This Northern Virginia soldier is coaching to win an elite Army fight title


The sappers are elite fight engineers who know methods to do something the Army asks of them. Now one from the D.C. space is competing among the many better of the most effective.

A pair of U.S. Army sappers
U.S. Army Sgt. De Pradines and 1st Lt. Dewey, seen taking part within the sixteenth Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition in 2023.
(Courtesy 1st Engineer Battalion by way of Facebook)

Courtesy 1st Engineer Battalion by way of Facebook

U.S. Army sappers De Pradines and Dewey, both smiling
U.S. Army Sgt. De Pradines and 1st Lt. Dewey, throughout the sixteenth Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition in 2023.
(Courtesy 1st Engineer Battalion by way of Facebook)

Courtesy 1st Engineer Battalion by way of Facebook

U.S. Army sergeants Dewey and De Pradines and Dewey, smiling for the camera
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Dewey and Sgt. De Pradines, smiling for the digicam throughout the sixteenth Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition in 2023.
(Courtesy 1st Engineer Battalion by way of Facebook)

Courtesy 1st Engineer Battalion by way of Facebook

U.S. Army Sgt. De Pradines holding a flag, next to two other soldiers
U.S. Army Sgt. De Pradines seen holding a flag, subsequent to 2 different troopers at Omaha Beach on the 79th anniversary of the assault that led to the liberation of France and Western Europe from Nazi management, in 2023.
(Courtesy 1st Engineer Battalion by way of Facebook)

Courtesy 1st Engineer Battalion by way of Facebook

When the U.S. Army wants to determine methods to transfer troopers, it calls within the sappers — an elite group of fight engineers who know methods to do something the Army asks of them.

And one Fairfax County, Virginia, soldier is coaching to clinch the Army’s high fight engineer title within the seventeenth Annual Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri later this month.

“We know methods to construct a bridge, blow up a bridge, clear a mine subject,” stated Sgt. Renato De Pradines. “If you’re a sapper, you’re able to tackle something.”

The two-person workforce contest known as “diabolical” for a cause.

De Pradines and his teammate, 1st Lt. Jedidiah Dewey, will work across the clock. The pair should outpace 49 different squads in among the most grueling duties, together with marksmanship, land navigation, first help, demolition and bodily energy challenges.

De Pradines stated having a associate makes it a bit of simpler.

“He’s one in all my greatest mates,” De Pradines stated of Dewey. “I’m not going to win with out him. My success rides on utilizing his palms simply as a lot as he makes use of mine.”

Contestants should additionally full a long-distance run and journey greater than 60 miles. Over the course of the 58-hour competitors, sleep will come briefly provide.

Because of that, De Pradines, a Falls Church native, stated coaching is nonstop.

“We begin out at 8:30 within the morning and hit a gymnasium for 3 hours of cardio,” he stated. “We’ll knock that out, then eat, (then) do an hour-and-a-half of weight coaching and finish with some tactical expertise.”

De Pradines stated it’s the psychological fortitude that would make the distinction between successful and dropping. He stated he makes use of a mix of gratitude and grit.

“There are solely 50 groups. That’s 100 individuals out of the complete regiment who get to do that — so I’m grateful,” he advised WTOP. “I’ll positively say to myself: ‘Right foot, left foot. Keep going.’”

De Pradines and Dewey, who’s from upstate New York, competed final yr and earned fifth place, a gratifying spot for first-time contestants.

“It was grueling,” he stated. “But we positively ended up within the extra aggressive finish of the individuals. To go up in opposition to those who function at that degree, that’s what I’m all about.”

Besides taking dwelling a trophy and the most effective Army sapper title, winners additionally get bragging rights, stated De Pradines, who’s stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas.

The 27-year-old sergeant stated the competitors matches his character. His commanding officer challenged him to qualify.

“I’ve all the time performed sports activities and was all the time bodily energetic,” he stated. “My sergeant main stated, ‘Hey, do you wish to go do that competitors?’ He knew the sort of particular person I’m and that I’m a reasonably hungry man.”

De Pradines joined the Army a few years after graduating from James W. Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax and chosen a job within the Army that “wouldn’t land him behind a desk,” he stated.

Since then, he’s graduated from the Army’s Sapper Leadership Course, a 28-day management program that enables graduates to put on a sapper’s badge on their uniforms.

The Army solely permits 4 elite service badges to be worn on troopers’ uniforms. The sapper tab is one in all them, stated Lt. Col. Jefferson Grimes, a 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley public affairs officer.

De Pradines stated he’s grateful for household and mates in Falls Church and his spouse, Lianet Ricardo, who will cheer him on throughout the competitors.

“I’m not right here as a result of I’m like Superman or one thing like that. It’s taken a whole lot of exhausting work,” he stated. “I would like them to be pleased with me.”

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