The opening ceremony for the 13th annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition was held Sunday at Training Area 160.

Forty-eight Sapper teams from across the Army's Engineer Regiment will vie for the title of 2019 Best Sapper April 8-10 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers, the 86th Commandant of the U.S. Army Engineer School and 50th Chief of Engineers, returned to Fort Leonard Wood for the ceremony, along with the 2018 Best Sapper defending champions, from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who will be representing Team 1. Flowers, who played a key role in advocating for the authorized wear of the Sapper tab, provided motivational remarks for Sapper teams.

"I see a lot of familiar flashes and patches," Flowers, who is the first and only honorary Sapper of the Engineer Regiment, said. "You don't know me, but I know you. I'm here representing Sappers past to try to encourage you to do everything you can do through this competition to earn the pride that it takes to finish and the camaraderie of the competition."

Flowers spoke about the Korean War Battle of Pusan Perimeter, urging competitors to keep in mind, "When the going gets tough and it gets hot, think about those Sappers who stayed there, fought it out and never quit."

The U.S. Army Engineer School Commandant, Brig. Gen. Robert Whittle, welcomed Sapper Teams, who will travel 50 miles on foot in 50 hours, while completing engineer tasks throughout the physically and mentally demanding competition.

"You are already ahead of your peers just by being here," Whittle said. "You stepped up and you're willing to compete. This competition is going to test the bounds of your endurance. It's going to test your capability to think under pressure."

Whittle quoted the "Man in the Arena" from Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 "Citizenship in a Republic Speech," saying, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … "

"Sappers you are about to enter the arena," Whittle said. "This competition will reveal and build your character. Over the next 50 hours you will find out who you really are and who your battle buddy really is. Stay motivated. Never quit."

USAES Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Galick, added a message for Sapper Teams, "We're here to see who's best from among the teams sitting right here."

"A few days from now when you don't remember why you're here, remember you're here to finish every event," Galick said. "You're here to not quit. You're here to take care of that Sapper on your left and right. You're here to earn the right. The only way to earn the right is if you finish."

Daily competition standings will be posted to #BestSapper Competition on Facebook and at the USAES web page: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/units-tenants/USAES/Sapper/ss. Winners will be announced at 7:30 a.m. April 11 during a ceremony on Gammon Field here.