FORT STEWART, Ga. – A two-man team of combat engineers assigned to the “Gila Battalion,” 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, tested their bodies and minds at the 15th Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition between April 23-25 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The 9th BEB team, Team 7, consisting of 1st Lt. Rafael Eirea Lamberto, a native of Cuba and Miami, Florida, who graduated from Florida International University in Miami, and 1st Lt. Drake Titus, a native of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, placed ninth overall out of the final 25 teams that completed the Best Sapper Competition.
Forty-eight sapper teams from across the country traveled to compete in the three-day competition at Fort Leonard Wood and each team consisted of at least one Sapper Leader Course graduate and each competitors had military rank ranging from specialists to captains.
The competition consisted of a non-standard physical fitness test, a river run, a round robin, sapper stakes, land navigation and many other challenges that tested their physical endurance, mental toughness and overall engineer skills to compete for top spot at the Best Sapper Competition.
Col. Daniel H. Hibner, the U.S. Army Engineer School Commandant, spoke about what it took for competitors to be successful.
“Through the challenges they were forced to rely on their training and their Sapper teammate to persevere and accomplish every mission,” said Hibner. “I was inspired to watch these competitors give it all they had. It was their great and sheer determination that kept them going. I’m proud of you for taking on one of the toughest challenges the U.S. Army has to offer."
Eirea Lamberto says it was no easy task, despite three months of training as much as they could. “The most challenging part was the lack of sleep and arduous activity day after day trying to stay alert and ahead of the other competitors to constantly outperform them,” he said.
This the second year in a row that Eirea Lamberto’s competed in the Best Sapper Competition, and he takes pride in learning from each one.
“I’ve learned more from failing than winning and won’t stop until I take first place,” he added. “The more I fail, the better I want to be. When competing you must go after it and want it more than anyone.”
The 2022 Best Sapper Competition was the first for Titus and says his biggest takeaway was learning how far he could push himself. “I was able to accomplish tasks far beyond what I believed I was capable of,” he said. “It was truly a test of mind over matter.”
The competition teaches competitors how to operate under unfavorable conditions with little food or sleep and still accomplish the mission at hand.
“Physical fitness and attention to detail is a big separator within the competition, and those who could endure more and push harder through it are the ones who came out on top,” Titus explained. “In contrast, those who lacked attention-to-detail fell behind or were dropped.”
The competition demonstrates excellence within the Army engineer community and allowed competitors to hone their skills and perfect their craft.
“First Lt. Eirea Lamberto and Lt. Titus were the only armored brigade sapper team that completed the competition,” said Lt. Col. Brian T. Looney, commander of the 9th BEB, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. “We talk every week about how winning matters and that’s what these gentlemen did. They represented the Marne Division as Dogface sappers and crushed it.”
Eirea Lamberto and Titus look forward to future challenges, including passing their knowledge onto their Soldiers and competing in next year’s Best Sapper Competition.