Imagine being tested on 19 weeks worth of schooling while rucking more than 12 miles with a 35-pound rucksack on your back — that’s what Sapper Stakes feels like for the Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course students.
Sapper Stakes is part of the final Field Training Exercise for the course.
“We try to take a piece of everything that they have learned in EBOLC and tie it into at least one of the events. They are tested on their knowledge while being physically stressed. They start the day with a physical test. They have to think quickly throughout the day. It’s to see how they would react in a combat situation. We can see how they respond under physical and mental stress,” said Staff Sgt. Josh Williams, Company B, 554th Engineer Battalion, instructor.
The students compete in three- to four-person teams. Their teammates are randomly selected the night before Sapper Stakes kicks off.
“There is no telling who you are going to work with when you deploy or where you go from here. Sapper Stakes forces students to focus on their individual abilities and come together as a team. They learn how to be a team player and a leader under physical and mental demands,” said Capt. Evan Mair, Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course, 554th Engineer Battalion, small group leader.
He said the main intent of Sapper Stakes is to show the students how to work as a team while providing them a competitive environment to compete against each other.
“We tell them what the mission is. We try not to micro-manage the students and allow them to learn to be disciplined leaders who can take initiative without being told to do something. Very shortly they will be leading men and women, possibly barrel-first into enemies overseas. It’s a very rapid transition from the schoolhouse to their first real taste of active-duty Army life. We have to enable them to be mature leaders,” Mair said.
Along the route, students will have 10 minutes at each of the 11 events they will come to. One of Mair’s favorite challenges is the weapons event.
“We have a weapons challenge that starts with all of the weapons, disassembled, hidden in a box. Once you receive a weapon you must finish it. Someone can’t take it from you. They can coach you, but they can’t do it for you. The idea is to test everyone’s individual skills, but everyone must be able to be a team player and work together as a group. They have to strike a balance between teamwork and individual preparation,” Mair said.
Williams said his favorite event is the knots station.
“I am a Sapper, so I like knots. I teach that class here. You never know when you will need to use a knot to secure a piece of equipment or gear,” Williams said.
No two Sapper Stakes are the same, Williams said that is because they are constantly improving it.
Sapper Stakes serves as the students’ final Order of Merit List event. It allows the instructors to rank them.
Sapper Stakes takes several cadre members to accomplish. It is a combined effort across the 554th Engineer Battalion and the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence.