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Engineer Moment In History – March 2013

The Army Corp Engineers & West Point Connection
Provided by the U.S. Army Engineer School Historian’s Office                                                                                                     

Hudson River Valley West Point, NY

United States Military Academy West Point. West Point History. 28 February 2013.

During the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington and other officers recognized the need for well-trained Soldiers. On 9 June 1778 the Corps of Engineers moved to West Point, and the Chief of Engineers Louis Duportail was tasked in training its Sappers and Miners while being designated as the School of Engineering; although by the end of the war and the Army’s reduction the school closed. However in 1794 with the establishment of the Regiments of Artillerists and Engineers, the school was reopened and was constituted as a School of Application. In 1798 the school continued to train until the facilities were destroyed by fire. By 1801 the recently elected President Thomas Jefferson and Congress realized that they needed a permanent program and facility to educate Army Engineers. They also did not want the U.S. Army to be dependent on French and foreign born Engineer officers. Consequently, on 16 March 1802, Congress authorized the creation of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and constituted as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. As the nation’s first Engineering School, the Military Academy continued to maintain its status in the Corp of Engineers until 1866. During that time, the Academy remained the nation’s foremost engineering school until other collegiate institutions begin to emerge such as Rensselaer School in 1825, University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1825 and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1861. Throughout the early nineteenth century, some of the most distinguished Army Generals have graced the halls of West Point and received commissions as Engineer officers, including Robert E. Lee, George Meade, Joseph Johnston, Gouverneur Warren, Joseph Totten, and Alexander Humphries.

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The Washington Monument dedicated on 21 February 1885

The Washington Monument dedicated on 21 February 1885
From the U.S. Army Engineer School Historian’s Office

Thomas Lincoln Casey.  Source: the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid in 1848, construction progressed sporadically for the next thirty years because of inadequate funding, poor management, and the American Civil War. Only one third of the monument was finished in 1876 when, during the nation’s centennial celebration in 1876, Congress appropriated $200,000 to complete the project. This task fell to Major Thomas Lincoln Casey of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Before adding to its height, Casey checked the plumb of the structure and discovered it was not vertical because the original builders had placed the footings on clay instead of stone. Fixing this error required undermining 75 percent of the monument and taking its foundation down to bedrock. After nearly a decade of work, the Washington Monument’s dedication finally occurred on 21 February 1885, and the 555-foot tall obelisk opened to the pubic three years thereafter. Thomas Lincoln Casey went on to become a Photograph c. 1860. Source: general and the Chief of Engineers from 1888 to 1895.  In addition to the Washington Monument, the Corps of Engineers supervised construction of several other prominent buildings in the nation’s capital, including the Library on Congress and the Lincoln Memorial. 



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U.S. Army Engineer School Commandant’s Reading List

Engineer School CrestOver the summer, I decided to update the existing Engineer History Reading List to broaden its coverage.  Regimental CSM Terrence Murphy, Regimental CWO Scott Owens, and the USAES Command Historian all provided valuable input on what books would be best to develop our Engineer Soldiers and dedicated Civilians, across our Regiment, Field Army, and Corps of Engineers agency together.

 The resulting “Engineer Commandant’s Reading List” augments and does not supplant or duplicate the “Army Chief of Staff’s Reading List” to guide the self-development of Engineer Soldiers and Civilians.  It is my expectation that every unit, directorate, center, district, and division in the Engineer Regiment and USACE embark on a reading program using the books in these two reading lists.  Among the possible means of executing such reading programs are individual studies, group discussions, thematic analyses, or published book reviews. The USAES Command Historian will gladly assist leaders in developing a reading program that best supports their organization.

 In closing, I hope every member of the Army Engineer Profession – Soldier and Civilian – will find reading these books to be as beneficial as I have throughout my career.  Life-long learning is a major goal of today’s Army.  Learning through other’s experience is a very efficient way to achieve wisdom far beyond our experience levels.  It is a truism that “…if you want a new idea, start by reading an old book….”  A directed reading and writing program in our units and sections will help us develop our critical thinking and increase our base of knowledge by learning through others’ experiences. The “Engineer Commandant’s Reading List” can be found at the following publically accessible link:


Brigadier General, USA
94th Commandant U.S. Army Engineer School and Regiment

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Army Career Tracker Website Opens to Branch 12 (Engineer)

Army Career TrackerOn 23 January 2012, the Army Career Tracker website will officially open to all Engineer Officers.  Officers can log into for a “one-stop-shop” of Engineer-related news/information and career planning resources.

The Army Career Tracker (ACT) program, first unveiled to the enlisted force last summer, will provide officers with a personalized look at their training, education, and assignment history side by side with what their branch recommends as important.  Officers can then use this information to develop their personalized career plan.  ACT will offer leaders, raters, and mentors new ways of communicating with their Soldiers and monitoring their careers.  When an officer logs on, he/she will select their rater and any number of mentors of their choosing.  Then raters and other mentors will be able to view an officer’s education, training, and assignment history, as well as their future desires, during mentoring and counseling sessions.  ACT is designed to be accessed with a soldier’s Army Knowledge Online credentials and to seamlessly draw information from eight channels that support personnel, training and military/civilian education programs.

On the “Career Resources” tab, ACT will default to the Engineer Branch’s homepage where relevant and useful news and information will be posted.  On the “Officer” Tab, one will be able to review one’s past assignments, training, and self-development activities alongside what the Engineer Regiment recommends for that officer at his/her current and next higher pay grade.  The recommendations follow from chapter 14 of DA PAM 600-3, Commissioned Officer Professional Development and Career Management.  A useful feature of the website is printable Career Maps.  Most entries are hyperlinked to additional information to help officers make better informed decisions.  All engineer officers are encouraged to explore this new website and provide feedback to Engineer Personnel Development Office,


Changes Coming to the Engineer Officer Career Field

Gold Engineer CastleRecently, HQDA G1 approved an initiative by the U.S. Army Engineer School and Regimental HQs to merge the three current engineer officer areas of concentration (AOCs) into one (12A Engineer, General) and the creation of eight Skill Identifiers:

S4-Sapper Leader
W1-Facilities Planner
W2-Geospatial Engineer Officer
W3-Professional Engineer
W4-Degreed Engineer
W5-Project Management Professional
W6-Project Engineer
W7-Environmental Officer

On 25 October 2011, HQDA G1 published ALARACT 391-2011 outlining the way ahead.  All in all, about 30% of the officer positions on our MTOEs/TDAs will be coded with one of the above Skill Identifiers. The creation of these skill identifiers will better enable HRC and the Engineer Regiment to get the right officer with the right credentials to the right assignment. The implementation timeline is shown below:

1 NOV 11: Effective date for establishment of SI S4 (Sapper Leader).
1 APR 13: Effective date for establishment of SIs W1, W2, W3, W4, W5, W6, and W7 (all others).
1 OCT 13: Effective date for the deletion of AOC 12B and 12D.                                              �
NLT 1 OCT 13: Effective date for all TOEs/MTOEs/TDAs to be updated (FY14).

The Engineer Personnel Development Office (EPDO) has put together a paper to better explain the upcoming changes with the Engineer Officer Career Field. Those with AKO accounts can download the document at the following link:

If you have further questions, you may email the EPDO at

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Engineer Commandant Signs New Strategic Officer Accessions Goal

STEMBrigadier General Duke Deluca, the 94th Engineer Regimental Commandant, recently signed a new strategic officer accession goal for the Engineer Regiment.  In an effort to increase technical competencies within the ranks, the new Engineer Regimental goal is to access 70% of the incoming officers who possess degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).  Of this 70%, the Regiment seeks 50% who hold an engineering degree with a preference to ABET-accredited engineering programs. 

Current and past operational deployments (OEF/OIF/OND) have mandated an increasing importance on both stability and civil support operations (Hurricane Katrina Response).  These types of operations place a premium on engineer leaders with the right base of knowledge, skills, and attributes.  Additionally at the captain and major ranks, select engineers are assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) where they oversee civilian and military construction projects.  These positions often require officers with an advanced technical engineering degree and/or a professional engineer license; both of which can only be obtained by individuals that possess an engineering undergraduate degree.  The latest statistics on active duty engineer officers from Human Resources Command show that currently 48.5% of the engineer officer population possesses a STEM degree.

The Engineer Regiment is a technical sub-profession within the overall Profession of Arms.  The Regiment provides critical support to the defense of the Nation at home and abroad, in war and peace.  During this time of protracted conflict, it is imperative that the Engineer Regiment have technically competent engineer leaders and the primary means of achieving this is to access degreed engineers.  Now is the time to shape our officer accessions to ensure the most appropriate educational foundation possible.


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October’s Engineer Moment in History

Provided by the U.S. Army Engineer School Historian

The 6th Engineers destroyed German fortifications like this pillbox (USAES History Office)

The 6th Engineers destroyed German fortifications like this pillbox (USAES History Office)

On 26 September 1918, some 600,000 American Soldiers joined French and British forces in launching the last great offensive of the First World War – the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. The Allies planned to dislodge the Germans from strong positions between the Argonne Forest and the Meuse River in northern France.  The American forces’ initial assault along a twenty mile front bogged down after 1 October in face of stiff German resistance. More than 20,000 Engineers provided mobility to American maneuver forces by crossing rivers, breaching obstacles, and destroying fortifications (see photograph left). Among the American units was the 6th Engineer Regiment, attached to the U.S. 3rd Division. In one notable engagement during the next five weeks of combat, the 6th Engineers fought for control of Clair Chenes Woods on 20 October 1918.  The Engineers attacked the German positions and wrested the wood from the enemy. Then the Germans counterattacked in force against the out-numbered Engineers. Control of the wood changed hands in bitter fighting throughout the day. In addition to the engineering function of survivability, the Soldiers of the 6th Engineers used their skills as riflemen. They secured Clair Chenes Woods by the end of 20 October, and they maintained control for the next five days until relieved.  Several of the 6th Engineers’ Soldiers received Distinguished Service Crosses for showing bravery, resourcefulness, and coolness under enemy machine gun and artillery fire.



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August’s Engineer Moment in History

Map of Battle of Contreras signed by “R.E. Lee.” (National Archives)

Map of Battle of Contreras signed by “R.E. Lee.” (National Archives)

Provided by the USAES Historian
After graduating second in his class at West Point in 1829, Robert E. Lee spent the next twenty-six years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His work as a surveyor helped establish state borders, and he supervised civil works on waterways and in harbors across the United States. Lee excelled in these duties, which also gave him expertise in terrain reconnaissance and topographical analysis. CPT Lee was well placed to become aide to MG Winfield Scott, one of the generals commanding American forces during the Mexican War (1846-1848). Lee personally scouted trails over presumably impassible terrain and allowed Scott’s forces to bypass enemy positions during Scott’s brilliant campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. Lee also displayed courage and skill in several engagements, including the Battle of Contreras on 19-20 August 1847. Some 4,500 American Soldiers attacked 5,000 Mexican Soldiers at the village of Contreras near Mexico City. After skirmishing on the first day, the Americans routed the Mexicans on 20 August, and moved one step closer to victory in the war. CPT Lee was everywhere on that battlefield. He carried orders to American commanders, reconnoitered strong points, and then guided American units to those positions. In his final report on the Battle on Contreras, MG Scott commended Lee “for felicitous execution as for science and daring.” Scott also wrote that Lee was “the very best soldier I ever saw in the field.” Robert E. Lee remained in the Corps of Engineers until 1855, when he was transferred to the Cavalry. He would later command the Confederate Army in the Civil War.

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July’s Engineer Moment in History

(Signal Corps Photo 141.11.64, Engineer Schools History Archives)JULY – AN IMPORTANT MONTH FOR TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS
Provided by the USAES Historian

Terrain reconnaissance, map making, and surveying have always been important activities of Engineers. Keeping maneuver commanders apprised of routes, rivers, natural obstacles, or other geographical features gives them the input to make their best decisions. Today, we call this “geospatial” engineering. But in the past, these activities were called “topographical” engineering, “geographical” engineering, or “geographer.” Congress authorized General George Washington to appoint the Continental Army’s first geographer on 22 July 1777. Terrain reconnaissance and map making played important roles during the American Revolution. Soldiers served in these capacities in the Corps of Engineers until 5 July 1838. This date marks Congress’ decision to make a separate U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers. For the next twenty-five years, topographical engineer officers like George Meade, John Frémont, and Gouverneur K. Warren supported civil works in harbors on the Great Lakes or directed improvements in rivers across the nation. In 1863 during the American Civil War, the Corps of Topographical Engineers was abolished, and its functions reverted to the Corps of Engineers. Regardless of name or time period, specialized Engineers have worked to ensure that maneuver commanders and public works managers received the best possible data about terrain. In the photograph, General George Patton (left) and General George Marshall (right) examining a three-dimensional model of a German fortification in World War II. This scale model was built by topographical engineers.

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June’s Engineer Moment in History

Provided by the USAES Historian
George Washington

Portrait of Washington in 1772 wearing his colonel’s uniform of the Virginia Regiment from his service in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He built and assaulted fortifications during this conflict, and thus he learned what engineers could do in battle.

The Corps of Engineers was born 236 years ago this month. Although he was not a trained engineer himself, General George Washington recognized that Engineers played critical roles in warfare. He knew from his early career that his fledgling Continental Army needed officers and soldiers with engineering skills. Constructing roads and fortifications and besieging and breaching enemy positions stand as timeless engineer missions. Washington asked the Continental Congress to add a senior engineer officer to his staff. On 16 June 1775, Congress agreed and authorized the position of Chief Engineer with two assistants. This date can rightfully be celebrated as the birthday of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Later in the Revolutionary War, Louis Duportail became Chief Engineer and helped integrate the engineers – called miners and sappers – into the Continental Army. At Yorktown, miners and sappers helped capture Redoubt 10 and achieve victory at Yorktown. But, all this started in 1775 because of George Washington’s foresight and conviction that his Army needed engineers to be an effective fighting force.

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