18th Engineers compete in best sapper competition
February 26, 2010
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Determination and a desire to be the best was all the motivation needed for the 10 two-man buddy teams from the 18th Engineer Brigade who battled for the title of U.S. Army Europe's best sapper team here Feb. 21-23.
The sapper teams, who represented the subordinate units of the 18th Eng. Bde., also competed for the chance to represent USAREUR at the Army-level best sapper competition in April.
In the end, Capt. David Vasquez, a training and plans officer with the 54th Engineer Battalion, and 1st Lt. Brett Fuller, a platoon leader with the 370th Engineer Company, 54th Eng. Bn., both from Bamberg, Germany, earned the bragging rights and claimed victory as USAREUR's best sapper team.
Of the 20 competitors, only eight of the engineers were sapper qualified; the others said they hoped the competition would help them prepare for their attendance at the Army's Sapper Leader Course in the future.
"I was trying to go to sapper school before I was sent to the Warrior Leader Course," said Sgt. Robert Larson, an engineer who works at the 54th Eng. Bn. Public Affairs Office. "I think that competing in the best sapper competition without a tab will help with getting into the school."
The competition started bright and early on day one with a nonstandard physical fitness test. The teams had five minutes to perform as many push-ups and sit-ups as possible and three minutes to complete as many pull-ups as they could. The test also included a 3-mile run wearing interceptor body armor vests.
Vasquez and Fuller scored the highest in the fitness test allowing them to take an early lead in the competition.
A written exam on demolitions was held after lunch. The exam also contained a hands-on portion of three lanes with simulated C-4 explosive charges. Each teams had 10 minutes to find and describe any deficiencies with the charges.
During dinner, many of the engineer teams took time to strategize their next event - a 15-mile road march. The route was two laps around Camp Aachen, but the organizers decided to make it a little more challenging and changed the route to include a third lap.
"The ruck march was difficult but not because of the distance," said Vasquez. "Throwing in that extra lap was a real de-motivator - seeing the finish line and then having to go around again. I think that was the most painful part, emotionally."
The second morning the competitors started the day at three demolition ranges, which included a timber charge, a concrete-counter charge and a charge used to force open doors during military operations on urban terrain.
Following the demolitions range, the competitors immediately moved to the weapons range, where they qualified with the M203 grenade launcher, M240B machine gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M16 rifle and the M9 pistol.
After a Meal, Ready-to-Eat lunch, the Soldiers completed five indoor lanes, which included combat lifesaver, steel cutting, poncho rafts, and two weapon-assembly lanes.
Vasquez and Fuller continued to complete the tasks the fastest and maintained their lead in the competition, followed closely by 1st Lt. Daniel Vitale, the executive officer of the 541st Engineer Company, 54th Eng. Bn., and 1st Lt. Michael Bradwick, the executive officer of the 42nd Clearance Company, 54th Eng. Bn.
The last event of the competition was a 9-mile run, which took place on day three immediately following a night land navigation course. During the run competitors had to complete seven different tasks, five of which involved carrying items such as logs or 180-pound dummies.
Upon crossing the finish line, each of the competitors was presented a brigade coin by Col. Paul M. Paolozzi, the commander of the 18th Eng. Bde.
Paolozzi also presented awards to the winning teams. Vasquez and Fuller took top honors, and Vitale and Bradwick finished second in the competition. Taking home the third place award was 1st Lt. Eric Sears, an assistant operations officer for the 15th Engineer Battalion, and Pfc. Blake Easterly, a heavy construction operator with the 500th Engineer Horizontal Company, 15th Eng. Bn.
All three top-finishing teams will represent the 21st Theater Sustainment Command and USAREUR at the Army-level competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in