The 2017 Best Sapper Competition just finished up a few days ago. The Best Sapper Competition was started in 2005 as a means for military members in the Combat Engineer skill areas to show off their training and skills. This three-day competition is open to Soldiers and Marines, E-4 and above. At least one competitor on each team must have earned the Sapper tab.
Organized into 50 two-person teams, the competitors compete in a 50 hour, fifty mile course, completing grueling physical requirements and many technical skill events. The competition is designed to not only determine the next “Best Sapper” team, but to also challenge and test the competitors’ knowledge, skills, physical prowess and mental fortitude. By the final day, the competition has been whittled down to the top 20 teams. My nephew, Staff Sgt Brendan Gilbert, and his fellow team member, Staff Sgt Jacob Brittian, made it to the top 20 … beating out 30 other teams. They finished in 11th place, which is quite a great accomplishment. We are all very proud of them … all of them.
To wear the Sapper Tab, a Soldier must graduate from the Sapper Leader Course operated by the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The Sapper Leader Course is a 28-day course designed to train joint-service leaders in small unit tactics, leadership skills, and tactics required to perform as part of a combined arms team. The course is open to enlisted Soldiers in the grades of E-4 (in the Army, specialist) and above, cadets, and officers O-3 (Army, captain) and below. As students can come from any combat or combat support branch of the service, female soldiers are permitted to attend, but priority is given to engineering, cavalry, and infantry soldiers. The course is divided into two Phases
The first 14 days cover general subjects including medical, land navigation, demolitions, air and water operations, mountaineering, landmines and weapons used by enemy forces
The remaining 14 days cover basic patrolling techniques and battle drills that emphasize leadership. The subjects include urban operations, breaching, patrol organization and movement, and reconnaissance, raid and ambush tactics. It concludes with a three-day situation training exercise, and five-day field training exercise. These missions are a 60/40 mix of engineer and infantry missions. Each training event is graded and scored. To graduate, a sapper must earn 700 out of 1000 points in order to wear the sapper tab.
All of our military service members deserve our respect and gratitude. Events such as this demonstrate just how well-trained and dedicated they really are.