Carrying nearly 80-pound packs while moving from obstacle to obstacle over a 14-mile course, 10 two-person military teams kicked off day one of the three-day Best Sapper competition Wednesday at Fort Carson.
Participants were tested on sapper — also called combat engineer — skills, including setting and detonating breach charges, identifying unexploded ordnance and firing the M4 carbine under stress.
“I hate heights, but once you start moving, it is fine,” 1st Lt. Kyle Mott said after walking down a roughly 50-foot climbing wall face first, and with one arm on a rope to control his descent.
Mott, with Fort Carson’s 4th Engineer Battalion, which hosted the event, was participating to stay in shape ahead of ranger school, planned for early next year.
When asked how Mott would tackle the three-day competition, he said, “You prepare yourself for the suck. You’re going to be cold … hot … tired … exhausted. You accept that that is going to happen and embrace it.”
Mott’s teammate was 1st Lt. Boone Pruter with the 62nd Engineer Battalion out of Fort Hood, Texas. Pruter was a last-minute addition who had helped prepare other Fort Hood soldiers for the competition.
Fort Hood and Fort Carson had four teams each, with soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., making up the final two teams.
The top two teams will move on to compete in the Army-wide Best Sapper contest next April.
“We’re finishing top three no matter what, if not first place,” Staff Sgt. Jessie Henderson said about the Fort Carson event.
Henderson was competing with fellow Fort Carson 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade Staff Sgt. Carlos Padilla.
Both had completed the 28-day Sapper Leadership Course, the premier leadership school for the engineer regiment.
“We’ve been studying hard these past six weeks,” Padilla said. “It is physical but also a lot of knowledge you need to know. Things from mountaineering skills, demolition skills and medical.”
A Fort Hood team from the 20th Engineer Battalion was winded but pushing forward after enduring burpees, squats, bear crawls, flutter kicks, inch worms and high crawls before shooting during the M4 stress shoot.
“I want to push my body to the limits and see how far it can go,” Staff Sgt. Martin Carreon said.
Teammate 2nd Lt. Jefferson Ryscavage agreed, saying, “I like to push myself physically — that’s part of the reason I joined the Army. I’m glad to be out here with a good partner, good teammate and get after it.”