130th Eng. Bde.’s elite compete in Best Sapper contest

| April 22, 2011 | 0 Comments
Competitors jump from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in the helocast event during the 2011 Best Sapper competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. (Nicole Black | Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs)

Competitors jump from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in the helocast event during the 2011 Best Sapper competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. (Nicole Black | Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs)

2nd Lt. Laura Beth Beebe & 2nd Lt. Kyle Suchomski
130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command

 

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — It is one of the most grueling events in the Army: 56 hours of nonstop mental and physical tests to determine who can earn the bragging rights as the Army’s best in the engineer field.

The Best Sapper Competition kicked off, April 7, here, with a nonstandard physical fitness test consisting of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and a three-mile run, where competitors donned individual body armor and small arms protective insert plates.

The participants competed in buddy teams of their choosing. Out of the 37 teams competing, the 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, sent two teams, one from the 65th Eng. Battalion and one from the 84th Eng. Bn.

“It was a world-class event,” said Capt. Emily Hannenberg, 84th Eng. Bn., 130th Eng. Bde. “I was surprised to see how well run and resourced it was, and I was really honored to be a part of it.”

The yearly competition is open to any engineer Soldier or any Sailor, Airman or Marine who has earned the Sapper tab by successfully completing the 28-day Sapper Leader Course, which has a 50-percent attrition rate.

Soldiers boarded a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter for the helocast, where they jumped from the helicopter for a bitter, 54-degree swim.

Day one continued with seven challenges that took competitors more than 15 miles, while carrying approximately 75-pound rucksacks. The teams then went without sleep to complete a six-hour land navigation course through wooded terrain.

By day two, only the top 20 teams remained to complete Sapper Stakes, a series of eight events tested a variety of engineer skills needed in combat. The evening brought another road march, but the mileage for the road march and a run the following morning were kept secret from the competitors.

“(This final) ruck march was the hardest event,” said 1st Lt. Robert West, 84th Eng. Bn., 130th Eng. Bde. “Without any sleep for two days, a 50-pound ruck and not knowing how much further we had to go … it was difficult.”

“It was far more difficult than I expected it to be, but I feel we were well prepared,” Hannenberg said, as one of only two female competitors in the competition. “Everyone was real professional. Our team wasn’t treated any differently than anyone else.

“We were all evaluated on the same measuring stick,” she continued. “I just really appreciate the support from the command. They didn’t have to let us go and compete, but they supported us all the way through.”

Hannenberg and West finished in 11th place, and Capt. Dusty Turner and 1st Lt. Thomas Bazemore, both from the 65th Eng. Bn., 130th Eng. Bde., finished in sixth.

Col. Jeffery Milhorn, commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Ward, senior enlisted leader, 130th Eng. Bde., said they were exceptionally proud of both teams that competed in the competition this year. They added that each team exemplified courage and strength during periods of extreme fatigue. The leaders said the teams performed heroically throughout.

(Editor’s Note: Beebe is with 84th Eng. Bn. Public Affairs, 130th Eng. Bde., 8th TSC, and Suchomski is with the 65th Eng. Bn., 130th Eng. Bde., 8th TSC.) 

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