Capt Daniel Reynolds Space Force first Sapper

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U.S. Space Force Captain Daniel Reynolds recently became the first Guardian to graduate from the U.S. Army’s Sapper Leader Course. This demanding 28-day leadership development program is designed to create elite combat engineers across the joint force in all aspects of mobility, counter mobility, and survivability.


“Space is a warfighting domain, and Guardians are the leading edge of national defense across an increasingly complex front,” said Capt. Reynolds, an aerospace engineer and test director attached to Space Training and Readiness Command’s Delta 12. “To succeed, we have to be adaptive, enduring, and lethal. These are the fundamentals that the Sapper Leader Course emphasizes, and the skills that Guardians, as warfighters, bring to the joint fight every day.”


Capt. Reynolds’ day-to-day job is focused on one of the final phases of the military acquisitions process: operational test. As a member of the 4th Test and Evaluation Squadron, he works daily to validate whether or not a system is fulfilling the needs of the warfighter, the ultimate end-user of space systems. This requires extensive collaboration and testing within the joint force to not only validate that a system performs as designed, but that it is implementable by the warfighter and that it fills the intended capability gap.


“One of the worst things that we can do as a service is to exclude the warfighter from the engineering process,” Capt. Reynolds said. “As we move forward, it is imperative that the space test community understands their needs, wants, and concerns; their frame of reference is of the utmost importance in fielding increasingly advanced space systems. Elite warfighter training programs like the Sapper Leader Course give us the opportunity to experience but a fraction of what these men and women go through on a daily basis; seeing things through their lens is crucial to the work that we do.”


The 28-day leadership course kicks off with the General Subjects phase. Over the first 14 days, Sapper candidates are continuously evaluated on engagement area development: shaping the battlefield to dominate the enemy. This includes extensive training in managing combat operations across the skies, forests, and mountains of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Field exercises incorporate demolitions, urban breaching, and reconnaissance operations to best enable a maneuver task force’s success. 


The final two weeks comprise the course’s Patrolling phase. Sapper candidates complete an intense field training exercise that reinforces the use of combat engineering techniques taught in the General Subjects phase, with the added pressure of leadership in a combat environment. Underlying each combat operation is the ability of each Sapper candidate to lead their peers in solving any problem that is thrown at them, regardless of available assets. 


The Sapper Leader Course is one of the premiere leadership schools in the U.S. military. Every day, students are pushed to exhaustion in a training program that limits food, sleep, access to information, and any sort of comfort. Capt. Reynolds’ class was commonly referred to as “Snowmaggedon 2022” by the course cadre for the record high snowfall and record freezing temperatures.


“This course teaches leadership in an environment unlike any other,” Capt. Reynolds said. “You learn a lot about yourself as a leader and as a human being when you’re pushed beyond what you thought were your physical and mental abilities. That’s why courses like this are imperative to military leaders.”


At the end of this grueling field training exercise, only 25 of the original 64 candidates remained, having forever earned the right to bear the Sapper tab. “Our greatest assets to the fight aren’t our space systems, they’re our Guardians,” Capt. Reynolds said. “This fundamental truth is what the Sapper Leader Course expertly teaches; getting Guardians to train at this course is instrumental to maintaining the most elite space warfighting force in the world.”


Capt. Reynolds’ new focus is to communicate the immense importance that the Sapper Leader Course has in training our nation’s newest military service. “The Sapper ethos is intertwined with the Guardian Ideal. Guardians succeed despite stressful circumstances,” he said. “We ensure the survivability of our space systems, become more lethal on an hourly basis, and are constantly shaping the battlefield in our favor. Guardians are our nation’s vanguards in the defense of the global space domain.”