Story by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – At the dawn, instructors laid the test materials out, manuals, grade sheets, ropes, blasting caps, carbines and machine guns.
The students, the best North Carolina National Guard engineers, the classroom, Fort Bragg, and the test, the 105th Engineer Battalion Sapper Stakes Invitational, Sept. 12 - 13. Six trials of brain and brawn hid in a one-kilometer circle in the woods and hills.
The six teams of five Soldiers each from engineer units across the state marched back and forth to each assigned station using map and compass. They did not know what tasks they must perform until they arrive at each site.
"It fits the Sapper mentality, you do not know what you have to do in combat so it keeps you always ready," said Army 2nd Lt. Christopher Shannon, a platoon leader with the NCNG's 151st Mobility Augmentation Company.
The tasks mirrored those skills needed for combat deployments. Competitors timed events included evaluating a causality, assembling weapons, building obstacles or simulating blowing them up, tying an array of knots or finding explosive mines to strict Army standards.
It tested not only mind but body. Sweat poured from the Soldiers as they pounded stakes into vine and root crossed ground. Rolls after roll of razor wire are safely but quickly secured to stakes turning a narrow gap in the trees into a fortification in a matter of minutes.
Strength is not the only thing pushed to the limit. The difficult and intricate work of simulating destroying enemy fortifications, advanced first aid for critical injuries test a steady, trained hand and clear mind.
"It has been a good event," said Army Capt. Thomas Grabos, a leader with the 105th Engineer Battalion.
More photos here https://www.flickr.com/photos/ncngpao/sets/72157656259060294