FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- One hundred-sixty-two Combat Engineers from all over the country are at Fort Drum, New York, to face off in Sapper States. The three day competition pits Soldiers from U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and Army National Guard in events that measure their physical endurance, mental toughness and combat engineer skills.

A combat engineer must know how to apply first aid to a casualty, calculate demolitions, prime explosives and identify improvised explosive devices. Sapper Stakes test the ability of Soldiers to perform these tasks. The skills are used to tackle rough terrain in combat situations to help Soldiers push forward on the battle field.

The contest begins with the Non Standard Fitness Test. Physical endurance is the corner stone of any military career and being combat engineer is no exception. Along with measuring muscular strength, endurance, and cardiovascular respiratory fitness, combat engineers are expected to carry their equipment during the run.

Sapper Stakes began early on a cold Wednesday morning when the grass was covered with frost that was transitioning to dew. "It started pretty good. We woke up about 3:30 [a.m.] then got our equipment ready. My whole team was motivated. We came out ready to work," said Cpl. Justin Grigg, a U.S. Army Reserve combat engineer with the 366th Engineer Company, based out of Canton, New York.

Griggs said he drills with the 366th ENG because Soldiers. Any issue they have is taken care of on the spot. They made sure his team had everything they needed so his team could show up ready to go.

"Keep going. Come on Pettes," cheers Griggs to encourage his teammate from the 366th ENG as they push through the sit-up event. "I love it," said Griggs. "It's good fun. You get to meet a wide range of people. It's friendly competition, but as long as you learn something it's worth it. It's a brotherhood and sisterhood."

"Being a Sapper means doing a job to the best of your ability," Pfc. Andrew Garrett, a National Guard combat Engineer with the 119th Sapper Company, based out of Moundsville, West Virginia. "I use to make pizzas. [Being a sapper] doesn't transfer at all into the pizza business." Garrett left his job of making pizza to start a career in construction. "We work as a team in construction jobs. That translates from being a combat engineer."

After the Non Standard Fitness Test is complete, competitors will eat their only hot meal of the day before pushing forward to the next event. Day Land Navigation is next, followed by weapon qualification, and then Sapper Stakes wraps up day one with Night Land Navigation at midnight.
Two days to go. Good fun.