Army's 'Best Sapper' competition coming back to Fort Leonard Wood
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2010 1:57 pm
Sappers from all services are wanted for this year's Best Sapper competition.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Feb. 13, 2010) — Servicemembers who think they’re some of the toughest military engineers are being invited to compete in this spring’s “Best Sapper” competition at Fort Leonard Wood.
The competition, which is the Army engineer equivalent to the Army’s “Best Ranger” competition, is open not only to soldiers in the 21-series MOS engineer category but also other soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines who have earned the “Sapper” shoulder tab. Held from April 17 to 21 at Fort Leonard Wood, this is the sixth year of the competition which, according to an announcement to brigade-level commanders by Engineer School Commandant Brig. Gen. Bryan Watson, “will test the mental and physical stamina, as well as the tactical and technical skills of the participants.”
“As much as deployments allow, we would like to see all Sappers who wish to, compete and be recognized as the ‘Best Sapper’ team,” Watson said in his invitation.
Sapper teams consist of two members who seek to demonstrate their competence in combat engineering military occupation specialties by a six-phase, multiday competition. Both officers and enlisted personnel may compete in teams, but the teams are selected by the military unit they will represent. The awards for the competition are presented during the annual ENFORCE conference, which also includes the annual briefing by the Chief of Engineers and the Engineer Regimental Ball.
As with real-life situations faced by combat engineers, contestants don’t know exactly what challenges they will have to face.
“The overall competition events will remain unknown, but competitors will receive the task, condition, and standards prior to the execution of each event,” according to application material, but competitions are warned that “the land navigation and foot marching events are the most physically demanding and fatiguing events conducted during the competition” and are recommended to practice “foot marching and land navigation exercises at varying distances (up to 18 miles) carrying a 65lb rucksack in ACU, LCE, military issue boots, with an M4 / M16 rifle.”
Competition categories of events will include tests on construction of explosive charges, a test of all knots and rope systems in the sapper handbook, a poncho raft swim after jumping out of a helicopter into a body of water, a road march of 12 to 20 miles, a demolitions exam, land navigation at night over six miles of terrain, a non-standard physical training test, “sapper stakes,” which means “a myriad of engineer-specific events,” and a test of the teams on their ability to disassemble, reassemble and identify parts of both American and enemy weapon systems, as well as identifying enemy mines.
According to Fort Leonard Wood public affairs personnel, 34 teams from around the Army participated last year.
“Each year the competition has continued to grow in popularity and difficulty as the engineer regiment’s premiere event for battalions to send their mightiest warriors to secure the title.” said Capt. Doug Solan, company commander for the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 35th Engineer Battalion. “This year is no different in that it promises to challenge both physically and intellectually our Army’s most worthy.”