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NEWS | Aug. 9, 2017

229th BEB Soldiers compete in Sapper Stakes

By Staff Sgt. Matt Lyman | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to Fredericksburg-based 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team assembled Sapper Fire Teams and competed against each other during a rigorous 72-hour Sapper Stakes competition, held Aug. 6-9, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The competition was held during the unit’s two-week annual training.

One of the two teams from the Bowling Green-based Bravo Company, the battalion’s newest company, won the event. Bravo Company was added to the battalion when it transformed from a brigade special troops battalion to the brigade engineer battalion in October 2016.

“The team’s strength and determination during the Zodiac Lane and excellent navigation skills at night propelled them well out into the lead,” said Capt. W. Chandler Pearson, Operations Officer for the 229th BEB. “Congratulations to Bravo Company for the outstanding performance.”

According to Pearson, Sapper Stakes aimed to “certify sapper squads, increase proficiency in technical skills and build espirit de corps.”

The Sapper Stakes event included four stages, starting first with preparation to include equipment layout and moving on to Phase 2, where Soldiers tackled Fort Pickett’s air assault obstacle course after completing a standard APFT, Pearson explained. In Phase 3, Soldiers were required to execute two different demolition breaching charges, a ballistic breach utilizing the M26 shotgun and perform a stress shoot with the M4 carbine. Both Phases 2 and 3 were executed as untimed events.

Phase 4 was the culminating event, which consisted of day and night land navigation, a smart versus strong Sapper skills test incorporated into a ruck march. The smart versus strong sapper was a team exercise aimed at testing how the Soldiers would solve scenarios requiring the use of Sapper and Soldier skills, from basic to expert. Phase 4 was a race and teams placed in the order they crossed the finish line, Pearson said.

“The competition challenges sapper teams physically and mentally,” Pearson said. “Teams knowledgeable in different Sapper tasks and skills will exert less physical energy to complete the course and teams not proficient in Sapper skills will have to complete additional physical challenges to complete the course.”

Sapper stakes is a tough, challenging competition, held to determine the best sappers within the battalion, and it involved many individual and collective level training designed to test engineer skills, explained Lt. Col. Charles Martin, commander of the 229th.

“We reiterated with our leaders that we need both strong and smart sappers, where some events require speed and physical resolve, others are mentally challenging.” Martin said. “Ultimately it’s the successful combination of teamwork and execution that makes the difference for the winning team. Regardless of how the score turns out, all of the teams that participate share a memorable experience, learning valuable lessons that will ultimately make them better Soldiers and future leaders.”

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