Team Malmstrom kicks up morale

Kickboxers Elisha Helsper (right) protects herself from opponent Aerial Beck’s left kick during a kickboxing bout at the Malmstrom Air Force Base 3-Bay Hangar on April 5. Helsper lost the fight by split decision. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)

Kickboxers Elisha Helsper (right) protects herself from opponent Aerial Beck’s left kick during a kickboxing bout at the Malmstrom Air Force Base 3-Bay Hangar on April 5. Helsper lost the fight by split decision. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)

Mixed martial artists Sky Folsum (right) attempts to land a left hook to the chin of opponent Colin Lee during 221 Industries’ Fight for the Troops event April 5 at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Folsom lost his Intense Cage Fighting championship belt during the fight, a rematch of ICF 8’s championship bout. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)

Mixed martial artists Sky Folsum (right) attempts to land a left hook to the chin of opponent Colin Lee during 221 Industries’ Fight for the Troops event April 5 at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Folsom lost his Intense Cage Fighting championship belt during the fight, a rematch of ICF 8’s championship bout. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)

Team Malmstrom members applaud mix martial artists at the 3-Bay Hangar during a Fight for the Troops event on April 5. The first of its kind event brought 1,100 attendees. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)

Team Malmstrom members applaud mix martial artists at the 3-Bay Hangar during a Fight for the Troops event on April 5. The first of its kind event brought 1,100 attendees. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)

Bob Sather, 221 Industries announcer, welcomes Mixed Martial Arts fans to 221’s first Fight For the Troops event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., on April 5. The event included six bouts, including an Intense Cage Fighting 145-pound championship rematch between Sky Folsom and Colin Lee. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Bob Sather, 221 Industries announcer, welcomes Mixed Martial Arts fans to 221’s first Fight For the Troops event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., on April 5. The event included six bouts, including an Intense Cage Fighting 145-pound championship rematch between Sky Folsom and Colin Lee. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Two kickboxers circle around one another as referee, Bret Hamlin, looks on during 221 Industries’ first-ever Fight For the Troops event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., on April 5. More than 1,100 Team Malmstrom members attended the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Two kickboxers circle around one another as referee, Bret Hamlin, looks on during 221 Industries’ first-ever Fight For the Troops event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., on April 5. More than 1,100 Team Malmstrom members attended the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Coach Matt Powers, helps his kickboxer, Elisha Helsper, put her gloves on before entering the octagon to face fellow kickboxer, Aerial Beck, during the second of six fights at 221 Industries’ first-ever Fight For the Troops event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., on April 5. Beck won the matchup by split decision. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Coach Matt Powers, helps his kickboxer, Elisha Helsper, put her gloves on before entering the octagon to face fellow kickboxer, Aerial Beck, during the second of six fights at 221 Industries’ first-ever Fight For the Troops event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., on April 5. Beck won the matchup by split decision. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Mixed Martial Artist Ryan McCracken lands a left hook to the chin of opponent Stewart Langdon during an MMA fight April 5 at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. McCracken won the matchup. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Mixed Martial Artist Ryan McCracken lands a left hook to the chin of opponent Stewart Langdon during an MMA fight April 5 at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. McCracken won the matchup. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Mixed Martial Artist Travis Rourke’s hand is raised by referee Bret Hamlin after Rourke’s victory April 5 at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Rourke was a former Airman once assigned to Malmstrom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Mixed Martial Artist Travis Rourke’s hand is raised by referee Bret Hamlin after Rourke’s victory April 5 at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Rourke was a former Airman once assigned to Malmstrom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The 341st Force Support Squadron teamed up with 221 Industries to put on a "Fight for the Troops" on April 5, which featured the talents of 12 amateur Mixed Martial Arts fighters from around the state of Montana and a visit from Joe McMillan, a professional MMA fighter.

Malmstrom's 3-Bay Hangar was temporarily transformed into an MMA arena last Friday, equipped with an eight-sided cage for the fighters and hundreds of chairs for spectators. While the arena was set up to comfortably seat 950 members, more than 1,100 Airmen attended the event, exceeding all expectations set for it.

"We wanted to build morale for the troops, and then we also wanted to do something that the young Airmen are interested in," said Katrina Cichosz, 341st FSS marketing specialist. "We threw a few ideas out and this is what headquarters thought they would be most interested in since they are into those kinds of sports."

The Fight for the Troops event kicked off April 4 with a weigh-in event where members of Team Malmstrom were able to meet the fighters as well as the ring girls who had a part in the event. Airmen were able to take pictures with the athletes, talk to the athletes and get autographs from them.

One of the athletes, Ryan McCracken, didn't have to travel far to fight for Malmstrom's troops, as he is a community member of Great Falls and an active participant with the Electric City MMA.

"They've given up so much for us, so we thought we'd give something back by putting on a free show for them," McCracken said acknowledging the Airmen. "This isn't my first fight, but it's the first time we've put on a fight specifically for the troops. Everything that they've given up to go overseas and everything they do here in the states is just to protect us so I figured some entertainment would be great for them."

During the event, each fighter had one chance to show off their skills. With 12 athletes, the spectators were able to witness six fights before the night was over.

MMA fighters fight under an organization called the Ultimate Fighting Championship. According to the UFC website, www.ufc.com, the UFC originated as a "competition to determine the most effective martial art for unarmed combat situations." To be considered among the best, fighters realized they needed to be trained in several regimes of fighting techniques to be proficient fighters standing or on the floor - a technique known as MMA.

Some of the disciplines MMA fighters train in include boxing, freestyle wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do and others. Because of the broad variety in fighting and training techniques associated with the sport, the fans of MMA fighting are just as diverse.

"When I was about 15 years old, professional wresting was just starting to take off, so my dad took me to the Kokomo Memorial Gymnasium in Indiana and we watched Dick 'the Bruiser' fight Bobo Brazil and I got to slap Dick 'the Bruiser' on the shoulders," said Col. Robert Stanley, 341st Missile Wing commander. "[Wrestling has] always been something I've kept an eye on."

Keeping up the morale of Airmen on Malmstrom is an important aspect of mission success, and one that is taken seriously among those who set up events like this one. By allowing Airmen time to relax on their off-duty time and enjoy different forms of entertainment, morale will hopefully prosper throughout the wing.

"I think it's important that we listen to our Airmen and what they want to do and what they find interesting," Stanley said. "Maybe we can come up with other things like this for our Airmen. Whatever we can do to help them enjoy themselves here at Malmstrom we'll do."