By 1st Lt. John Dearing, Castle Co., 173rd BSTB, 173rd IBCT (Airborne)December 23, 2013
VICENZA, Italy (Dec. 23, 20313) -- Castle Company -- Company A, 173rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, of the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), held its first Sapper Stakes competition the week before Thanksgiving at facilities on Caserma Del Din and Caserma Ederle in Vicenza.
Eight pairs of sappers, including three Italian soldiers from the 8th Engineer Regiment (Airborne), competed in various events that tested their technical competence and physical endurance.
The competition began at 6:30 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 25 with a non-standard PT test. Teams had five minutes to perform as many push-ups as possible, followed by five minutes for sit-ups and three minutes for pull-ups, alternating between partners in each event. The PT test concluded with a three-mile body armor undertaken while carrying a replica M-4.
The winning team, Spcs. Rafael Agosto and Moises Zamora, performed 247 push-ups, 279 sit-ups, 45 pull-ups and completed the run in 28:25.
Following a brief break for breakfast, the sappers began Round Robin I, a series of tasks that would continue to push them physically, while testing their knowledge of common combat engineer tasks.
Spread out over a distance of 11.5 miles, each team would ruck march with 45 pounds of equipment between stations while overcoming challenges that included M4 and M9 engagement skills, urban breaching charges, demolition initiation systems, minesweeping, mine identification, medical treatment and evacuation, mountaineering knots, and weapon assembly and disassembly.
When it was over, Agosto and Zamora held onto their Sapper Stakes lead, edging out Sgt. Philip Jaslow and Pvt. 2 Skyler Goplin as the first day of competition drew to a close and the Soldiers tried to rest up.
Day two started in the bitter cold at 4 a.m. Following a quick brief, each team stepped off on a timed 12-mile ruck march. Sgt. Daniel Dixon and Pfc. Jareev Walker started off strong, leading the pack for the first six miles, but Agosto and Zamora once again displayed their determination and physical stamina by taking the lead at the seven mile mark.
Jaslow and Goplin surged in the final three miles but finished second, unable to close the gap. Still, all the sappers showcased their determination that morning, resulting in nine personnel completing the course in less than three hours. These sappers qualified on the 12-mile ruck march despite having covered more than 14 miles during the first day of competition.
Following another brief breakfast break, the combat engineers moved on to Caserma Ederle for Round Robin II, a portion of the competition designed to test each team's ability in steel cutting charges, timber cutting charges, wire breaching, field expedient demolitions, an obstacle course, and 240B/M2 engagement skills.
In addition to those tasks, each team had to successfully complete polar and grid call-for-fire missions with the Call-for-Fire trainer operated by Staff Sgt. Sheldon Durrett of the 1-503rd Infantry Battalion.
Displaying impressive strength and perseverance, Dixon and Walker finished first overall in this segment of the stakes.
Day three broke with a call for even greater endurance, featuring the culminating event of the Sapper Stakes: the X-Mile Run. This grueling race began with a one-mile gas mask run followed by a water jug carry. The combat engineers next ran to the opposite end of Del Din to complete 50 yards of tire flips and 50 yards of a litter carry.
The sappers then proceeded to a picket pounding station where they had to successfully emplace and remove four pickets as a team. Following a final half-mile sprint, each team had to mechanically breach a steel door, signifying their completion of the Sapper Stakes competition. With an overall time of 24 minutes, 34 seconds, Jaslow and Goplin beat out their fellow sappers to win the X-Mile Run.
Finally, after a grueling three-day competition that covered 30 miles and numerous proficiency challenges, the Castle Company Family Readiness Group hosted a barbeque to celebrating the conclusion of the stakes and the accomplishments of its Soldiers. With families and friends gathered together, Agosto and Zamora were hailed as the overall winners of Sapper Stakes, edging out an incredible performance by Jaslow and Goplin. Third place honors went Dixon and Walker, a direct result of their superlative performance during Round Robin II.
During the barbeque, Soldiers from Castle Company and the Italian 8th Engineer Regiment (Airborne) exchanged gifts, a token of the respect and appreciation for each other's strength and skill during the Sapper Stakes, and a marker for the beginning of a rewarding partnership between the two units.