FORT HOOD, Texas -- Into the woods and through a lake with 85-pound rucksacks on their backs is how 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, "Greywolf," engineer teams conquered the Best Sapper Competition April 22 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Often described as the Army Engineer Corps Olympic-level test, the competition measures resiliency, physical and mental stamina, and technical and tactical proficiency.
Two teams from the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3ABCT, 1st Cavalry Division, vied for the title of top combat engineer. When it was all said and done, one Fort Hood team blew away the competition.
While 48 teams travelled from across the country to Fort Leonard Wood to compete, only 19 teams made it through to the final day. In the end, the Greywolf team consisting of Capt. Michael McLaughlin and Capt. William Whitfield placed second overall in the Best Sapper Competition.
"You're competing against, hands down, the best combat engineers that the Army has to offer," said Whitfield, an assistant operations planner with the 3rd BEB and a native of Jefferson City, Missouri. "With anything, if I'm going to go compete in something, my goal is to win. I'll seize the opportunity and do everything I can to both meet the challenge and win the competition. I just like to test myself."
Described as a condensed 50-hour version of the original 28-day Sapper Leader Course, the Best Sapper Competition tests teams' mastery of engineer skills. Covering more than 50 miles in 50 hours, competitors waged through numerous technical, tactical, the physically demanding events while carrying 85 to 100-pounds on their backs.
Participants noted that the competition was stiff and the events were grueling, but team 8 stayed engaged and ended up surprising themselves with how deep they could dig to make it to the top tier of engineer competitors.
"It was definitely a gut check," said Whitfield. "There were definitely moments that tested whether or not you had what it took. It was very, very challenging, not only compared to what I experienced in 2012 to competing, but to the Sapper Leader Course in general. We just elevated everything two, three, four, five times to what I have experienced in the past."
Both teammates said the first day of the competition was especially difficult. Starting with an amped up physical fitness test, a 10-station round robin engineer event, and a 25-minute poncho raft swim across a man-made lake, teams came to grips with the type of challenging environment of the Best Sapper Competition.
"Earning second place and being able to stack up against these guys is really great," said McLaughin. "You have all of the top-notch folks from the engineer regiment, so even to go there and finish all of the events feels great. It was a really good overall experience."