Soldiers from 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Div., are Best Sappers

Soldiers from 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Div., are Best Sappers

Monday, June 4, 2018

Two soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasan,” 101st Airborne Division, proudly received the 2018 Best Sapper trophy, beating out 39 other teams from across the Army participating in the 2018 Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition, a grueling three-day event.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Clark and Capt. Rudy Chelednik compete in the 2018 Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition, a grueling three-day event. (Photos by Michael Curtis)

Capt. Rudy Chelednik, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and Sgt. 1st Class Robert Clark, first sergeant for Company B, 21st Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, are no strangers to working together as a team.

“At the time [of our train-up], Sgt. 1st Class Clark and myself were a company command team,” said Chelednik.

“We definitely worked out together every day, and did the best we could with the time we had,” he said.

Clark described the competition, which consisted of moving a total of 73 miles through locations on Fort Leonard Wood and Lake of the Ozarks region in a time span of 50 hours.

Along the way, competitors conducted physically strenuous events coupled with tasks learned at the U.S. Army Sapper School.

“The events consisted of a nonstandard PT test, two road marches with engineering or sapper tasks split up in-between them, as well as waterborne operations, and culminating with the ‘X-Mile Run,’ which was an unknown distance run with some competitions in-between,” Clark said.

Clark further expanded on the specifics of the multiple engineering and Sapper tasks the competitors were faced with.

Tasks included, “Bridge abutment reconnaissance, bridge pylon reconnaissance, setting in and utilizing mine detectors to detect mines, clearing lanes through explosive means or mechanical means, using robots to traverse through a robotics course under the cover of darkness … [and] all different types of breaching aspects,” recollected Clark.

Adding, “Each one of those lanes had physical aspects, so not only did you have to be technical, but you had to have that strength aspect to be able to continue towards the end of the mission.”

Capt. Donald Lew, the Sapper Training Company commander, was in charge of planning and overseeing this year’s Best Sapper Competition.

“We changed up a few of the events that we had in previous years, and introduced the first night HeloCast operation,” said Lew.

“A total of 37 out of 40 teams that started the competition completed the event and came through the castle,” he added.

Chelednik and Clark were ecstatic about winning the competition and were even more proud to have represented the Rakkasans and the 101st Airborne Division.

Clark commented that soldiers have told him they are proud to be a Rakkasan and to be part of a winning team.

He mentioned that even soldiers from other brigades have told him that seeing our team bring home the win makes them proud to identify as 101st Airborne Division soldiers.

Clark said he hoped that the victory would continue to charge soldiers with the winning spirit.

“I told General Poppas that when he deployed he was going to miss us bringing home the trophy,” said Clark. “That’s the mentality the Rakkasans and 101st have to have, that if I want it, I have to believe that I can get it.”