FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — For the 2012 winners of the Best Sapper competition, laying claim to the trophy was well worth the 53 hours of ticks, mosquitoes and misery they endured trudging through the woods and trails of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., April 19 to 21.
Capt. Mike Kendall and Staff Sgt. Frank Batts of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, claimed the winner’s trophy for their unit. The two agree that the biggest challenge was motivating one another during the journey.
“It’s challenging to have the humility to say ‘I’m not good at this, I need you to carry me on this one,’” Kendall said. “We also let the small stuff go whenever an event was over. We didn’t fuss about it. What we could have done better, we just looked to the next event and focused on that.”
Batts agreed and said mental preparation was also a part of the team’s success.
“As soon as we knew an event was completed, we decided to take on the next event by quizzing ourselves, getting our minds fresh for the next (event),” Batts said.
The Best Sapper competition has been held eight times now since its first run in 2005. Of the 16 individual competitors who won, only four were enlisted. The rest have been officers.
Batts said while his particular accomplishment hadn’t sunk in quite yet, he hopes his win will get more noncommissioned officers to come out and challenge themselves as part of the competition.
“I know there are other guys out there who want to take this trophy home to their units,” Batts said. “I know there are a lot more guys out there who are physical training studs and beasts, they just need to come out and do this.”
The advice the pair has for Best Sapper hopefuls is to stay humble, stay physically strong and try to become a technical expert at everything. Rehearsals and training do pay off the more a Soldier goes through it, they said.
“Always look for ways to improve and don’t be satisfied that you know how to do something. Throw a twist into it and practice with that,” Kendall said, adding that he and Batts trained with three other teams.
Batts agreed. Training like you fight, he said, is important for the win.
“I think that’s probably the biggest key,” he said. “If you’re not training with other teams and throwing a little bit of competition into your train-up, well it’s just hard to put that pressure on yourself training up for this event. You need that pressure.”