Combat engineers are very yin and yang, always building this then destroying that, responsible for creating building bases, bridges and roads and destroying enemy land mines, barricades and fortifications. Sappers, as they're often called, are basically construction workers with guns, ready to pick up a shovel or a rifle at any moment.

U.S. Army combat engineers have played a pivotal role in every war of the last century, and that role that has changed drastically with each new conflict. During the Korean War, sappers they were instrumental in slowing down the North Korean advance in the early days of the war by destroying bridges. The "tunnel rats" of Vietnam were tasked with clearing the infamously complex tunnel systems that the enemy used for transporting troops and equipment, facing hand grenades, traps and the constant threat of a cave-in.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combat engineers took on a new role: helping rebuild the infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, and filling the gaps of the understaffed EOD teams. Engineers are often given the role of route clearance, which is critically important given the enemy's fondness for land mines and IEDs.

Watch the video above to learn about the unique role combat engineers have played throughout every major war — and find out exactly where the term 'sapper' comes from in the first place.


(U.S. Army/Pixar)

Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians may be overworked and understaffed, but at least they're getting a brand new robot best friend to help them avoid accidental detonation.

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The Navy is looking into the possibility of sending explosive ordnance disposal units on shorter and possibly more frequent deployments, service officials said on Wednesday.

Right now, EOD techs train for 18 months and deploy for another six months as part of their optimized fleet response plan, but the Navy is conducting a review of that training and deployment cycle, Navy officials told reporters.

A Navy analysis is looking at whether EOD techs should spend a total of 32 or 36 months training and deployed per cycle, said Capt. Oscar Rojas, who leads Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1 in San Diego.

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Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Marine Corps may one day launch crawling unmanned robots from ships to clear paths through deadly minefields for approaching assault troops to come ashore.

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Explosive ordnance disposal units across the Army are struggling to train for combat operations amid both a personnel shortfall and a surge of domestic protection missions, a dangerous combination some EOD techs say has compromised their overall readiness and left their comrades burned out.

"We are burned out and it makes people not want to stay," said an active-duty senior enlisted Army EOD tech who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It makes us want to find other career options."

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Members of the 6th Civil Engineer Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and other local and state authorities, oversee a controlled detonation at the Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla., Sept. 9, 2019. The ATF seized more than 7,000 pounds of explosives from a prior convicted felon in the largest explosives seizure in Florida history (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Caleb Nunez)

Authorities safely destroyed thousands of pounds of explosives last month that were seized from a Sarasota, Floridaman.

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