Second of six part series: Sappers hit the books during first week Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 June 2013
Story and photo by Melissa Buckley
GUIDON staff
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The first week of the Sapper Leader Course has been a shock for some of the candidates — out of the 41 that in-processed on May 31, only 37 passed the Army Physical Fitness Test. Then, three more voluntarily dropped out, and another had to be dropped for medical reasons, bringing the current class total to 33.
Students in the Sapper Leader Course hit the books in the classroom before hitting the field.

After the APFT and a pull-up test, candidates took an entrance exam. All Sapper candidates were given a pre-test to gauge their knowledge base of Warrior Skill Level-10 tasks.

 “Sapper candidates who are not proficient in the Skill Level-10 tasks are already behind the power curve. Their lack of knowledge will take away from the overall training potential,” said Capt. Matvey Vikhrov, Sapper Leader Course chief of training.

1st Lt. Brittany Hine, Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said she was ecstatic to be in the current class.

 “I’ve been trying to get in this course for some time now. I’m hoping to further develop my skills as an engineer and a leader,” Hine said.

In the first few days of phase one, Sgt. 1st Class Anderson Jimenez, Sapper Leader Course, General Subjects instructor, said he can already tell what kind of Sapper candidate a student is.

“It’s the phase when we can assess them the best,” Jimenez said.

In their first week, the Sapper students were awake by 4:30 a.m., had physical training until 7 a.m., ate breakfast and spent the rest of the day split between classrooms and ranges. They studied subjects like rigging and knots, explosive hazards, demolition calculation, advanced medical technician, expedient demolition and threat weapons.

Jimenez said he believes the demolition portion of training is the hardest for the students — and most important.

“Demo is the essence of a combat engineer,” Jimenez said. “Demo is one of the biggest things and it’s crammed into one classroom day. It’s a lot of information to cover.”

As complex as the demolition calculations are to learn, the instructors challenge their students even more by adding physical stress on top of the mental stress.

“A Sapper has to be both physically fit and mentally tough. It goes together. If your body isn’t healthy, your mind isn’t either,” Jimenez said. “We try to implement that stress factor on them — it’s pressure. Come the Patrolling phase they will be under great pressure while leading a patrol through the woods. We are also trying to relate this training to combat. They have to be able to deal with stress on the battlefield. The idea is that if we implement it here, it will help them better handle real pressure when the time comes.”

Starting the day with multiple mile runs, litter runs — carrying a Rescue Randy manikin, boot runs and road marches, then having to sprint everywhere between classes was a bit of a surprise for Hine.

“The PT has been a little bit of a shock, but it’s also enjoyable because the instructors push us. We are constantly running everywhere,” Hine said. “I think it’s good, because it is real world. It’s a really great challenge. It’s the prefect mix of physical and mental.”

Hine is studying more than she expected to and said she can tell her instructors want her to succeed.

“I’m learning a lot more than I though I would. I wasn’t prepared for how much the cadre make us really learn the skills. Whether you earn the tab or not, the instructors want us to leave here with the knowledge, so we can share it with our units,” Hine said.

As the candidates go through the 28-day course each day builds upon the next by design.

“It’s starts of at a gradual pace. We make it harder as we go, so they will be prepared for the second phase,” Jimenez said.

Friday begins the second and final week of General Subjects, ending with a fast-paced transition to phase two, Patrolling.

They will be rappelling off the tower Friday, the cliff Saturday, doing Land Navigation Sunday, then heading to the Lake of the Ozarks Recreation area where they will have boat PT and capsize drills — leaving them exhausted for the written exams they will immediately have to complete.

“The second week is really intense,” Jimenez said.

Hine said of all the Sapper Leader Course classes, she is most looking forward to the next few days.   

“I am excited about rappelling, that is something I haven’t done. It will incorporate all the rigging and knots we have been practicing,” Hine said.


Changes ahead for Sapper Leader Course entry:

Starting next month the Sapper Leader Course will transition from the Army Physical Fitness Test to the Sapper Physical Fitness Test. This test will be gender and age neutral. All Sapper candidates will have to perform a minimum of 50 push-ups, 60 sit-ups, run three miles in at least 24-minutes and do a minimum of six pull-ups.

Also, the pre-test will become an entrance exam. Sapper candidates will have to pass five out of seven Warrior Skill Level-10 tasks as part of the entrance requirement for the Sapper school. If the requirement is not met, Sapper candidates will be given one retest for the failed task. If the standard is again not met the candidate will not be allowed entrance into the course.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 19 June 2013 )