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    82nd Airborne Division Competes in the 13th Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition



    Story by Spc. Justin Stafford 

    49th Public Affairs Detachment   

    FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Dripping with sweat and only able to muster enough energy for a slow jog, exhausted Sapper teams made their way under the arch of a small red castle while Friends, Family, Soldiers and Paratroopers cheered at Gammon Field on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, April 10, 2019.

    The 13th Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition began with opening ceremonies on April 7 and concluded with an awards ceremony held April 11.

    Only 26 of 48 teams that took on the challenge of completing 50 miles in 50 hours, while conducting Sapper tasks, finished.

    Two teams, team 22 and 43, from the 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division completed the physically and mentally strenuous competition.

    “It feels great,” said First Sgt. Robert De Lira, from team 22, with his battalion’s flag draped across his shoulders. “The best part about it is how the teams trained up within division, across all three battalions came together and worked together. We pushed each other to go harder.”

    “I’m super proud to see my three guys complete this,” De Lira added.

    Crossing under the red brick facade is a rite of passage in the Sapper community because of just how difficult the competition is. The competition is meant to test the mental agility and intestinal fortitude of Sappers in bulk with emphasis on mobility, counter-mobility and survivability.

    Instructors work year-round to ensure the next competition is better than the previous one and truly puts Sappers to the test.

    Sgt. First Class Michael Casto, an instructor assigned to the Sapper Training Company on Fort Leonard Wood, said the tasks at this year’s competition came straight out of the Sapper handbook.

    Over the three days of the competition, some of the tasks teams were tested on were knot tying proficiency, wall ascension, weapons assembly and disassembly, single-point sling loading and land navigation. Competitors also conducted a helocast into the Lake of the Ozarks followed by a poncho swim.

    “I think the most challenging task is the ability to have the mental stamina to keep going,” said Casto. “A lot of miles have been covered on their feet. The movement from station to station was great. If they didn’t have the mental strength to tell their body to keep going, they were going to be dead on the spot.”

    The grueling rucks and tiring tasks took an obvious toll on competitors. On the morning of the final day, Sappers sat in a cement parking lot while medics and instructors diligently bandaged bleeding blisters and treated other wounds brought on as a result of the strenuous miles they had moved in such a short period.

    However, this is what Sappers train for.

    “Sappers have been training their entire military career, especially a Paratrooper in 82nd,” said Lt. Col. Dan Herlihy, commander of the 37th BEB, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. “Our Sappers have built on a legacy of 102 years of excellence.”

    Herlihy said being a Sapper is a combination of physical prowess and technical knowledge that allows them to fight through hard physical tasks and apply Sapper skills to solve some of the toughest problems for the Army and increases the readiness of the 82nd Abn. Div.

    “The Best Sapper Competition enhances the 82nd Airborne Divisions readiness,” said Herlihy. “That’s what is happening here this week and in the months prior as these Sappers have worked hard on their physical fitness and technical skills.”

    In the months prior, the teams from the 82nd Abn. Div. trained under the division coach, First Sgt. Jonathan Patten, the Alpha Company, 127th BEB, 1st BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. first sergeant.

    “The type of training we did for the Best Sapper Competition was a lot of strength training and classroom portions doing demolition calculations, demolition tests, knot tying tests and honing our skills as Sappers,” said Patten.

    Patten said training and competing prepares Sappers from the 82nd Abn. Div for a no-notice deployment.

    Retired Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers, who the competition is named after, spoke at the awards ceremony reminding attendees and competitors of the rich Sapper history, legacy and role now.

    “When the nation needs help, they call on the Army,” said Flowers. “When the Army needs help, they call on the Sappers.”



    Date Taken: 04.11.2019
    Date Posted: 04.11.2019 16:30
    Story ID: 317794
    Location: FORT LEONARD WOOD, MO, US 

    Web Views: 117
    Downloads: 0