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News | Feb. 23, 2024

Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers win 36th Engineer Brigade’s Best Squad Competition

5th Engineer Battalion

Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers from the 5th Engineer Battalion won the 36th Engineer Brigade’s Best Squad Competition, held from Feb. 5 to 9 at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The units are organized under the III Armored Corps, part of U.S. Army Forces Command, and the competition consisted of events, including a physical fitness test, swim qualification, land navigation, stress shoot, patrolling lanes, medical lanes and a board interview.

Squad member and 5th En. Bn. Soldier, Sgt. Kolby Digby, said the land navigation event was put together well, but his favorite event started with a surprise helicopter ride.

“We were air inserted by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter into the patrolling lanes. We rucked six miles and had four hours to complete the ambush lane, indirect fire lane, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear lane and an urban operations event. Getting flown in was so cool; it was the most fun I had in the competition,” Digby said.

It snowed before the event and the ground was cold and wet, according to Digby, but that wasn’t the hardest part about competing in Colorado.

“The altitude was a big crutch at first, but we finally acclimated. It is dry there, too. We ended up with lots of nose bleeds,” he said.

No stranger to Army competitions, Digby said this one was different because he could tell all the squads’ scores were tight, making the final event — the board — the most nerve-racking for him.

“It was a close competition, and it came down to our performance at the board. It was make or break for us. The field knowledge comes naturally to me, but I struggle with the board,” Digby said. “I didn’t know if we won until they announced the winners.”

He attributed their win to the bond his teammates were quickly able to build.

“Our team seemed like family, and we learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses quickly. I am grateful for this team,” Digby said.

5th Engineer Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Terry Riesel said he was overjoyed with his team’s performance, noting their cohesiveness during a unit formation Feb. 15 in the battalion’s motor pool, where he presented each squad member with a commander’s coin of excellence and an Army Achievement Medal.

“I was beyond excited. They spent so many hours preparing, and they executed so well,” Riesel said. “I completed a few events beside them, and they were always staying positive, motivating each other and helping each other complete the required tasks. I am very proud of them.”

Riesel also said being located on Fort Leonard Wood has its perks.

“I think that because Fort Leonard Wood is a training installation, it allows us a unique opportunity to receive and execute training that isn’t provided on other installations. When we needed, we quickly received the ranges and training areas we required to get our squad trained,” Riesel said.

The winners are now getting ready to represent the 36th Engineer Brigade in the III Armored Corps competition, scheduled for June at Fort Riley, Kansas.

Last year, the III Armored Corps Best Squad Competition was six days and included an Army Combat Fitness Test, the Mabry Mile obstacle course, day and night land navigation, medical skills lanes, warrior tasks and battle drills, M4 qualifications, a stress shoot, patrolling, urban operations, squad defense, a mystery event, a written test, a 12-mile foot march and a board.

“We are going to be training and studying for the next few months. We are going to be physically fit and make sure the knowledge is like second nature to all of us,” Digby said.