STEM, N.C. - A team of North Carolina National Guard soldiers from the 171st Sapper Company, 105th Engineer Battalion, took top honors at the 105th Engineer Battalion Sapper Stakes Competition at Camp Butner Training Center here, March 9, 2017.

The competition included nine teams of combat engineers from the NCNG and US Army Reserves. The four-soldier teams battled through difficult events to earn the bragging rights of being the best combat engineering company in North Carolina. The competition is also enhances leadership development in their military specialty.

The 171st Sapper Company, based in St. Pauls, was last year's second place finisher, who were penalized when the rucksack of Spc. Justin Nix failed to meet the weight standard at the end of the final event last year.

"I was so disappointed because we had what it took last year, and we lost because of my mistake," said Nix. "I carried extra weight this time to make sure we did not get penalized."

The team was led by 2nd Lt. Stephen Dunn, a Sapper, who emphasized the efforts of all his Soldiers, Spc. Casey First, Spc. Jayson Greer and Staff Sgt. Ash Daughtry as being extremely competitive and huge team players.

"It was a team effort, and everybody fought real hard," Dunn said. "We had some guys who were really hurting, but they dug deep."

Capt. Thomas Grabos, operations officer for the 105th Engineer Company, has organized the Sapper Stakes event the past two years, and every year has improved upon the competition. All the events are based on realistic standards, rooted in skill sets required of them as Soldiers and combat engineers.

"Being a tabbed Sapper myself, I wanted to give back to the battalion," said Grabos. "I wanted to give them something that was grounded in the Sapper Course and expose those soldiers interested in being a Sapper because we have so many combat engineers in our battalion."

The events this year included a non-standard Army Physical Fitness Test, land navigation between all event locations, a 10-lane crisscross of tasks, and a very long and exhausting ruck march event.