry with me when I got home,” said Williams.
Williams is taking a coaching role in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club and in the combatives tournament during her second deployment to Camp Arifjan.
“This was my time to help others as they started their competitive journey,” Williams said.
Captain Dylan Grayston, an assistant air officer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, improved his grappling by cross-training with Williams.
“Sergeant Williams has taught me a lot,” said Grayston. “It has been great having that experience having that comradery and training.”
Trowers, an air movement request noncommissioned officer in charge with Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, won his match with coaching from Williams. Trowers said he encourages others interested in combatives to come see Williams for coaching.
“If you guys want to get better at combatives, we train at zone 6 Monday through Friday at 7:30 p.m.,” said Trowers.
Once the matches were complete and medals were presented the crowd dispersed, but Williams remains to coach and mentor all eager to improve.
“It has been a really great experience … getting to coach in real time … it has been a cool way for me to link my understanding of competing with my understanding of helping others compete,” said Williams.
After her deployment to Camp Arifjan, Williams plans to return to Minnesota and continue to train and work toward a possible Ultimate Fighting Championship career.