By Melissa Buckley, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Feb. 6, 2024) — Service members wanting to compete for the title of Best Sapper have a couple more weeks to register and organizers of this year’s competition announced a new strategy to separate the best from the rest.

Registration for the U.S. Army Engineer School’s 17th Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition closes on Feb. 16.

Capt. Ryan Reid, Sapper Training Company commander, said the theme of this year’s competition is “transparency.”

“We have started publishing lists of tasks the competitors will be conducting each day. Units can streamline their training programs as they prepare their competitors for the Best Sapper Competition,” Reid said. “We are giving them the answers. Now, it is a question of if they studied and who is really the best. If everybody already has the answers, it comes down to who executes it in the best manner.”

Sapper skills competitors will be tested on are being listed on the Best Sapper Competition Facebook page – with more and more being added as the event nears, Reid said.

“In years past, it has been a secret,” said Sapper Training Company 1st Sgt. Stephen Olson. “This year, there is no excuse for not knowing what technical skills to train for.”

A few of the events already posted online are special steel cutting, mountaineering, a wire obstacle breach, marksmanship, timber cutting techniques, bridge reconnaissance, utilizing handheld mine detectors and a Bangalore breach.

Competitors are set to arrive April 15 to prepare for the competition that kicks off April 19 at Roubidoux Park in Waynesville.

According to Reid, two-person teams wanting to register must be submitted in what’s called an Order of Merit list by their battalion and fill out an application. The application can be downloaded from the Best Sapper Competition website.

“New this year, we created an OML tab on the registration form. If a unit is sending more than one team, we are asking them to rank them at the unit level. Units need to pay close attention to that because if we have more than 50 teams register, we are going to select teams with two Sapper tabs, then look at the OMLs and drop teams from units registering. We want to be able to showcase as many different units as possible,” Reid said.

To obtain a Sapper tab, service members must graduate from the Sapper Leader Course, run by the Sapper Training Company, part of Fort Leonard Wood’s 169th Engineer Battalion.

According to Olson, Best Sapper competitors can be active duty, Reserve or National Guard from any U.S. military branch or approved international military – they can be any rank and any military occupational specialty.

“The competition is a showcase for the school, and we train everybody, not just engineers,” Olson said.

According to Reid, applicants must be in good standing with no pending civilian or military legal or administrative actions.

“We only want the best people competing for the title of Best Sapper,” Reid said.

Competitors must have a Sapper Physical, an equivalent or a more stringent physical dated within the past 12 months, stating adequate physical condition.

“They have to be medically qualified to participate in this event,” Reid said. “It is an extremely strenuous and physically demanding competition. We have to make sure the men and women who show up are fit to compete.”

Last year, competitors covered 60 miles in 58 hours with little to no sleep.

Olson, a former Best Sapper competitor himself, had some advice for competitors headed to Fort Leonard Wood this spring.

“Know your partner. Know their strengths and weaknesses — split the events by what you know you are good at. Know how to motivate one another when they need it most,” Olson said.

One of the biggest things he has seen set back competitors is, “underestimating the time they will spend on their feet. By the end of day two, we can tell the difference between the people who actually trained and the ones that thought they worked out enough.”

“This is one of the hardest things these competitors are going to do in a three-day span. Competitors have to be all in,” Olson added.

Visit the Best Sapper Competition website for more information and the complete application process.

Service members helocast and then swim to shore at Training Area 250 during the 2011 Best Sapper Competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Engineer School. Helocasting is a common element during the competition each year, weather permitting. This year’s BSC – the 17th iteration – is set to kick off April 19 at Roubidoux Park in Waynesville, and registration closes Feb. 16. (Photo by Melissa Buckley, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office)













About Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.

Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.

Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.