☷20th Engineer Battalion earns Best Sapper title
U.S. Army ( By Press Release office)
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Retired Lt . Gen . Robert Flowers , namesake of the competition , applauds as 1st Lt . Eric Mattia and Capt . Alaimoana Paunga , Team 17 with 20th Engineer Battalion out of Fort Hood , Texas , lift the trophy in celebration of winning the 15th annual Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood , Missouri , during a ceremony held April 26 at Lincoln Hall Auditorium . FORT LEONARD WOOD , Mo . — Capt . Alaimoana Paunga and 1st Lt . Eric Mattia , Team 17 with 20th Engineer Battalion , 36th Engineer Brigade , at Fort Hood , Texas , earned the right to be called ‘Best Sapper’ during the 15th Best Sapper Competition held April 23 through 25 at Fort Leonard Wood . The winners of the 2022 competition were announced during a ceremony held April 26 in Lincoln Hall Auditorium . Paunga and Mattia competed against 47 other teams throughout the three - day competition , which saw Sappers traveling a total of 64 miles of rugged and rolling Missouri terrain over 54 hours while completing multiple mental and physical challenges with very little sleep . “I was inspired ( as ) these competitors gave it all they had , even when their energy was absolutely exhausted , and their bodies were spent , ” said Col . Daniel Hibner , U . S . Army Engineer School commandant . “We were testing them mentally and continued to push them physically . And it was their grit and sheer determination that kept them going and produced the winning team . ” Paunga described the winning feeling as “surreal . ” “We came in with the goal to win it all , ” Paunga said . “We have former winners in our brigade , so it was definitely a goal of ours . Everything just kind of fell together one event at a time . It feels great to be recognized at the end of it . ” Mattia , who also competed in last year’s competition , agreed . “We did a good job of segmenting it all . We just stayed focused , and the lanes were awesome , ” he said . “We had fun with it , but we kept our eyes ahead . ” The team credited their coaches support and their training regimen , which included training with the other teams from their unit , in helping them bring home the trophy . Both agreed the competition was tough both mentally and physically . “Overall , the competition was physically enduring . I think over the course of the three days , I got a total of three hours of sleep , ” Paunga said . “There were some times where we thought we couldn’t pull through , but we got over that mental block , finished it and accomplished the mission . ” Coming in second place was Team 16 consisting of 1st Lts . Raymond Hardaway and Jefferson Ryscavage , also with 20th Eng . Bn . , 36th Eng . Bde . , at Fort Hood . The third - place winners were Team 34 consisting of Sgt . 1st Class Dustin Shepherd and Staff Sgt . Seth Yoder , 3rd Battalion , 10th Special Forces Group , at Fort Carson , Colorado .
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