Four Soldiers headed to Army Best Sapper Competition

Competitors in the Fort Bliss Iron Sapper Competition pose for a picture following the last event of the competition at the Aquatics Training Center here Dec. 13, 2017. Photos by Jonathan LeBlanc, Fort Bliss Bugle Staff.

Competitors in the Fort Bliss Iron Sapper Competition pose for a picture following the last event of the competition at the Aquatics Training Center here Dec. 13, 2017. Photos by Jonathan LeBlanc, Fort Bliss Bugle Staff.

By Jonathan LeBlanc, Fort Bliss Bugle Staff:

(El Paso, Texas, Jan. 4, 2018)

Organizers of the Fort Bliss Iron Sapper Competition announced the winners at a ceremony at the Aquatics Training Center here Dec. 13, 2017. The competition determines who will move on to the Army-wide Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, April 14 through 18.

Sgt. Noah Reiter, 2nd Lt. Mitchell Blackgrove, 2nd Lt. Kyle Csorba and 1st Lt. Gregory Frechette, all assigned to the 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, were the proud winners of the local competition.

From left, 2nd. Lt. Mitchell Blackgrove, 2nd Lt. Kyle Csorba, Sgt. Noah Reiter, 1st Lt. Gregory Frechette, assigned to the 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, pose for a photo at the Aquatics Training Center here Dec. 13, 2017, as winners of the Fort Bliss Iron Sapper Competition.

The Iron Sapper Competition tested competitors on events similar to the ones Soldiers will experience at the larger competition.

“We looked at the years past and tried to design something that will assess the team so they are the most prepared and the best teams to send forward to the Army competition,” said Lt. Col. Michael Loftus, commander, 2nd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.


Lt. Col Michael Loftus, left, commander, 2nd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, recognizes 1st Lt. Gregory Frechette, assigned to the 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, as a member of the winning team of the Fort Bliss Iron Sapper Competition here Dec. 13, 2017.

Both competitions test skills combat engineers often find in the field, Loftus said.

The larger competition boasts that it will include 50 teams, more than 50 miles, more than 50 hours and only one winner, and the Soldiers competing at Fort Bliss received a good taste of what they might face.

They walked more than 40 miles, conducted demolition training, performed a modified physical fitness test with an aquatics segment, organizers said.

The competition is engineer specific, so the competitors must be physically and mentally prepared.

“This is a pretty grueling competition,” Loftus said.

The Soldiers are tested on combat engineer skills such as demolition (which includes math), knots, marksmanship and helo casting, which is jumping out of a helicopter into water where the Soldiers have to create an impromptu poncho raft, Loftus said.