By Mrs Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)April 11, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The Best Sapper competition will kick off in one week with a new demanding edge thanks to two of this year's organizers, Capt. Joel Groves and Capt. John Chambers -- both former Best Sapper competition winners.
"Having them here this year is invaluable," said 1st Lt. John Warson, Best Sapper competition project officer. "I think it has made this competition better because they know what it's like to compete; they know the pain that the competitors are going through; they weeded out the events that didn't challenge them. By having two winners designing the competition, I think this year's competition is going to be more
Capt. Groves is a Best Sapper competition project officer this year. In 2008 Groves and his teammate, Capt. Jason Winkelmann, took home the Best Sapper competition trophy.
"I remember the challenges I faced, so I know how hard we can push the competitors," Groves said. "More is always expected of those who are recognized or awarded. It has only become more competitive and more challenging."
Capt. Chambers is the Sapper Leader Course chief of training. This year, he is planning and executing the Best Sapper events -- just one year after he and Capt. Joe Riley won.
Chambers said his quick rotation from winner to planner has been beneficial for him as this year's events were being laid out.
"Being a competitor has allowed me to view the planning stages from a competitor's point of view. For instance, some things needed to be explained more clearly or differently. It also helped because I understand what events challenged me and which ones didn't, and it has helped me figure out the best way to organize and execute the events," Chambers said. "Some of the events last year ran too long and created a backlog. So, we were all held back. This year we really looked at the length of the events and the overall flow. Hopefully, it will make the competition even better for the competitors."
As a competitor, Chambers said he didn't realize how much work went into pulling all of the events together.
"I never realized what a huge undertaking it was," Chambers said.
The former winners say they have both painful and fond memories of their success.
"The tire flip during the x-mile run was one of the worst experiences of my life. Second to that, the ruck march was terrible. My teammate and I were set on winning the ruck march, since it was the overall tiebreaker for the competition; we won, but we put ourselves through some serious pain," Groves said. "My favorite part was land navigation. I have always enjoyed walking through the woods, finding the best route, and the thrill of locating a point exactly where I expected it to be."
Chambers' dearest memories stem from socializing with other Sappers.
"My favorite thing about the Best Sapper competition is it creates the opportunity for camaraderie. Even though we were competing, it was great to be with other Sappers from across the regiment. I knew quite a few of them, so it was nice to get together and catch up," Chambers said. "I look forward to seeing Sappers again this year come and compete. It will be nice to see all the guys that competed last year, and all the hard work they are going to put in to excel this year."
Both Chambers and Groves keep in contact with their teammates.
"I talk to him every couple of weeks. We have a unique bond that comes from the experience," Chambers said.
Groves agreed. "We spent three months training together and then pulled each other through the competition; we definitely formed a friendship for life," he said.
As for this year's competitors Groves has one piece of advice for the Sappers.
"Study your Sapper and engineer skills. Memorize everything that you learned at Sapper School. This competition is for the smart and strong Sapper, not one or the other," he said.