A 25-year-old Pocatello man who’s in the local Idaho National Guard recently beat the odds by graduating from the Sapper Leader Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Pfc. Mitchel Haber, who recently joined the local Guard unit, said the Sapper training was extremely challenging, but it was overall an awesome experience.
Sappers, also known as combat engineers, are soldiers with a wide range of knowledge about explosives, bridge building, fortifications, preparing field defenses, clearing minefields and other skills.
They can also end up coming under fire while they’re performing their duties.
“As combat engineers, your job is kind of to make the battlefield favorable for the infantry to come in,” said Haber who finished basic training on March 5 and reported to Sapper training on March 11. “So we would go in first and you will try to make the whole playing field to our advantage and the enemy’s disadvantage.”
That can even mean knowing how to essentially make demolitions from supplies that might be lying around on the battlefield.
And Haber says the schooling part of the program was interesting. He likens it to a shotgun blast of information during 12 or more hours in the classroom after having been up late the night before.
“You just pay attention and try to take notes,” he said.
Local Guard Master Sgt. Chad Waters says Haber’s performance and accomplishments at the Sapper school are among the most impressive things he’s heard of in his 24 years in the military.
“He made the commandant’s list, which they only give to the top couple of folks that go through that course,” Waters said.
And he said he’s been around and seen a lot of military accomplishments.
“This is as impressive as any I’ve seen before,” Waters said.
At least as far as a new soldier coming into the National Guard and going to basic training and advanced individual training and then straight off to Sapper school, Waters said.
“That’s a huge accomplishment and one that we just don’t see very often,” Waters said.
He said Haber is a local resident who is making good and doing great things for the Guard and for his community.
“And we all look forward to seeing him continue to do phenomenal things down the road,” Waters said.
Haber, for his part, says he may eventually seek to become an officer in the military.
“The Idaho National Guard is a really good place to get good footing in your life and it gives you a lot of benefits and leverage that’s going to help make you successful,” Haber said. “I would recommend it to anyone.”
It even provides funds to help those in the National Guard be able to attend college.
Waters says the Guard welcomes the kind of drive that Haber exhibits.
“We want to push everybody to the highest degrees of success that they can achieve,” Waters said. “I can’t make anybody do anything, but he’s got that drive and ability in him to do that.”
Waters says it’s their job to pave the way and then get out of the way and let Haber go on to the best thing that he can achieve in the Guard.
“And if that’s getting to be an officer he’s kind of written his own check to be successful as long as he wants to be successful in the National Guard,” Waters said.
He says everyone looks forward to seeing Haber continue on and do phenomenal things down the road for his job, for the team and for the state and the National Guard, Waters said.
Haber for his part said he looks forward to following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a special forces swimmer for the Offices of Strategic Services in the Navy during World War II.
“I’ve been fascinated with that history since I was in high school,” Haber said. “I know I want to join an elite team and be a part of something that’s a little bit bigger than myself, like my grandfather.”