By Dawn M Arden (Leonard Wood)February 24, 2017
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The Engineer Regiment is searching for Soldiers and Marines wishing to prove themselves worthy of the title "Best Sapper 2017" in the upcoming 11th annual Best Sapper Competition being held here April 23 to 28.
Eleven months in the making, this year's event is themed "50 teams, 50 miles, 50 hours." Organizers say it will test the competitors' technical expertise, mental agility and physical toughness like no Best Sapper Competition before it.
"We have gone back to the drawing board for this year's Best Sapper Competition, challenging competitors in new ways both physically and mentally," said Capt. Robert Zimmerman, Sapper Leader Course chief of training. "If you think you know what's coming, think again."
According to Zimmerman, the competition's 35 events will span a variety of mobility, counter mobility and survivability tasks in lanes that are both technically challenging and physically demanding.
In addition to finding the best in the regiment, the competition will also serve as a kind of audition for future Sapper Leader Course instructors.
"The Best Sapper Competition is one of the best mediums we have found to identify potential future sapper instructors," Zimmerman said. "At any given time, between a third and one-half of our current sapper instructors have competed in previous competitions."
Current Sapper Leader Course instructor and competitor in the 2012 Best Sapper Competition, Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Olson said training is the key to success for competing teams.
"Your train up should be for at a minimum of two months with no other distractions, and when you study or practice events you need to do them when you are tired and beat down," Olson said. "Ruck at least three times a week at different distances with at least 60 pounds on your back."
"You need to be a strong sapper and a smart sapper," Olson added. "This year's competition is not a sprint; it's a marathon, and it will slowly break you down over the course of 50 hours."
Zimmerman said spectators are welcome to observe the majority of the competition, but certain events, such as demolitions and land navigation, will be off-limits to spectators due to the nature or location of the event. Those wishing to watch the competition may pick up a map of the approved spectator locations after the start of the competition.
"Everything taught at the Sapper Leader Course is fair game," Olson said. "Remember, this is a competition to see who the best sapper is. We will not accept anything else but perfection."
Each person of the two-person team must be the rank of E-4 or above, and one must be a graduate of the Sapper Leader Course. Registration is scheduled to run through Feb. 28 or until all slots are filled. As of Feb. 16, 42 teams had registered.
For more information or to register, visit www.wood.army.mil/sapper/BSC.