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South Carolina National Guard Best Engineer Competition

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South Carolina National Guard Best Engineer Competition

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South Carolina National Guard Soldiers rally during Best Engineer Squad competition


Story by Sgt. 1st Class Joe Cashion

South Carolina National Guard Best Engineer Competition EASTOVER, S.C. – Over a challenging two-day competition, approximately 90 of the South Carolina National Guard’s best engineer soldiers came together at the McCrady Training Center to compete for top honors during the 2015 Best Engineer squad competition Aug. 21-22.

The 122nd and 178th Engineer Battalions came together and competed in a number of events, beginning with the Army Physical Fitness Test, continuing with construction and combat events and ultimately concluding with an Army Service Uniform inspection coinciding with the annual “Castle Rally” banquet in downtown Columbia.

Planning this first-ever event took about nine months and one of the organizers of the event, Capt. Paul Reed, training officer for the 178th Eng. Bn., said there were challenges in putting it together.

“The biggest obstacle was getting Soldiers’ schedules to where we could bring them together as two battalions at the same time,” said Reed. “It was difficult but obviously not impossible.”

During the course of the competition, the 10-member squads competed in two phases of engineer effects – construction effects and combat effects. Construction included both horizontal construction on ground or roads and vertical construction building from the ground up.

Combat effects included encountering, breaching and clearing a minefield and showing proficiency with crew-served weapons. Most said they were eager to compete and win.

“We have been looking forward to doing this,” said Sgt. Josh Killough, squad leader with 172nd Haul Platoon. “Our squad is ready.”

On the first day, one of the most interesting tasks facing the Soldiers was construction of an 8 by 8 building from the ground up, complete with walls, a staircase and “roughing in” of plumbing and electrical capabilities. The catch was the time limit – only four hours.

“The time factor is the biggest thing,” said Capt. Jay Sirmon, engineer officer assigned to MTC who oversaw this particular event. “Taking a squad and accomplishing a major task like this successfully in a short amount of time is a big challenge.”

During Day Two, Soldiers had to work through a round-robin nine station, 14-mile route of engineer-based Army Warrior tasks, testing not only their expertise but their endurance as well.

“It’s a long weekend, but I enjoy training like this,” said Staff Sgt. James Oliver, squad leader with the 1782nd Eng. Co.

Following the completion of the field tasks, it was time to move into garrison for the Army Service Uniform inspection along with the awards ceremony during the annual “Castle Rally” dining-out banquet, hosted by the Palmetto Chapter of the Army Engineer Association, and held at the Columbia Convention Center.

As an added bonus for the competition and for the dining-out, Maj. Gen. Guillermo Arturo Suarez Ferreira, a senior engineer with the Colombian army, observed the competition and was the keynote speaker for the banquet. Suarez was invited to observe the training exercise as part of the state partnership between Colombia and South Carolina.

For the winners of the competition, it came down to squads from the 1221st Eng. Company (from the 122nd Eng. Bn.) winning the combat effects portion and the 1223rd Eng. Company (from the 178th) who came out on top in the construction piece. Ultimately, the 1221st was chosen as the overall winning squad.

Members of the victorious 1221st team include Staff Sgt. Travis Maroney, Sgt. Steven Cuddington, Sgt. Kevin O’Connor, Spc. Malcolm Brown, Spc. Antonio Passerini, Spc. Nathan Arroyo, Spc. Douglas Huffstetler, Spc. George Steele, Spc. Joshua Johnson, and Spc. Robert Gedding.

After all of the planning and execution of the first-ever event, Reed was satisfied that it went very well.

“We could not be more pleased with the outcome of the inaugural Best Engineer Competition,” said Reed. “The Soldiers who competed in the event are excited about next year already. This event has continued to develop a healthy competition between the two major Engineer battalions in South Carolina, which is only going to foster the professionalism of our two organizations.”

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