By Buddy Blouin

Taking the Sapper Leader Course is a tough, rugged challenge that while rewarding and necessary, has a stark reputation for its difficulty to complete. However, for one couple, simply completing the Sapper Leader Course requirements wasn't enough. Two Lieutenants didn’t just pass the course but earned awards doing so.

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How Hard Is the Sapper Leader Course?

⁤The Sapper Leader Course is a difficult program to provide the Army with premier leadership when it comes to the planning and execution of combat engineer missions.

⁤⁤Many compare the Army Sapper Leader Course to the U.S. Army Ranger School due to its noted level of difficulty.

The challenge helps those who pass the course with engineering in the field to perform their duties at the highest level possible.

One of the most unique features of the course is its ability to train students from Corporals to Captains. It is the only program in the Army to do so.

If you want to pass the Army Sapper Leader Course, you're going to have to be in excellent shape and understand how to get around as proficiency in physical conditioning and land navigation are necessary to pass the program.

For Some Families, Earning the Right Comes Naturally

1st Lts. Rachel and Samuel Kicklighter are two individuals who must have read the Sapper Leader Course Handbook more than once because the Combat Engineer Officers stationed in Germany, have both won awards at the Sapper Leader Course.

Rachel received the Distinguished Leadership Award for class 05-24, followed by Samuel for class 06-24.

Both having already graduated from Army Ranger School, specialize in various combat engineering tasks such as demolitions, bridge-building, and minefield operations.

Mentored during their time at West Point, the couple was drawn to the Army Engineer branch, and have completed Airborne and Air Assault training.

Now, they've shown their prowess by completing the Army Sapper Leader Course with high honors.

How Long Is the Sapper Leader Course?

The Sapper Leader Course is a 28-day gauntlet that jampacks an intense curriculum to those who take on the challenge at the U.S. Army Engineer Center in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Structured into two intensive phases, which are both around two weeks long, the course utilizes both its general subjects and patrolling courses for students to learn essential skills.

In general subjects, students work for 13 days, covering a diverse array of topics that will include tests of physical strength along with many hands-on tests involving engineer reconnaissance and extensive demolitions training.

Many other skills are being tested and taught throughout the course, including the infamous Sapper Leader Course knots curriculum.

⁤Notably, the course accommodates students from various backgrounds, not just combat engineers. ⁤⁤Therefore, particular attention is devoted to demolition training to ensure all participants possess the right skills.

Hands-on experience is prioritized throughout the course, though there are also many lessons and testing portions in classroom settings.

Practical exercises and range sessions simulating real-world scenarios with many different real-life mountain operations taking place are part of why the course maintains a comparison to Ranger School.

⁤Sapper Leader Course requirements demand effective practical application for air operations, including the setup of landing and pickup zones and air assault. ⁤

During the patrolling phase, which lasts 15 days, students focus on essential patrolling techniques and battle drills, emphasizing troop-leading procedures, small-unit operations, and tactical planning.

Additionally, there are various topics presented, such as patrol organization, intelligence gathering, and operation orders, laying the groundwork for real-world application.

Beyond the classroom, students take on a rigorous 8-day field training exercise that immerses students in simulated combat scenarios, testing their ability to lead and execute missions under duress.

⁤Throughout this portion of the Sapper Leader Course, field exercises take place where students rotate leadership roles and undertake a variety of missions common to engineers and Infantry.

⁤Practical skills such as wilderness survival and meal preparation are also imparted, reinforcing self-sufficiency in challenging environments.

To graduate, students must successfully complete many additional tasks during their training that include a 12-mile road march, passing multiple written exams, and the final simulated combat operation which is continuous for 24 hours.

Within the Sapper Leader Course, students will learn immense skills for the field and in leadership. Anyone taking on the challenge is rewarded with knowledge and experience you can’t find anywhere else.

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