For the third time in a row, two soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have been named the Army's Best Sappers.
Capt. Jason Bahmer and Sgt. 1st Class David Rizo on Thursday claimed the top spot in the 2016 Best Sapper Competition, besting 94 other competitors in the grueling three-day competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Bahmer, who came in second place in last year's competition, is a company commander in the 82nd Airborne's 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Rizo is a platoon sergeant in 2nd Brigade Combat Team's 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion.
"I was ecstatic," Rizo said about learning that he and Bahmer had won. "We put a lot into this."
Bahmer agreed, saying they didn't know their scores or how they were faring throughout the three-day competition.
"We're just thankful that we were able to compete, and we're glad to represent the 82nd Airborne and do so well," he said.
In second place were Capt. William Whitfield and Capt. Michael McLaughlin from the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion.
Another team from the 82nd Airborne placed third. They are 1st Sgt. Jose Casillas and Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Shay from the division's 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion.
Capts. William Whitfield and Michael McLaughlin carry a log as part of the 2016 Best Sapper Competition. The men, from the 1st Cavalry Division, went on to earn second place in the competition.
Photo Credit: Army
A total of 96 engineers, working in 48 two-person teams, competed in this year's event, which kicked off Tuesday. Only 19 teams completed the competition on Thursday.
Over the course of the competition, the teams covered more than 50 miles over 50 hours of back-to-back events that included a ruck march, land navigation, physical fitness and engineer tactics.
Competitors must be serving in the engineer career field, and at least one of the team members must be a graduate of the Sapper Leader Course.
The goal is to test competitors' physical endurance and training and skills as a combat engineer or sapper, said Capt. Bryan Wittmeyer, chief of training for the Sapper Leader Course.
The cadre for the course plans and runs the competition each year.
"The biggest thing is to showcase what sappers do and what they're capable of and how far they can push themselves," Wittmeyer said.
Bahmer and Rizo said they began training for the competition in January, but didn't pair up as a team until five or six weeks ago.
"I wanted to come back and compete again because I took second last year, and I was hoping to come and take the trophy home," Bahmer said. "I was struggling to find a partner, but I knew Sgt. Rizo, so I asked him if he would compete with me."
A competitor breaches a door during the 2016 Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Photo Credit: Army
Both soldiers said they probably won't compete again next year.
"I'm going to finish this out on top," Rizo said, while Bahmer said he'll "quit while I'm on top as well."
The challenging course and the chance to spend time with other sappers and engineers was worth the experience, Rizo said.
"It was a great experience," he said, adding his thanks to the Sapper Leader Course for putting on a "great" and "challenging" event. "It was also awesome to see the best of our regiment from throughout the Army. They truly were the epitome of an engineer, and it was great to compete against them and see where we stack up against the best."