Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be narcissistic with this, I have been asked a few times to put some personal information on the site. So here is my BIo.
Name: Ernest B. Engman
Trail Name: SGT Rock
Date of Birth: March 10, 1967
Height: 68", Weight: 155 pounds.
Place of Birth: Decatur, Alabama.
Places hiked: Appalachian Trail - sections in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Bankhead Forest, Alabama. Sipsey Forest, Alabama. Pinhoti Trail, Alabama. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. Desert of New Mexico and Texas north of El Paso. Kistatchie National Forest, Louisiana. Slick Rock/Joyce Kilmer Forest, North Carolina. Cradle of forestry in America, North Carolina. Standing Indian Trails, North Carolina. Many more.
I started day hiking with my parents and grandparents at a very young age. My first overnight hiking trip I remember was around the Standing Indian loop including the AT with my Grandfather, aunts, and brother. Those days we used external frame packs without hip belts, wore blue jeans, cotton long underwear etc. It was tough but fun.
Growing up, we hiked in the Sipsey Forest, the Bankhead Forest, in the backwoods around our home in Alabaster, AL, and Decatur, AL.
I continued to hike trails and off trails as I grew up. One of the best off trail hikes I remember was in North Carolina during High School. We would go to Canada, North Carolina for family reunions, a little place with dirt roads, not everyone had power, very primitive but nice. Anyway, you could see a rock bald on the mountain, and we decided to hike up to it. It was a full day round trip, but the view was wonderful.
For my summer after graduating from high school, before I went in the Army, my aunt and uncle took me on a five day hike of the Joyce Kilmer/Slick Rock area. I loved that hike, and still remember it fondly. It was one of the best gifts I got that year.
Anyway, I went into the Army in August of 1985. I went to Fort Knox, KY - B-5C-1. I was trained as a 19D Cavalry Scout and was then assigned to Kirchgoens, Germany in December 1985. My unit was HHC 2-36 Infantry Battalion, 1st Brigade, 3rd Armored Division. I was a M113A2 Driver for the Scout Platoon Leader. I got to do a lot of walking in the forests of Germany, but no real hiking.
In December 1987 I was re-assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, TX. I worked on brigade staff, and it was there I married my wife and gained a daughter. I later moved to HHC 3-32 Armor Battalion and served as a Bradley Gunner, then a HMMWV commander when my unit changed to a light scout platoon. It was here that my first son was born.
In June 1990 I was re-assigned to the Army Recruiting Command, and went to the Milwaukee Recruiting Command in August 1990 after graduating the recruiter course. I was assigned to the Beaver Dam Recruiting Station. I really sucked as a recruiter. In 1992 I was re-assigned because of a reduction in the recruiting force.
In June 1992 I went to El Paso, TX and was assigned to K Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. I was a Bradley gunner, then a Bradley commander while in the Cavalry. I went to Kuwait with them in 1993 as a part of Operation Intrinsic Action. In December 1994 I was accepted as an instructor at the Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC). I taught this course from December 1994 to June 1996. I started to get back into backpacking in hiking after a break of a few years. Hiking in the desert, perfecting my navigation skills, and taking the family out.
In June 1996 I went to Fort Knox, KY. I served the first year as a Basic Non Commissioned Officer's Course (BNCOC) instructor. At the end of the first year I volunteered to become a Senior Instructor at the Fort Knox PLDC. I worked as a Senior Instructor for about 1 year. While I was there, I re-designed the Land Navigation course for the school - I learned a lot about land navigation and orienteering from that. I was then asked to be the Academy Chief Instructor, but I only did that for a couple of months, because I was asked to go back to serve as the temporary Division Chief of PLDC (the First Sergeant). Temporary turned into a year. A year later I went back to being a senior while I helped break in my replacement PLDC Division Chief. During this period, I also designed and built a new land navigation course for the Academy. During this time, we had our 2nd son - that was a surprise.
While at Fort Knox, the hiking bug really got back into me in a big way. I made a few section hikes on the Appalachian Trail, hiked sections of Mammoth Cave, Otter Creek, Fort Duffield, Bridges to the Past, and others. At this point I started thinking about going light. Too many years of Army Patrolling and carrying tons of stuff that was heavy, and having back-up for everything had warped my thinking. I actually did a 3 day hike on the AT with a backpack that weighed about 65-70 pounds! By the time I left, I had my weekend pack weight down to about 45 pounds. It was while doing my second section hike of 1997 that I started contemplating a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
I spent my leave in between Fort Knox and Fort Polk hiking the 105 mile Pinhoti trail in Alabama. February of 2000 had snow and ice, a perfect test for hiking the AT in early spring. I started my 10 day hike with 65 pounds counting food and water. I hiked the entire trail in 9 days without stopping for re-supply. I learned a bit about what I did and didn't need, and have started introducing this into my gear.
After Fort Knox, I finally got my chance to be a Platoon Sergeant of a Scout Platoon. I also was finally stationed in the unit I Regimentally affiliated with - the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment (2d Dragoons), the oldest continuous active Regiment in the US Army. I took over THE BEST platoon in the Regiment - 4th Platoon, Iron Troop, 3d Squadron. I had some of the best NCOs and soldiers I've ever worked with in the Army. I was also very lucky to have two great lieutenants as Platoon leaders. While assigned to 4th Platoon I did numerous gunneries, field training exercises, JRTC OPFOR support missions, and one NTC rotation.
Now I'm the First Sergeant of Ghost Troop 2d Squadron, 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment. I couldn't ask for a better Troop, a better Troop Commander, or a better group of soldiers.
During this time I found ways to always take new stoves, hammocks, cooking gear, sleeping gear, etc. to the field and test it. I hiked any trail I could find in Louisiana (very few in the State), and did my longest Appalachian Trail section hike of 150 miles.
I have been trimming down weight, getting equipment perfected, and applying lessons learned in the last 4 years of experimenting. I don't plan on getting my FSO (From Skin Out) weight below a 33.75 pound starting three season weight. This is 1/4 my lean body weight, and should be fine. I don't consider myself an ultra lighter. Pack weight isn't something I obsess over. I just want to get my pack weight down. The more I carry, the more I enjoy camping; the less I carry, the more I enjoy hiking.
Why SGT Rock?
Occasionally I get asked about my trail name.
Well, trail names can come from a variety of sources. Sometimes trail names are a name people pick like "Stryder" when they are in a Tolkien like mood, or "Soaring Eagle" when they want to express some sort of pseudo native American/Hippy outlook. Others get their name from some part of their past, like a job or place like "Indiana Hiker" or "SAR Boy". And the most common and probably the truest trail name is one you get while on the trail for some reason, like an embarrassing moment in the case of "Hog On Ice" or for some idiosyncrasy like "Bag Lady".
My trail name is sort of a combination of the second and third way. As I started getting back into hiking after a hiatus of a few years, I was a Sergeant in the Army. When asked on the trail once if I had a trail name, I just answered "Sarge" which is slang for Sergeant. SGT is the abbreviation for Sergeant.
On an Appalachian Trail hike, I was crossing a bridge over a creek, and decided to take a picture. I put my camera and extra film on the bridge railing while I took my pack off. While doing so, I knocked my only extra roll of film into the creek. It was in the plastic jar, so it started flowing downstream rather quickly. I put my camera down and ran to the end of the bridge and over to some rocks jutting into the creek because I wanted to keep my boots dry as well as save my film. Well I slipped, landed on a rock in the water, got soaking wet, never got my film, and got some good bruises and cuts from the rocks. At that point I felt like a rock (stupid) and had been beaten up by some rocks. I got the name SGT Rock, like the old comic book character. Since then it has stuck. And the film is probably in the Atlantic or some other ocean somewhere. I think I saw it on the beach in that Tom Hank's movie.
It can mean dumb as a rock, hard as a rock, slept like a rock, can't smoke a rock, etc. A pretty good trail name with lots of implications.