NEWS | June 15, 2022

W.Va. Guardsman becomes youngest ever to achieve SAPPER distinction

By Edwin L. Wriston

Private 1st Class William Farkas, 17, attached to the 119th Engineer Company, 1092nd Engineer Battalion, with the West Virginia National Guard, has become the youngest ever recipient of the distinguished SAPPER tab after graduating with honors from the U.S. Army’s Sapper Leader Course.

A sapper, also called pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties, such as breaching fortifications, demolitions, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, preparing field defenses, and road and airfield construction and repair. A sapper's duties facilitate and support movement, defense, and survival of allied forces and impede those of enemies.

The course, hosted at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, is a demanding 28-day leadership development course for combat engineers that reinforces critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army. The course is also designed to build esprit de corps by training Soldiers in troop leading procedures, demolitions (conventional and expedient), and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense field training exercise that reinforces the use of the battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned throughout the course.

At 17, Farkas is the youngest ever recipient of 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 “Jake” Watson, commanding officer of the West Virginia Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, and 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.”

Originally from Tunnelton, West Virginia, Farkas joined the West Virginia National Guard after graduation as valedictorian of class 1-2021 of the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy - South, located in Montgomery, West Virginia. During the graduation ceremony, he was also recognized as the winner of the Robert C. Byrd Distinguished Cadet Award and Adjutant General's Award for Academic Excellence.

After graduating from MCA-S, Farkas joined the West Virginia Army National Guard, attending U.S. Army Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, followed by Combat Engineer One Station Unit Training (OSUT). He then applied for and was selected to attend the Sapper Leaders Course. Farkas continued his exemplary academic performance established at the MCA-S by making the Commandants List of graduates at the course.

“PFC Farkas continues to distinguish himself amongst his peers as a driven and dedicated young man,” stated Maj. Gen. William “Bill” 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 stated. “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.