Corps of Engineers
The Engineer mission is to execute mobility, survivability, sustainment engineering and topographic battlefield functions in support of the combined arms team. On order, fight as infantry.
Continental Congress authority for a "Chief Engineer for the Army" dates from June 16, 1775. A corps of Engineers for the United States was authorized by the Congress on March 11, 1779. The Corps of Engineers as it is known today came into being on March 16, 1802, when the President was authorized to "organize and establish a Corps of Engineers ... that the said Corps ... shall be stationed at West Point in the State of New York and shall constitute a Military Academy." A Corps of Topographical Engineers, authorized on July 4, 1838, was merged with the Corps of Engineers on March 1963.
The Corps of Engineers' oldest and most time honored insignia is the Essayons Button. Designed by Colonel Jonathan Williams, a former Chief of Engineers and the first Superintendent of USMA, the button has not changed in basic design since its first definitely known use during the War of 1812. It is still the required button for the uniform worn by Army Engineers. The button is officially described as: An eagle holding in his beak a scroll with the word, "Essayons," a bastion with embrasures in the distance, surrounded by water, and rising sun; the figures to be of dead gold upon a bright field. In 1902, when the Army adopted "regulation" buttons, the Corps of Engineers retained its own distinctive Essayons Button in recognition of the distinguished traditions which it symbolized.
A new Sapper tab for combat engineers is authorized for wear by qualified Soldiers on their left shoulder. Until mid-2004, only the Special Forces tab and the Ranger tab were authorized for wear above the unit patch on the left shoulder. Since 1971, the Army has had the "No Proliferation of Badges" policy. Only three shoulder tabs have been approved for wear on the Army uniform - the Special Forces Tab, the parachute Riggers Tab, and now the engineer's Sapper Tab.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker approved the Sapper tab 28 June 2004 for award and wear by engineer Soldiers who complete the Sapper Leader Course. The course is part of the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. This award is retroactive back to the graduates of the first SLC on June 14, 1985. The tab is worn below the Special Forces or Ranger tab, if a Soldier has either of those. The Sapper Leader Course is a fast-paced 28-day course designed to train joint-service leaders in small unit tactics, leadership skills, and warfighter tactics required to perform as part of a combined arms team in a contemporary operating environment. The SLC is open to enlisted Soldiers in the grades of specialist (promotable) and above, and engineer officers captain and below.
The Sapper tab may be revoked by the Commandant, U.S. Army Engineer School or the CG, U.S. Army Human Resources Command based on the recommendation of the field commander (Colonel or above), of the individual in question, if (in the opinion of that commander) the individual has exhibited a pattern of behavior, lack of proficiency, or duty performance that is inconsistent with expectations of the Army. That is, award of the Sapper tab may be revoked for any of the following conditions: (1) Dismissal, dishonorable discharge, or conviction by courts-martial for desertion in time of war. (2) Failure to maintain prescribed standards of personal fitness and readiness to accomplish missions commensurate with position and rank. (3) Upon relief or release for cause.
The term Sapper can be traced back as far as 1501 to the siege of Rouen during the French Wars. Sappers, throughout time, have proven their abilities to build and repair fortifications, execute field works, and reform the countryside with demolitions and heavy equipment to weaken the enemy and lead the infantry to victory on the battlefield.
In the eighteenth century, French army, engineer officers did not normally command troop units. French engineer Captain Philippe Maigret complained about this as early as 1725, arguing that "engineers are the natural officers of workmen." He concluded that Sappers and Miners ought to be placed under engineer command in peacetime to develop the skills that they would need to employ during a siege. Maigret's arguments did not prevail in the eighteenth century French Army, but many French engineer officers such as Louis Duportail accepted them.
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress named Duportail as Commandant of the Continental Army Corps of Engineers. Drawing on his French experiences, Duportail proposed to Congress the creation of three companies of Sappers and Miners to provide experience in military engineering to American soldiers and officers. On May 27, 1778, Congress authorized the three companies to receive instruction in erecting field works-the first step toward technical education-and direct fatigue parties; repair damaged works and erect new ones. Recruitment continued for more than two years with the activation of the companies on August 2, 1780. Meanwhile, on March 11, 1779, Congress passed a resolution that formed the engineers of the Continental Army into the Corps of Engineers.
The Corps of Engineers and its companies of Sappers and Miners enjoyed their finest hour in October of 1781 at Yorktown where General Washington conducted a siege in the classical manner of Sebastien de Vauban, the great French master of siegecraft. Thirteen engineer officers of the combined French American Armies performed crucial reconnaissance and with the fifty men of the Sappers and Miners, planned and constructed field works. In addition, the Sappers and Miners assembled fortification materials, erected gun platforms, transported cannons and ammunition, and cleared the way for the decisive infantry assault on Redoubt 10. After the battle, General Washington cited Duportail, the first Chief of Engineers, for conduct, which afforded "brilliant proofs of his military genius, " and set the seal of his reputation.
Many types of organizations have been developed to perform the various engineer missions in a theater of operations. Engineer units range in size from small specialized teams consisting of only two individuals to large commands. Their missions include combat, combat support, combat service support, and support of civil-military operations. The basic philosophy of organization in a theater of operations is to tailor engineer units to the needs of the supported command. The wide variety of engineer organizations provides that flexible capability. The basic TOE unit of the engineer system is the battalion. Although engineer battalions normally have a fixed organization, they may also be tailored for specific requirements. Battalions are employed when it is desirable to assign a unit with the complete control of a task or an area.
Combat Engineer Battalion (Divisional) -- The U.S. Army has five types of divisions: light infantry, airborne, air assault, mechanized, and armored. Under provisions of the Engineer Restructure Initiative (ERI), each "heavy" (mech infantry or armor) division has an Engineer Brigade with three organic divisional engineer battalions organized and equipped to provide combat engineer support. These battalions will support the ground maneuver brigades of armor and / or mechanized infantry and consist of four engineer companies. The other divisions (ABN, AASLT, and Light) will have only one organic engineer battalion composed of four or five engineer companies. Regardless of structure, all of these battalions perform the primary combat engineer (Sapper) missions in the division's area of operations and forward.
Combat Engineer Battalion (Corps) -- Corps combat engineer battalions are normally assigned to a corps' engineer brigade (for example, the V Corps in Europe contains the 130th Engineer Brigade consisting of three engineer battalions and a number of separate companies, while the 20th Engineer Brigade (ABN) at Fort Bragg supports the 18th Airborne Corps). Somewhat larger than the divisional engineer battalions, the corps combat engineer battalions provide combat and sustainment engineering (i.e., construction) support in the corps and division sectors. They may reinforce divisional engineer battalions with Sapper support and/or execute infantry combat missions when required. They also deploy as stand-alone units to conduct construction missions all over the world.
Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) -- The combat heavy engineer battalion is normally assigned to an engineer brigade within a corps or theater army. The combat heavy engineer battalion has equipment and personnel skilled in construction (vertical & horizontal) and earthmoving. The battalion primarily works in rear areas on sustainment engineering tasks. However, its earthmoving capabilities may be effectively used to provide combat support in forward areas when not under direct fire (i.e. tank ditches, etc.). Moreover, combat heavy battalions (among the most deployed units in the Army) also engage in disaster relief, as well as humanitarian assistance operations worldwide. Missions include the construction of roads, bridges, airfields, basecamps, schools, and other structures and utilities for the Army, Air Force, and other nations.
Engineer Topographic Battalion -- Engineer topographic battalions are assigned to the senior engineer headquarters of a theater army. These units provide topographic engineer and terrain analysis support to all units. Topographic engineers work with some of the most cutting-edge technology owned by the Army. Topogs are among the most intelligent, highly trained, and specialized soldiers in the world. Topo battalions do not have the capability to accomplish infantry combat missions.
Separate Engineer Companies -- Separate engineer companies and detachments in the force structure are designed to provide additional specialized support in areas such as bridging (both fixed and floating), rafting, electric power generation, underwater salvage and demolition, port construction, engineer equipment support, well drilling, fire fighting, pipeline construction, and specialized mapping and terrain analysis.
The Corps of Engineers was born in June 1775 when General George Washington appointed Colonel Richard Gridley as Chief Engineer of the Continental Army. Engineer soldiers, then called Sappers and Miners, played a significant role in the Revolutionary War. Most notably, Sappers were key in preparing the defense around strategic points such as Bunker Hill and in leading assaults through fortified enemy positions such as Redoubt #10 at Yorktown.
The dependence on foreign trained military engineers in the Revolution led to the formal establishment of the Corps of Engineers and a Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1802. The Corps was responsible for running the United States Military Academy from its birth to the end of the Civil War. The Academy produced officers who were capable of applying their knowledge to military engineering as well as much needed nation building for the ever expanding United States.
With the enactment of the first River and Harbor Act in 1824, the Corps became the Federal Agency responsible for navigation and flood control on the nation's rivers. Participation by Army Engineers in mapping the west (Lewis and Clark were Army Engineers) and in developing rail and water transportation systems provided the infrastructure that allowed the country to grow from a weak agricultural society to the strongest industrial nation on earth. Engineers provided the expertise that enabled U.S. forces to be victorious in the Mexican War (Scott's Opinion). Military Engineers also ushered in modern warfare during the Civil War through such innovations as land mines, trench fortifications and the use of balloons for observation and mapping.
When the nation needed leaders to tackle hard problems, it invariably turned to Engineer officers. Colonel George Goethals directed construction of the Panama Canal in the early 1900's and Brigadier General Leslie Groves supervised the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.
In World War I, Army Engineers were the first U.S. soldiers sent to Europe. The 11th Engineer Regiment suffered the first U.S. casualties of the war while working to clear a passage through no-man's land in France.
General Douglas MacArthur described World War II as an Engineer's War, with more engineers in the Pacific Theater than infantrymen. Engineers were first on the beach at Normandy to clear obstacles; captured the bridge at Remagen; built the 1,500 mile ALCAN highway through frozen tundra in Alaska; constructed the Ledo road through 438 miles of jungle to link Burma and India; erected camps and cantonments for 5.3 million troops, factories to produce ammunition and tanks, a huge network of ports, bomber bases, hospitals with 1/2 million beds, and even the Pentagon to consolidate the War Department's command and control of our armed forces.
The contributions of Army Engineers were no less important in Korea and Vietnam. In Korea, Engineer soldiers frequently found themselves trapped behind enemy lines and fighting as infantry. In Vietnam, Engineer soldiers rappelled into enemy controlled jungle areas to blast landing zones for infantry assaults.
In its peacetime role as Federal Engineer, the Corps continued to build for America's tomorrow. In the 1950's, it was instrumental the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the design and construction of ICBM launching sites, flood control dams and levies on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. During the 1960's, the Corps helped build the Manned Space Center in Houston and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In the 1970's the Corps took on additional missions to develop hydroelectric power and new methods of flood control on the nation's rivers. Throughout the 1980's and 90's, the Corps managed construction of an entire military infrastructure for the Saudi Arabian government, built airbases in Israel and Egypt, constructed the Space Shuttle complex at Edwards Air Force Base, California, managed disaster relief efforts throughout the nation, and was the nation's agent for the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund clean-up.