by 2nd Lt. Matthew Krause
Adjutant, 52nd Engineer Battalion
The 52nd Engineer Battalion recently conducted a ‘best squad’ competition as 30 squads squared off for battalion bragging rights.
The first best squad competition held by the 52nd Eng. Bn. since its reactivation in April set the stage for an event that leadership plans to hold on an annual basis.
“This was the battalion’s first opportunity to assess our squad’s training proficiency in warrior tasks and battle drills in an operational environment,” said Lt. Col. Michael Brooks, 52nd Eng. Bn. commander. “In addition to recognizing the leaders and Soldiers of the top three squads, all leaders in the battalion got a great assessment of our squad’s training levels. This will enable the battalion to focus our training efforts on our weaknesses over the next nine months, culminating with a (Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La.) rotation in November.”
The competition was divided into two phases, a field phase and a garrison phase. The field portion of the competition was executed with five squads per day and began with a brief to the squad leaders. Following the brief, the squads had the remainder of the day to conduct, and be evaluated on, their troop-leading procedures. This preparation day allowed the squads to rehearse, plan and prepare for the grueling competition the following day. The Soldiers could be found day and night going over their battle drills and running through rehearsals – each squad trying to prepare themselves better than the rest.
Each squad’s preparation was then tested the following morning, when they began to navigate through the five-lane field portion of the competition designed to test the Soldiers on a broad spectrum of engineer skills as well as the squads’ maneuvering and basic soldiering proficiency. The lanes consisted of a dismounted patrol, an entry control point, vehicle recovery, an improvised explosive device lane and a quick reaction force lane. The lanes were each scheduled for four hours, with the last 30 minutes of a lane dedicated to performing an after-action review of the lanes’ events. The Soldiers did their best to fight off the freezing weather and exhaustion in order to help their squad succeed.
Upon returning from the field, the squads had to complete a deployability review, stress shoot, physical training test and a mystery event. Each event throughout the competition challenged and developed the squads in a different way, whether it was carrying a downed pilot in freezing weather or ensuring Soldiers were deployable and on top of their readiness.
The 497th Engineer Company squad, led by Staff Sgt. Craig Isham, earned bragging rights as the best squad while the 615th Eng. Company squads, led by Sgt. Keilor Gonzalez-Brenes and Staff Sgt. Christopher Kasper, finished second and third, respectively.
At the end of the day the entire battalion was the victor as the experience gained from the teamwork, leadership and training throughout the competition will ensure that the 52nd Eng. Bn. Soldiers will be ready when they are called upon to deploy.