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By 2nd Lt. Ben Gerlach,
201st Engineer Battalion
Earning the right to wear the Sapper tab has been one of my goals ever since I attended Engineer OSUT in the summer of 2015. This February, I finally had the opportunity to attend and graduate with the Sapper Tab. My favorite part of being an Engineer are the challenges that the job itself presents. No two missions or tasks are ever the same. We are expected to provide mobility, counter-mobility, or survivability with whatever resources we have available.
Sapper Leader Course is the premier leadership school for the Engineer Regiment. The 28-day training is broken up into two, two-week phases. The first phase -- General Subjects focuses heavily on Engineering tasks from expedient demolitions, engagement area development, obstacle emplacement, obstacle breaching, along with mobility and counter-mobility operations. Additionally, there are physical fitness events, mountaineering, air operations, and land navigation blocks of instruction during this phase.
The second phase of the course, Patrolling is heavily focused on Platoon level Infantry tactics. The first five days of classroom exercises help ensure that everyone has the same baseline of knowledge and allows us time to develop our own Platoon SOPs. Those initial days are split between classroom instruction and student led practical exercises. After the classroom instruction is concluded students conduct a 7-day Field Training Exercise (FTX) in the Mark Twain National Forest. During the FTX, students are assigned various leadership within the Platoon and are graded based on their ability to plan and execute the mission in those positions.
The school itself was by far my most challenging and rewarding experience to date. I learned a great deal about myself as a leader. Not only how far I could push myself physically, but also mentally while under pressure. My peer group in the course included a variety of MOS’s and even an international Soldier. Their range of experience showed me different perspectives and helped broaden my skills as an Engineer.
Sapper Leader Course puts you in austere conditions with difficult terrain, minimal sleep, resources, and time. This realistic training environment with real world scenarios provided the best training that I have received in the Army. I appreciate the 201st EN BN leadership entrusting me with the responsibility to teach others what I have learned from this experience. I’m very excited to bring this knowledge back to my platoon and help prepare future Sapper Leaders.