KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - A person can learn a lot about the Army in two years but it takes much longer to really understand how the Army and all its components truly operate. That doesn't mean someone with less experience can't be successful, though.

One such case is the U.S. Army Europe Best Sapper Competition team of 24-year-old 1st Lt. Eric Sears and 18-year-old Pfc. Blake Easterly. Sears joined the Army two years ago, and Easterly joined the Army eight months ago.

The young but motivated team of Sears and Easterly chose to compete in the recent USAREUR-level best sapper competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, because both Soldiers said they desired a challenge and wanted to learn more about their jobs and the Army.

Sears and Easterly placed third overall, earning them the chance to represent their unit and the 21st Theater Sustainment Command as one of only three USAREUR teams selected to go on and compete at the Army-level best sapper competition scheduled for April at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

"My partner and I both shot for at least fifth place," said Easterly, a heavy equipment operator with the 500th Horizontal Engineer Company, 15th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade, 21st TSC.

Easterly, who is a native from Chattanooga, Tenn., said he and his teammate never dreamed they would do well enough to get selected to go to Fort Leonard Wood for the Army competition.

"It's going to be a challenge at Fort Leonard Wood," said Sears, who serves as an assistant plans officer for the 15th Eng. Bn., 18th Eng. Bde. "Based on what I saw here, I'm sure that's going to be even more fast-paced, even more difficult."

"I'm anxious to go," said Sears, a native of Mooresville, N.C., "but I understand that there's a lot of hard work between now and April. I don't know what to expect at Fort Leonard Wood, but my goal is to finish."

The USAREUR competition lasted three days, there were dozens of mental and physical challenges and competitors were given minimal amount of time to rest between events. Lack of sleep and minimal preparation between events made the competition even more challenging.

One of the last events for the competition was night land navigation. The 10 competing teams were given certain points to find in knee-deep snow. They were the first team to finish plotting their points and set out to look for them.

The land navigation was a make-it or break-it event since five teams were cut from the competition afterward. Between their combined scores from land navigation and previous tests, they survived the cuts and were allowed to participate in the competition's final event, a 9-mile run.

During the run, teams had to complete seven tasks, five of which involved either carry heavy items like 20-foot logs or flipping large tractor tires. Both Soldiers said the hardest part of the run was carrying a 180-pound simulated casualty. Upon completion of the 9-mile race, Easterly had to receive medical treatment for exhaustion.

"Motivation - they were motivated 100 percent of the time," said Capt. David Vasquez, the 54th Eng. Bn. training and plans officer. "It was like they were so psyched to do whatever they needed to. I know it's hard to stay motivated, and it's good that they were staying motivated the whole time."

Sears and Easterly are currently studying and training for the Army-level competition scheduled for April 19-21 in Missouri.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16