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NEWS | June 23, 2022

Army Guardsman Youngest Ever to Achieve Sapper Distinction

By Edwin Wriston, West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia National Guard Pfc. William Farkas, 17, attached to the 119th Engineer Company, 1092nd Engineer Battalion, is the youngest to ever receive the distinguished sapper tab after graduating with honors from the U.S. Army’s Sapper Leader Course.

A sapper, also called a pioneer or combat engineer, performs military engineering duties as a combatant or Soldier. These can include breaching fortifications, demolitions, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, preparing field defenses and repairing and building roads and airfields. A sapper facilitates and supports movement, defense and survival of allied forces and impedes those of enemies.

The demanding 28-day leadership development course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, reinforces critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army. It builds esprit de corps by training Soldiers in troop-leading procedures, conventional and expedient demolitions and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense field training exercise that reinforces battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned.

At 17, Farkas is the youngest ever to receive the sapper title and tab.

“Private 1st Class Farkas earning the sapper tab at such a young age is a tremendous achievement,” said Lt. Col. David Watson, commanding officer of the West Virginia Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, and a sapper himself. “The sapper motto is, ‘Sappers Clear the Way!! Sappers in the Breach!!’ His physical fitness, capacity to foster teamwork and mental aptitude for quick thinking have been tested and proven to be of high merit. His personal fortitude undoubtedly carried him through the demanding course.”

Farkas joined the West Virginia Army National Guard after graduation as valedictorian of class 1-2021 of the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy - South. He also won the Robert C. Byrd Distinguished Cadet Award and Adjutant General’s Award for Academic Excellence.

Farkas attended U.S. Army Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, followed by Combat Engineer One Station Unit Training. He then applied for and was selected to attend the Sapper Leaders Course, making the Commandant’s List of graduates.

“Pfc. Farkas continues to distinguish himself amongst his peers as a driven and dedicated young man,” said Maj. Gen. William Crane, adjutant general. “His exemplary performance at such a young age is a testament to devotion as well as both Army and West Virginia values. He continues to lay the foundation for a successful career in our Armed Forces. Our entire One Guard family could not be prouder, and we look forward to his future successes!”

“It was a gift from God to have the opportunity to attend Sapper School,” said Farkas. “I couldn’t pass it up despite my age and rank, and from a fear of failure because of those disadvantages. It took a lot of buckling down and hard work, which paid off well in the end. Becoming a Sapper Leader was worth every bead of sweat!”

Farkas’s time as an enlisted member of the Guard will be short, however, as he has accepted an appointment to the U.S. Army’s Military Service Academy, West Point, as a part of the Class of 2026.

“At West Point, I plan to use my experience and the skills I was taught to more effectively assist and lead my fellow cadets,” he said. “Above all the values I learned from the Sapper Leaders Course, it is the value of successful teamwork that I found to be most important.”

Farkas will report to West Point later this month to begin his next step in a promising military career.