Sappers team up for rigorous, inaugural skills test
May 3, 2013
"Sappers never quit, sir!" yelled Staff Sgt. Shane Sawyer, the oldest and most experienced squad leader in the 66th Engineer Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Division.
As Sawyer was yelling, he was also pointing to his Sapper Tab during a 12-mile foot-march, the culminating event of Operation Expert Sapper.
The operation was 25th ID's inaugural event for Sapper companies from 2nd Stryker BCT and 3rd BCT. Leaders from 66th Eng. Co. and Co. A, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd BCT, seized the opportunity to combine efforts in establishing a baseline standard for testing individual Sapper skills.
Although this event came at a tumultuous time when both brigades were off-ramped from deployment, both companies collectively resourced tough realistic training for their men.
"Expert Sapper is the only true event when an individual Sapper can prove that he is the best," said 1st Sgt. Cory Wingfield, 66th Eng. Co.
A total of 92 Sappers trained at Schofield's Area X and the South Engineer Training Area, April 15-18. Seven from the 66th were rated Expert Sappers after receiving first-time success in all eight events.
Day one began with a rigorous combat physical fitness test, consisting of an 880-yard run, ammo lift and maneuver under fire. Medical testing followed, focused on combat lifesaver techniques and communications testing.
On day two, Sappers were tested on their ability to identify, inspect and tie 10 essential knots for military mountaineering, with only two minutes to complete each task. They then moved to demolitions testing, an exhaustive evaluation of their knowledge of constructing demolition firing systems and priming explosives.
The third day focused on individual weapons and equipment used by a Sapper counter-mine operations. Candidates were required to perform detection operations with a mine detector and mark five out of six buried mines.
Weapons testing required correct assembly and function checking of the M9, M4, M249 and M240 weapons systems.
Day four culminated with a 12-mile foot march in three hours or less. The grueling, hill-studded route started at Area X, moved across a gulch to McCarthy Flats, ran back through the gulch and up to the Kolekole Pass, down to the Cadet Sheridan intersection, and returned to Area X-Ray and the finish line.
As there is only one engineer company in each brigade combat team, Soldiers took advantage of this unique opportunity to share valuable experiences within the 25th ID's engineer community. Both companies benefited from establishing a professional network over the past four days and increased esprit de corps.
"At the end of the day, we're here to support maneuver operations to units assigned to the 25th Infantry Division," said Capt. Elliot Brass, commander, Co. A, 3rd STB, during the closing remarks.
"The last time a similar event like this occurred was back in 2005, when the 65th Eng. Bn. was assigned to the 25th prior to reorganizing as the Special Troops Battalion for 3rd Brigade," said 1st Sgt. Jesus Pedraza, Co. A, 3rd STB. "At the time, only about 10 percent of the participants received the coveted title of being an Expert Sapper. That trend still remains, and it's good to know the standards haven't changed."
Wingfield said, "Success of the Expert Sappers was measured by their physical fitness, knowledge and will to fight, which makes them a champion in their own right. This is just the beginning of what's yet to come!"