FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The U.S. Army Engineer School hosted Engineer Regimental Week from April 20 to May 1, including events such as the Best Sapper Competition, the Senior Engineer Leader Council, an Army Engineer Association industry exhibition, Army Engineer Family Day, the Fallen Sapper Tribute and the Regimental Ball and Awards Ceremony.
With COVID-19 limiting regimental week events for the past two years, Col. Dan Hibner, the 99th U.S. Army Engineer School commandant, called this an opportunity to reconnect and enhance dialogue about the future of the regiment.
“It is also an opportunity to celebrate our heritage and recognize the accomplishments of the Best Sapper Competition competitors and regimental-award recipients,” he said.
Best Sapper Competition
The 15th Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition took place from April 23 to 25, with 47 two-person teams traveling a total of 64 miles in 54 hours over rugged and rolling Missouri terrain while completing multiple mental and physical challenges with very little sleep. At the end, Capt. Alaimoana Paunga and 1st Lt. Eric Mattia, with the 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, at Fort Hood, Texas, earned the right to be called ‘Best Sapper.’
The winners of the 2022 competition were announced during a ceremony held April 26 in Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
“We came in with the goal to win it all,” Paunga said. “We have former winners in our brigade, so it was definitely a goal of ours. Everything just kind of fell together one event at a time. It feels great to be recognized at the end of it.”
Mattia, who also competed in last year’s competition, agreed.
“We did a good job of segmenting it all. We just stayed focused, and the lanes were awesome,” he said. “We had fun with it, but we kept our eyes ahead.”
The team credited their coach’s support and their training regimen, which included training with the other teams from their unit, in helping them bring home the trophy. Both agreed the competition was tough, both mentally and physically.
“Overall, the competition was physically enduring. I think over the course of the three days, I got a total of three hours of sleep,” Paunga said. “There were some times where we thought we couldn’t pull through, but we got over that mental block, finished it and accomplished the mission.”
Click here to see more photos from the competition.
Senior Engineer Leadership Council
The theme for this year’s regimental week was, “Developing the Engineer Force for 2030 and Beyond.” The two-day SELC provided an opportunity for the regiment to look at ways they can ready and modernize the force by sharing information, documenting lessons learned and comparing best practices. The SELC also typically serves as a forum for the leaders of the Engineer Regiment to build consensus on critical issues.
Army Engineer Association industry exhibition
The Army Engineer Association hosted an industry exhibition April 26 and 27 at Nutter Field House. The event showcased some of the latest engineering technology, and about 50 agencies participated.
Army Engineer Family Day
The family day event gave spouses and family members 16 years and older a chance to learn more about what it’s like to be an Army Engineer. Displays and equipment provided the opportunity to learn about engineer skills such as firefighter and lineman tasks, diving, breaching and backhoe loader excavation. They were also able to participate in the Assault Breacher Vehicle and the Javelin Assault Bridge simulators. Lunch was provided by the USO.
Heidi Grabowski — spouse of Lt. Col. John Grabowski, 31st Engineer Battalion commander — operated a backhoe loader with instruction from Staff Sgt. Byron Lobos, Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion.
“I came out here to learn about all this cool stuff,” she said. “I absolutely love this. I think it is very important that we as spouses and family members know what the Soldiers do every day.”
Fallen Sapper Tribute
Fort Leonard Wood honored fallen Army Engineers during the Fallen Sapper Tribute ceremony Aug. 28 at Soldier Memorial Chapel. The ceremony included a history of the Army Engineer Regiment and a moment of silence for those who have died in service to the country.
Before he and USAES Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. John Brennan laid a wreath, Hibner spoke on the importance of remembering the sacrifices service members make for freedom.
“We will always remember what they sacrificed for our freedoms, and we must always remember that freedom is not, and never will be, free,” he said. “It is my humble honor today to ask you all to remember all those brave souls that gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
A detail fired three volleys and a bugler from the 399th Army Band played taps to close out the ceremony.
Click here to see more photos from the ceremony.
The regiment also held their annual awards ceremony Friday at Nutter Field House during the Regimental Ball.
The Itschner Award recognizes the most outstanding Army Engineer company in each Army Component — active duty, Reserve and National Guard. This year, the active-duty award was presented to the Bravo Troop, Regimental Engineer Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Tower Barracks, Germany; the Reserve award was presented to the 712th Engineer Support Company, 391st Engineer Battalion, Goose Creek, South Carolina; and the National Guard award was presented to the 130th Engineer Support Company, 201st Engineer Battalion, Madisonville, Kentucky.
The 2021 Outstanding Platoon Leader Award was presented to one active-duty and one National Guard Soldier. The active-duty winner was 1st Lt. Taylor Massa, 500th Engineer Support Company, 15th Engineer Battalion, Grafenwoehr, Germany; and the National Guard winner was 1st Lt. Nathaniel Alexander, 577th Sapper Company, 201st Engineer Battalion, Prestonburg, Kentucky.
The 2021 Outstanding Warrant Officer Awards were presented to one Soldier from each Army Component. The active-duty winner was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darius Cooper, 3rd Power Station, Company B, 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power), Fort Bragg, North Carolina; the Reserve award was presented to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andrew Chamberlain, 411th Engineer Battalion, 9th Mission Support Command, U.S. Army Pacific, Fort Shafter, Hawaii; and the National Guard award was presented to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles Dengler, Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
The Sturgis Medal — recognizing noncommissioned officers for their outstanding contributions to military engineering — was presented to one active-duty and one National Guard Soldier. The active-duty winner was Staff Sgt. Christopher Miller, Company A, 169th Engineer Battalion, Panama City, Florida; and the National Guard winner was Staff Sgt. Tracy Trabue, 1138th Engineer Company, 1140th Engineer Battalion, Lexington, Missouri.
The Van Autreve Award — recognizing junior enlisted Soldiers for their outstanding contributions to military engineering — was presented to one Soldier from each Army Component. The active-duty winner was Spc. Clayton Martinez, 573rd Engineer Company, 46th Engineer Battalion, Fort Polk, Louisiana; the Reserve winner was Cpl. Zachary Baker, 712th Engineer Support Company, 391st Engineer Battalion, York, South Carolina; and the National Guard winner was Spc. Charles Phillips, 1020th Engineer Vertical Construction Company, 527th Engineer Battalion, Clarks, Louisiana.
The 2021 Outstanding Civilian Award was presented to one civilian supporting active-duty Soldiers and one civilian supporting Reserve Soldiers. The active-duty winner was Anthony Lister, Program Integration Branch Office of the Chief of Engineers, Washington, D.C.; and the Reserve winner was Quecha Perez Gomez, 689th Engineer Company, 841st Engineer Battalion, Orlando, Florida.
The Sapper and Miner of Distinction Award was presented to the families of retired Maj. Gen. Mark Yenter and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ioakimo Falaniko to recognize their service and contributions to the Engineer Regiment.
The Gold de Fleury Medal was presented to retired Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite and retired Maj. Gen. Bryan Watson. The medal is presented to individuals who exemplify boldness, courage and commitment to a strong national defense.
(Editor’s note: Dawn Arden and Ryan Thompson, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office, contributed to this article.)