19 photos that show what Army sappers do

Sappers are the Army’s experts in mobility on the battlefield. They stop the enemy from moving around and clear obstacles that inhibit the U.S. infantry and other ground troops. To do these jobs, they have to know how to fight an enemy, construct infrastructure like bridges and fences, and destroy enemy obstacles with explosives and tools.

Here are 19 photos that show their mission:

1. Engineers clear routes through enemy territory for maneuver forces.

Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

2. To do this, they detect enemy mines, IEDs, barbed wire, trenches, and other obstructions.

Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

3. If an obstruction or explosive is detected, the engineers ‘interrogate’ (sapper speak) the obstacle and decide what to do.

Photo: US Army National Guard Spc. Adam Simmler

Photo: US Army National Guard Spc. Adam Simmler

4. Once they identify a threat, they may mark it so infantry units know where the safe path is.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

5. But they often decide to blow the obstruction up. Sappers are known for their skill with explosives.

Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

6. When the enemy is hiding in a building, the sappers can cut through the walls or doors to get to them.

Navy SEAL cuts through a steel door with an exothermic torch

Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker

7. They could also just blow the door off the hinges or a hole in a wall. Again, sappers blow up a lot of stuff.

Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

8. Once the building is open, they can force their way inside but will often leave the task of searching the building to the infantry or other maneuver units.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Roger Ashley

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Roger Ashley

9. When the enemy protects the objective with barbed wire and other obstacles, the engineers use Bangalore torpedoes to blow open a path.

Sapper Stakes competitors combat first day of competition-engineers-army-combat

Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

10. Another specialty of engineers is getting themselves and equipment to hard to reach places. Here, sappers create improvised rafts to cross a lake.

Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

11. They also have proper boats, like the Zodiac, that they’ll use to cross the water.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

12. Sappers can even drop directly into the water with their equipment and boats via a helicopter.

Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

13. They’ll climb up cliff faces or repel from ledges to open a route or block an enemy.

Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

14. Sappers use many different explosives, including missiles, to complete their missions.

Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

15. Javelin Missiles are most commonly used to destroy enemy armored vehicles.

Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

16. Engineers may aim to hit an enemy tank or armored vehicle while it’s in a choke point, preventing other vehicles from crossing there.

Photo: US Army 251st Engineer Company

Photo: US Army 251st Engineer Company

17. Enemy ground units can be stopped or slowed with mines. Claymores fire a barrage of steel bearings at enemies.

Photo: US Army

Photo: US Army

18. For more security, the sappers and other engineers can put up fences or other obstacles.

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

19. This prevents enemy soldiers from getting to friendly forces as easily.

Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDufford

Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDufford

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