Combat engineers compete in Sapper Stakes
December 12, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. (Dec. 12, 2011) -- Combat engineers tested their mettle, Dec. 6-8, during a squad-on-squad Sapper Stakes competition on Fort Stewart, Ga.
Sapper Stakes is an annual competition held within engineer units Army-wide to test proficiency of combat engineer skills and to serve as a final qualification on individual and leader tasks, said Capt. Celio Biering, commander of Company A, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
"We're doing this as a three-day event where we're focusing on physical fitness, a 12-mile road march [and] other events you can basically group … around mobility, counter-mobility and reconnaissance skill sets," Biering said.
The competition began with a physical fitness test that required Soldiers to perform two minutes of sit-ups and push-ups, as well as chin-ups and a five-mile run. The combat engineers then broke off into squads to participate in various lanes that tested bridge and road reconnaissance skills, demolition preparations and casualty evacuations. Throughout the event each squad completed a 12-mile road march.
Sgt. 1st Class Luis A. Torres, a New York City native, and a platoon sergeant with Company A, 4-3 BSTB, said he has participated in Sapper Stakes competitions each of his 18 years in service.
The leader said the competitions serve to enhance esprit de corps.
"The squads get together and they work hard," Torres said. "You just feel that clicking … between them to try to get all the tasks right and learn … how to work toward that goal."
"And once they reach that goal it's just like going to war nowadays … you bring everyone back," Torres continued. "You go in there with a squad or a platoon and you bring everyone back. It's the same feeling. It's a great tool to keep camaraderie between the soldiers and the company."
Torres said he has seen Sapper Stakes tasks change over the years to meet the requirements of modern-day combat engineers. The leader said common tasks in competitions of the past included constructing triple-strand and 11-row concertina wire obstacles, and clearing mine fields. While those tasks are still important and are still brushed upon, Torres said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have necessitated a shift in combat engineering skills sets to include proficiency in route clearance operations.
"Sapper Stakes should be a tool for camaraderie, but also a tool that [Soldiers] can use in the real world," Torres said. "Yeah the competition is there, but at the same time you have to have that sense of accomplishment [that your squad, platoon and company can accomplish] a mission in a time of war."
Pfc. Kevin M. Brown, a native of Burbank, Calif., and a combat engineer with Company A, 4-3 BSTB, said Sapper Stakes was tough, realistic training.
"Since we just traded over to be a light unit [and are possibly deploying in the future], it's … really good practice [for] … getting your body ready to walk long distances non-stop," Brown said.
The combat engineer said besides building team cohesiveness, Sapper Stakes allowed each soldier to determine where their battle buddies and leaders stand in their effectiveness of the combat engineer trade.
"You get to see who's strong in some areas … and you get to see who's a little bit weaker in certain areas so you know how far you can push them," Brown said. "You can see [and] know what everybody is capable of."
(Sgt. Mary Katzenberger writes for the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs.)