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First Lt. John DeScisciolo, 1st Lt. Ethan Raebel, Staff Sgt. Cody A. St. Germain and 1st Lt. Thomas Bruton, will represent 7th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, in the 2022 Best Sapper Competition, April 23-25, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)


10th Mountain Division engineers determined to persevere through Army's Best Sapper Competition

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 20, 2022) – Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team’s 7th Brigade Engineer Battalion are ready to put their skills and experience to the test at the 2022 Best Sapper Competition, April 23-25, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Engineer School, serves as a proving ground to determine the top two-person team of Sapper-qualified Soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Cody A. St. Germain, 2nd Platoon sergeant, A Company, competed last year while stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, but he was unable to complete it after his teammate was medically removed.

“It’s a very physically demanding competition, with a lot of technical expertise involved,” St. Germain said. “My motivation this year is to finish it.”

Some of the events are standard to most Army competitions, such as a grueling ruck march, land navigation and physical fitness test, but Best Sapper focuses on assessing the special skill sets and knowledge distinct to Army engineers. Last year’s event opened with a demolitions test where participants had to solve a set of questions and calculations.

“Realistically, you can physically prepare for it but you never know what events they will throw at you,” St. Germain said. “It helps to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses ahead of time.”

His teammate, 1st Lt. Thomas Bruton, 1st Platoon leader, is a first-time competitor.

“It feels good to be able to compete and represent the 10th Mountain Division and show everyone what the 7th Engineer Battalion brings to the fight,” Bruton said.

The competition, which started in 2005 and has touted the tagline “50 teams, 50 hours, 50 miles,” whittles away team after team through a series of physical and mental challenges.

First Lt. Ethan Raebel, B Company executive officer, said that regardless of the amount of training or preparation a team brings to the competition, making it to the end is all that matters.

“There are teams who train up for months for this and still not finish,” he said. “You can study all you want and be the smartest person in the world, but if you don’t make it mile 50, it doesn’t matter.”

Raebel said there are several military occupational specialties in the Army engineer profession, and that can make the competition field interesting.

“As long as you’ve attended Sapper School, you are certified to compete,” he said. “You could be competing against equipment operators, combat engineers or any other type of engineer out there, but we all come together and this is a validation of everything this school teaches you – and it’s a marathon of information.”

Raebel is teaming up with 1st Lt. John DeScisciolo, 2nd Platoon leader, A Company.

“I love competition, and I will jump at any chance I have to put myself in an environment like that,” DeScisciolo said. “I’ve recently become a Sapper platoon leader, so I’m asking my Soldiers to do a lot of these same things that I did over a year ago at school. Now it’s time to find out what I have forgotten and brush up on that so I can be a better platoon leader when I come back.”

Only one team from the 10th Mountain Division has ever won in the 15-year history of Best Sapper, and they were Soldiers from the 7th BEB.

“As long as I cross the finish line with my teammate, that is a success for me,” DeScisciolo said. “But the bigger goal is to be the best 10th Mountain Division team, and then after that, to win it all.”

To learn more about the competition, visit www.facebook.com/BestSapper/.