U.S. Marines with 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force perform a helocast training exercise out of a UH-1Y Venom at Ferguson Lake, near Yuma, Arizona. The exercise is part of Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) 1-16, a seven-week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
(U.S. Marine Corps photographs by Staff Sergeant Artur Shvartsberg, MAWTS-1 COMCAM, 3 OCT 2015.)
Soldiers helocast into Lake of the Ozarks during the U.S. Army Sapper Leaders Course. The Sapper Leader Course is a 28-day, joint-service course designed to create “elite” combat engineers in all aspects of mobility, counter mobility, and survivability at the U.S. Army Engineer School in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
(Courtesy photo, 2 November 2009. Story by Sergeant Heather Denby via DVIDS.)
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – While the majority of Soldiers who wear the Sapper tab on their shoulder also sport the engineer castle on their dress blues, not all do.
“The course is designed to train service members to become a Sapper Leaders,” said Capt. John Chambers, Sapper Leader Course chief of training, “While experience as a combat engineer is helpful, it is not required in order to attend.”
“The most important thing is having the desire to learn and the drive to make it through the course,” he said.
The Sapper Leader Course is a 28-day, joint-service course designed to create “elite” combat engineers in all aspects of mobility, counter mobility, and survivability here at the U.S. Army Engineer School.
According to Sapper chief instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Troy Winters, the course hosts approximately 300 service members annually with only 40 percent graduating to receive the coveted U.S. Army Sapper tab.
Sapper course instructors teach the students mountaineering, water operations, conventional and expedient demolitions, urban breaching, airborne operations, and many other engineer related tasks.
While some of the material covered at the course is introduced during entry-level and advanced individual training, the majority of the material is designed for sergeants and officers in leadership positions.
For non-engineer Soldiers like Sgt. Keith Willson, a petroleum supply specialist assigned to the Forward Support Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, the Sapper tasks must be introduced, learned and performed to standard in less than one month.
“I was nervous about what to expect at this school,” he said. “I’ve only got two years in the military and I was jumping head first into an elite school full of elite Soldiers.”
Willson was encouraged to attend the Sapper Leader Course by his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Wempe, who said that he believed Willson possessed both the physical and mental toughness required to successfully complete the intense infantry and engineer tactics course.
Wempe was right.
Willson received a first time “go” for all Sapper qualification events including breaching reinforced doors and walls, rappelling off of a cliff, making expedient demolitions, airborne operations, tactical boating operations and swimming the Lake of the Ozarks with a weighted ruck sack.
“This course really pumped me up,” said Willson.
Willson said after his graduation from the Sapper Leader Course, he decided that he would re-enlist to attend the U.S. Army Ranger course next year.
“I would recommend that any Soldier looking to push to the next level try to attend a physically demanding, advanced course like this,” he said.
“It reminded me of why I joined the Army in the first place; it made me proud to be a Soldier.”
According to the official Sapper Leader Course Web site, the course is open to enlisted Soldiers in the rank of specialist and above, cadets, and officers in the rank of captain and below. Priority fill for the course’s coveted slots go to officers in combat arms and combat support branches as well as enlisted Soldiers holding the military occupational specialty of combat engineer, infantrymen, cavalry scout and Special Forces engineer.
Wearing rebreathers, members of Marine Force Recon move out of the surf during a reconnaissance exercise. Force Reconnaissance Marines are experts in amphibious reconnaissance. Force Recon combat divers train in both SCUBA and rebreather techniques in addition to helocasting and small boat operations.
Marine Force Recon are the eyes and ears for their assigned Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander. They carry out amphibious and ground reconnaissance and are trained to operate in the deep battle space.
Airmen with the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron conducts helocast training from an MH-47G Chinook operated by the Night Stalkers. The MH-47G is used by the 160th SOAR as a heavy-lift assault helicopter. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson
Marines with the Maritime Raid Force, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to jump from a UH-1Y Huey during helocast training at Kin Blue, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 2, 2015. Once the Marines jumped into the water, they swam to the waiting Combat Rubber Raiding Craft which brought them to shore.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor J. Larson/Released)
A soldier from The 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Recce Platoon, 3 Section, jumps from a U.S. Marines Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during Helocasting training at Kaneohe Bay, Marine Corps Base Hawaii during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) on June 30, 2014.
Training that day included learning the basic boat drills and becoming familiarized with the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC), also known as the Zodiac, and conducting fast rope insertion extraction system (FRIES) operations.