Fourth of six part series: Week 3 - Patrolling: Sapper tab candidates take to field Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Story and photo by Melissa Buckley
GUIDON staff
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Everything the Sapper Leader Course students learned in the first two weeks is now being put to the test. In week three of the course the candidates began the second phase of the course, Patrolling.

The Patrolling portion of the course covers basic patrolling techniques and battle drills with the emphasis on leadership. The specific tactical areas of focus are urban operations, breaching, patrol organization and movement, reconnaissance, and raid and ambush tactics.
Students in the Sapper Leader Course practice patrolling techniques Monday during the beginning of the second phase of the course. The Patrolling portion of the course covers basic patrolling techniques and battle drills with the emphasis on leadership.

The class size has dropped by two more, bringing the original class down to 28. Four Sapper candidates from the previous class that failed the Patrolling phase have been recycled into this class.

Friday, the 32 students officially transferred to Patrolling by moving to the base camp.

“The first two days are cadre led and cadre-assisted Field Training Exercises. Patrolling instructors teach, coach and mentor Sappers. These two days are last chance for Sappers to establish Standing Operation Procedures and iron out any issues that they might have before graded patrols,” said Capt. Matvey Vikhrov, Sapper Leader Course chief of training.

On Monday, Sapper candidates had an urban operations class and their Patrolling exam, followed by an urban operations practical exercise designed to help the students with their SOPs.

 During the urban operations exercise Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Messick, Sapper Leader Course senior patrolling instructor, said he doesn’t necessarily teach techniques on how to clear building, but focuses on the planning aspect.

“Their first week of patrolling is important because they are learning their basic battle drills as far as raid, recon, ambush and movement formations. Most Sappers come from mechanized units and haven’t trained with these skills. They have to learn how to walk through the woods and navigate,” Messick said. “It’s going to give them an idea on what steps to take in order to effectively accomplish the missions that lie ahead. We take them out in to the woods to give them that realism. The woods are thick and it’s hard to see — especially at night. When they get back to their units they will be better at accountability. They will be able to better manage their personnel.”

After watching the class run through an urban operations mission Messick has some advice for future Sapper Leader Course candidates.

“They need to work on their dismounted movement techniques prior to coming to this course,” Messick said.

Capt. John Borland, 18th Engineer Brigade, Schweinfurt, Germany, said, for him Patrolling comes down to communication and relying on the other students.

“We have to know what each other is capable of and not capable of. We have to balance taking charge and relying on our battle buddies. The goal is to get to the finish line together,” Borland said. “The physical aspects are intense. They are keeping the stress on us with lack of sleep and management of food. But really this week we are taking a group of strangers, from different backgrounds, and working together as a cohesive team. The hardest thing this week for me is getting everybody on the same page in a short amount of time.”

As much physical and mental stress as he is now under, Borland expects Patrolling to get harder before it’s over.

“I imagine we are looking at more sleep deprivation, food deprivation and lots and lots of physical activity — and oh yeah, we have to think, too,” Borland said.

In the beginning of week three the students weren’t

being graded. Instructors used this time to critique them. But next week, the final week of the course, will be filled with seven graded FTXs.

Sappers will have to prove they are proficient at the skills they have learned during the General Subjects phase and in Patrolling classes.

“Each Sapper candidate will have at least two leadership positions. Sappers need to receive a ‘go’ on at least 50 percent of his/her leadership positions. The missions are a 60/40 mix of engineer and infantry missions,” Vikhrov said.

The course is hard, but that’s what Borland said makes the training so valuable. He thinks one day he will look back at all the pain he went through and remember it as a fun time in his Army career.

“We could read a book or a field manual, but to have high intensity training under stress, it’s the closest thing we can get to mimicking combat. It’s not something we could do at our units,” Borland said. “Everything we have done has been interesting and fun to a certain extent. We can’t totally enjoy it right now because of the stress aspect. It’s enjoyable because it’s a challenge. I feel like I will look back on it and enjoy it more than I actually am right now.”

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 July 2013 )