554th Ranger, Sapper train-up prepares Soldiers for schools
Under a new, formalized program run by Company B, 554th Engineer Battalion, service members train here to prepare for the rigors of Ranger and Sapper schools. Anyone interested in attending — and certified Rangers and Sappers interested in volunteering as instructors — should contact Sgt. 1st Class Richard Mellott at richard.a.mellott.mil@mail.mil. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Mellott) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Company B, 554th Engineer Battalion, has developed and implemented a formalized Army Ranger and Sapper train-up program to assist service members in preparing for the rigors of the two schools.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Richard Mellott, noncommissioned officer in charge of the program, participants receive instruction from a pool of Ranger and Sapper qualified instructors with training focused on developing expertise in key Ranger and Sapper schools tasks.

“There’s a checklist for each school,” he said. “You have to have a letter of preparedness. It’s a memorandum, and to attend, we have to sign off on it. We have the resources to hit all the tasks on that memo. That’s the benefit we provide.”

Some of the skills honed throughout the program include combat water survival, rigging knots, patrolling and small-unit tactics, and land navigation. In addition, an obstacle course is offered at least once a month as well as a 12-mile ruck march that must be completed in under three hours.

“Knot training is a big thing at Sapper school,” Mellott said. “They have a knot test that’s huge for the points you can get. We do three classes and a test on that.”

Mellott said while the program is primarily directed at lieutenants attending the Engineer Basic Officer Leaders Course, it’s also open to all service members on Fort Leonard Wood — students and permanent party.

“We have two Airmen,” he said. “They love coming to training; they get excited about it.”

The program mirrors the EBOLC timeframe — about three months — but Mellott said they remain flexible to everyone’s needs.

“Our train-up, we do (physical training) at (5 a.m.) — two hours max — and everything else is done in the evenings and Saturdays,” he said. “The permanent party service members who attend are assigned a class to follow along, and at the same time, I give them the opportunity to flex because I know they have a job that comes first. If they can’t make it to an event — no harm, no foul.”

To get the most use out of their time, Mellott said they look at the aspects of the schools’ curriculums giving students the most trouble “and we focus on those areas.”

“We train with repetition,” he said. “Maybe the first or second time you’ve seen it, you might not have retained it. But by the third time you’re seeing it, it should be in your head.”

Mellott and his team also stay up to date as best they can on the two schools’ standards and requirements.

“With Sapper school, we get more insights — questions about packing lists, admin — it helps we’re on the same installation,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Marcarthur Dumervil is an instructor assigned to the 58th Transportation Battalion. His supervisor recommended he attend the program before he attends the Sapper Leader Course.

“The training really prepares people because the people conducting the training are Sapper qualified,” he said. “I don’t think we receive anything less than what we should receive to prepare us to become Sappers.”

He said there are some long days, “but that’s what you have to deal with.”

“You sleep less, work more to get what you need,” he said.

Mellott said volunteers are crucial to the program.

“We’re always looking for certified volunteers who can assist,” he said. “I was a prior recruiter, and I feel like I’m a recruiter again. Anytime I see somebody with a Ranger or Sapper tab — even just walking down the street — I pitch this program to them. We’re always on the lookout.”