By Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDuffordMay 24, 2016
FORT Drum, N.Y. -- Soldiers from the 382nd Engineer Company, 365th Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade of the 412th Theater Engineer Command from Harrisburg, Pa., received the Best Sapper Team for the second time in three years here, May 14.
The competition hosted by the 479th Engineer Battalion, 412th Theater Engineer Command, Fort Drum, had 24 Sapper teams with more than 200 Soldiers competing during the competition's third year.
Soldiers from Company A, Special Troops Battalion, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), Vermont National Guard, claimed second place in the very competitive and rigorous 3-day contest.
Sappers are highly-trained combat engineers that specialize in the forward support of infantry units conducting reconnaissance of bridges and roads; mine detection and clearing operations; bridge, road and airfield construction and the use of explosives to aid allied units and obstruct enemy forces. Sappers work the front lines with the infantry. Physical and mental requirements are incorporated as part of the competition.
"Our theme was the 'Year of the Squad Leader' and tasks emphasized the sapper tasks that are at the core of the fundamentals. The theme pervaded through the whole event," said Maj. Gen. Tracy A. Thompson, commander, 412th Theater Engineer Command.
"We wanted soldiers to lead using troop leading procedures. We wanted them to be responsible to their units and work on the basics and I think they did all that," Thompson said.
"The competition is about being the best team and its not one carrying the entire team. One or two may be experts in one areas and the two others expert in another area," said Capt. Jason McKnight, commander 680th Engineer Company (Mobility Augmentation Company), Webster NY, officer in charge for Heavy Demo Range
McKnight stressed that this year was instrumental because of the theme of the "Year of the Squad Leader."
"These are squad tasks. The lanes are tasking and the squad leader is empowered to enable his squad to test the sapper," said McKnight.
McKnight added about this competition, "A couple of things going on here that builds future leaders is the engineer tasks and it's a full component exercise. We've got lane cadre from reserve national guard and active component as well as teams from all components. It's that one army concept. We expect great things to come from it."
Sappers are known for their ability to perform as a team in challenging environments.
"Both the soldiers and the squad leaders got a sample of how critical it is to lead and have those you lead understand you're competent and know that you know what you are doing. All those things combined to make this something that will stay with them for the rest of their careers," Thompson said
The planning for this event began last fall and incorporated involving units from the Army Reserve, Army National Guard and active component.
"The bulk of the engineer assets are in the Army Reserve. Having the multi-component participation includes the One Army Concept to make the Sapper Stakes a thorough competition including support and participation," said Maj. Matthew G. Cosler, operations officer, 479th Engineer Battalion, "Kudos to the 10th Sustainment Brigade for their support in the planning. It is serendipitous that the 479th is at Fort Drum with access to its resources."
The 10th Mountain Division besides providing support participated in the competition with two teams.
"Fort Drum is the home of the active duty 10th Mountain Division and it was seamless integration of all three components. There is no way you can tell from any level that there were different components," said Thompson, "Their participation was critical."
It is the important things they learned about the fundamentals that they're taking back to their units, he added.
Thompson summed up the event by saying, "We wanted soldiers to lead using troop leading procedures. We wanted them to be responsible to their units and work on the basics and I think they did all that. Winners got awards and even all the way to the last team down to the last person they'll take this with them."
The competition is already in planning for 2017 and will by hosted by the 416th Theater Engineer Command.