Pfc. Robert England
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Two Soldiers from the 66th Engineer Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, here, put their best foot forward against many of the finest service members around, and finished sixth overall at the Best Sapper competition, April 19-21, at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
The company’s two Soldiers, 1st Lt. Michael McLaughlin, executive officer, and 1st Lt. Garrett Haddad, 2nd Platoon leader, comprised one of 30, two-person teams that overcame a series of obstacles designed to test the physical endurance and mental resilience of all participants.
Despite the fact that the brigade’s Sapper team had a week to train after arriving in garrison from its rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and then departing for the competition, it still managed to finish among the top 10 teams.
“We got back from NTC the fourth of April, and we had to leave a week later, so basically for that week, we tried to get in the best shape possible,” McLaughlin said. “Maybe with more time, we could have performed better, but sixth place for not really training, we’re pleased with that.”
“We were planning on using our Sapper handbooks at certain points,” Haddad said. “It surprised us that we really had to memorize a lot more than we thought we did.”
The competition consisted of 31 events spanning 52 hours and issued challenges ranging from basic Soldier skills to advanced combat engineer training.
Also, a nonstandard physical fitness test consisting of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and a three-mile run in boots — while wearing improved outer tactical vests and carrying weapons — was administered. McLaughlin, who participated in last year’s competition, lamented on the difficulty of the road march in comparison to the course in 2009.
“I did the competition last year, and the road march didn’t seem too bad,” McLaughlin said. “This year, they changed the course quite a bit, and it was probably the most hills I’ve done in my life.”
Entry was open to any Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine serving in an engineer military occupational specialty or graduates of a Sapper school who had earned the Sapper tab. Results were based on cumulative points accrued from each event.
Competition winners are Capt. Joseph Byrnes and Capt. Jason Castro, both of C Company, 554th Engineer Battalion, at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Byrnes, a former member of the the 66th Engineer Co., here, achieved his second overall victory after having first won the competition in 2007.