Engineer program prepares Soldiers to earn elite tabs Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 January 2013
Soldiers in the 554th Engineer Battalion Commander’s Program enter the water at Davidson Fitness Center Pool to test their water survival skills. The Commander’s Program is designed to assist Soldiers in preparing for Ranger and Sapper Schools.
Story and photo by Melissa Buckley
GUIDON staff
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The 554th Engineer Battalion’s Commanders Program helps prepare Soldiers to earn their Sapper or Ranger tab before they even enter one of the coveted schools.   

“The program’s intent is to properly physically and mentally develop selected officers and non-commissioned officers to succeed in either school,” said Staff Sgt. Agsel Hernandez, Commanders Program noncommissioned officer-in-charge and Company A, 554th En Bn., Equipment Platoon squad leader.

The mentally and physically challenging program is designed by Sappers and Rangers to mimic the tempo and stress of both schools.

“The participants are safely taken to their braking point in order to develop their stamina and confidence. This is a no-slack program that provides the participants with the tools to be successful not only in Sapper and Ranger school, but as a leader overall. Whether or not the participants have a slot to go to Sapper or Ranger school, they must successfully complete the training program or their slot will be denied.”

The program consist of a four week train-up to include an assessment week and maintenance phase.  

The first week is called Spartan Week because the candidates are faced with an physical fitness test.

“The type of PT we do is completely based on the training that they will receive during Ranger and Sapper school. It is the hardest week of the program were we physically and mentally strain them in an effort to weed out those candidates that do not really want to be there,” Hernandez said.
The second week is called Warrior Week. The candidates endure a four, six and eight mile ruck march, then a Combat Water Survival Test.

During the third week they concentrate on running and perform a four, five, six and seven mile run, finishing up the week with a 12-mile ruck march.

Week four is the assessment week. The candidates are administered their final APFT, a five-mile run that they have to complete under 40 minutes, and their final 12-mile ruck march.

In the assessment phase is the final CWST. This week evaluates the candidates physical, mental, and emotional abilities, as well as quantifies the candidates individual effort and progress of previous weeks challenging training.

The final phase, known as the Maintenance Phase, ensures the Soldiers keep-up their skills while waiting to enter Sapper or Ranger school.

The Commanders Program is instructed by Soldiers who have a Sapper tab, a Ranger tab or both.

Hernandez has been a Sapper since 2006.

“I would have loved to have a program like this one to better prepare me for Sapper school,” Hernandez said.

Having the Sapper Leader Course on Fort Leonard Wood enables the Commanders Program to invite the SLC cadre to teach some of the classes.   

“This allows the candidates to get first-hand training from the instructors that they will encounter in Sapper school,” Hernandez said.     

2nd Lt. Foley Rovello, Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course, said the one-on-one time she spends with Sappers and Rangers is the most valuable thing about the program.

“It’s so amazing. All of them have so much knowledge. I feel like I could pick their brains for months and still probably not know as much about the military as they do,” Rovello said. “They are really dedicated to helping us succeed. Every instruction I get I come away with something more than what they were intending to teach.”

Rovello doesn’t have a class slot yet, but she’s hoping to attend the Sapper Leader Course one day.  

“I’m doing this for the accelerated training and to challenge myself. Once we get to our units, they can offer us slots,” Rovello said.

She said the program is doing a good job of preparing her physically and mentally.

“It’s by far one of the hardest things physically I have ever done. Having to do this every morning then go to class and try to learn covers the mental aspect.

We have to dedicate ourselves which also compounds the mental aspect of the program.  I find time. I have to cut out a lot of free time that I might have spent socializing,” Rovello said.

She believes the camaraderie the program brings is important and is pushing her to succeed in the program.

“We may be sucking, but we are sucking together,” Rovello said.

Hernandez said officers attending the Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course, the Captains’ Career Course or any outstanding Soldiers that want to take on the challenge of making the Engineer Corps better are welcome to attend the program, but only the ones that are serious about earning a tab will likely succeed.

“If they choose to become a Sapper or Ranger do it for the knowledge and the tools that both these schools will provide to be successful, not only in combat, but also during peace keeping operations,” Hernandez said.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 February 2013 )