With a loaded-down rucksack, minimal sleep and several miles of road marching still ahead of them, one exhausted Soldier from the 38th Engineer Company summed it up best:Man, this is no ... joke.
The engineers, part of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, were participating in Sapper Stakes, a two-day skill evaluation aimed at testing the Soldiers proficiency in combat engineering tasks and drills.
Were going back to what a sapper company really does, said Capt. Jason Webb, commander of the 38th Eng. Co.
During the past few years and deployments, Webb said, the focus of the company has been on route clearance operations. During Sapper Stakes, the combat engineers returned to what they do best breaching and emplacing obstacles.
In an almost non-stop flurry of action, the Soldiers of all four platoons navigated 18 different testing sites spread throughout the Argonne Forest Training Area, working late into the night before beginning a nine-mile ruck march back to the company headquarters the following morning.
The company standard for the march was three hours.
I feel great, but my dogs are barking, said Pvt. Charles Susczynski, minutes after crossing the finish line carrying an M-249 squad automatic weapon.
He said that while ruck marching might not be one of his strengths, participating with his squadmates kept him motivated as they crossed the finish.
All day yesterday was non-stop, just go, go, go literally into the night, said 1st Lt. Spencer Garrison, the mobility support platoon leader, who said that ending with a ruck march provided a shared hardship and that necessary motivation for everyone to finish.
Another of the more challenging events had Soldiers emplacing an 11-row concertina wire obstacle, hammering in pickets and stringing hundreds of feet of wire, trying to meet a 40-minute standard.
During this task, Spc. Evan Tella said that he encountered an unexpected challenge the land itself.
There were rocks, roots, just tough terrain, he said.
Several Soldiers said the hills on the course proved to be the most physically demanding portion of the event.
It was more physical than I think some of the guys thought it would be, said 1st Lt. Eric Lyon, 1st Platoon leader.
Webb said the company is in the crawl phase in the crawl, walk, run process of training their engineer skills; the squad-based competition during Sapper Stakes was a good way to assess some of our capabilities.
He said he hopes to hold another Sapper Stakes in the next several months and move into more complex mounted engineer training later this year.