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NEWS | Sept. 15, 2022

Sapper Stakes allows company to test knowledge, individual engineer tasks

By Catrina Francis 416th Theater Engineer Command

Engineers from the 402nd Engineer Company, 389th Engineer Battalion, from Des Moines, Iowa, conducted Sapper Stakes at Camp Dodge, Iowa, Aug. 27-28.

The purpose of the training was to test the knowledge of the company’s engineer tasks at the individual level. The Soldiers were tested on forward reconnaissance, react to contact, clear a building, evaluate and evacuate a casualty, call for fire, and an improvised explosive device lane.

One of the tasks that require precision is call for fire. During this tasks Soldiers transmitted a message for an artillery fire to hit a target. Sgt. Tyler Carter, the call for fire grader said the Soldiers had four opportunities to hit a target.

“When they make their shot, we’ll let them know,” Carter said.

Carter added that in real time it’s important to hit the target the first time as they might not have those options during wartime.

“If you are off, you can go from hitting your target to hitting a shot into a town,” said Carter. “So, there are real-life civilian casualties or even friendly casualties at stake if you are not precise or know the area where you are operating in.”

Sapper Stakes was a win-win for the company’s Soldiers. The 402nd company commander 1st Lt. Russell Scaringi, said for the newer Soldiers in the unit, Sapper Stakes was an opportunity to build a foundation and see how things are done in real time, outside a highly controlled environment.

“[The Soldiers] get to see the ambiguity of doing missions,” he said. “For older Soldiers [they have a chance] to refine their skills [and] eventually pass on that knowledge when they start moving up in the ranks.”

Although Sapper Stakes is a small portion of what’s done at Sapper School, Scaringi said it helps Soldiers with tasks that are being done and prepare for the mental and physical toughness that’s needed when attending the school.

“They are going to have to be able to perform while tired, while stressed and this is a nice little tidbit what that might be like,” explained Scaringi. He added that if one of his Soldiers said they wanted to attend the school, he would ask what they are doing outside of battle assembly to prepare for Sapper School.

“You [must] do 5 miles in under 40 minutes, a 12-mile ruck in under three hours, you [must] do your demo calculations well,” he said. “This is the base of it and if someone
were to come and ask me about Sapper School, I would get more into the combat engineer side, the real nitty gritty stuff that is tested in Sapper School.”

Scaringi pointed out that mental and physical toughness is vital because at Sapper School engineers will get less than four hours of sleep per night while performing full missions carrying 40- to 100-pound rucks on their back.

“This is a very small glimpse of the bigger picture,” Scaringi said. “They should be able to come out of here having a general idea of what it takes to pass it.”

The Sapper Leader Course is a demanding 28-day leadership development course for combat engineers that reinforce critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army.

This course is also designed to build esprit de corps by training Soldiers in troop leading procedures, demolitions (conventional and expedient), and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense field training exercise that reinforces the use of the battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned throughout the course.

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