FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Army News Service, April 21, 2012) -- Less than a third into the 50-mile, 50-hour 2012 Best Sapper competition here, 18 of the two-Soldier teams were cut from enduring more misery and their bids for the top spot among peers.

An original field of 38 teams who came from units scattered worldwide saw the April 20 dawn and only 20 pair of Soldiers left to grin at another day of pushing themselves through near-freezing temperatures, wet forest, MREs, and in general more austere conditions.

Still, the competitors that remained rappelled live "injured" personnel down a 92-foot cliff, checked to see how knots and fastenings were secured to trees, and how to best cross barriers like rapidly flowing rivers before disappearing into the darkness to navigate toward the final challenge.

It's not that the Soldiers chose to opt out for more pleasant conditions; these challengers have a no-quit pact. That doesn't matter to the man running the show: 2011 Best Sapper winner Capt. John Chambers. He makes no apologies for the cuts.

"We only have [a limited] amount of time, so the fewer teams we have, the more events they can do in a smaller amount of time. By shrinking the field, we can challenge the top teams more and more than we could if we kept the field at 38," Chambers said. "Most of them know where they are roughly. Sure, they're disappointed because they want to keep competing; they represent their units. But get a hot meal in them, a couple of hours of sleep and they start cheering right back up."

Early morning, April 21, the field of never-say-quit will again be whittled by half to 10 teams. When the competitors take to the final, the X-run event (so named because it could be 4, 6 or more miles), they'll find gigantic tires to flip over low walls, a log cut-and-carry and a gas mask to run in before crossing the finish line.