FORT STEWART, Ga. – U.S. Army Sapper Leader Course, or SLC, and Ranger School are considered two of the toughest Army schools. 1st Lt. Rafael Eirea-Lamberto has pushed himself to the limit throughout his entire life, leading him to graduate both schools in the same year and compete in the Best Sapper Competition two years in a row.
Eirea-Lamberto, assigned to “Gila Battalion,” 9th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, was born in Cuba and arrived in Miami, Florida when he was 12 years old. The move was an enormous change for his family and not without its obstacles.
“My main focus was learning the English language because I knew without that, I wouldn’t be successful,” said Eirea-Lamberto. “I needed to become proficient, and just work hard in whatever I do.”
Eirea-Lamberto enlisted in the Florida National Guard in 2015 as an infantryman, making him the first in his family to serve in the U.S. military. Upon completing infantry basic training, he enrolled at Florida International University and joined Army ROTC.
“I wanted to give back to this country for giving me great opportunities to better myself and my family,” said Eirea-Lamberto.
Eirea-Lamberto graduated with a degree in finance and commissioned as a second lieutenant engineer officer in 2019. While attending the Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he trained for and attended SLC but did not get the result he wanted.
“I was unsuccessful my first time at SLC,” said Eirea-Lamberto. “I reflected on the experience and used this as a learning opportunity to better myself and others.”
He attended SLC again and this time graduated on April 9, 2021, earning his Sapper tab within the top three in his squad.
“It made me realize that in order to be a good leader, it takes more than being physically fit and knowing a subject,” emphasized Eirea-Lamberto. “It also takes being able to positively interact with others while under pressure to accomplish the mission.”
After coming in 15th place at the 14th Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Eirea-Lamberto had a new goal in mind.
“I saw a lot of people who were double-tabbed in the competition,” said Eirea-Lamberto. “As a lieutenant, I should be setting the standard.” Eirea-Lamberto attended Ranger School the following October, passing all three phases the first time. Graduating Ranger School places him among a select group of Soldiers to be “double-tabbed” — earning the right to wear both Sapper and Ranger tabs.
“I knew I wanted it, and I just performed and focused on the team,” said Eirea-Lamberto. “When you work hard for your team, they’ll work hard for you. You need to be a team player.”
2nd Lt. Amanda Atkinson, also assigned to the 9th BEB, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, attended Ranger School with Eirea-Lamberto.
“He was always a team leader, working nonstop to ensure his squad leader would be successful,” said Atkinson. “The fact he completed SLC, Best Sapper Competition and Ranger School all in the same year shows that his motivation and drive is remarkable. He constantly looks to better himself and provide a standard for his Soldiers to follow.”
Eirea-Lamberto currently plans to compete for a second time in the 15th Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood on April 22-25.