Center for Army Lessons Learned - Thesaurus
CALL title banner


Definition/Scope: (Sapper Ldr Course Pam,) A sapper is “considered an elite combat engineer” in the United States Army. In the French Army, sapeur (sapper), refers to the first official corps created by Napoleon I, a military engineering corp. Sapping is a term used in siege operations. Any trench excavated under defensive musket or artillery fire that was intended to advance a besieging army's position in relation to the works of an attacked fortification was referred to as a sap. In the U.S. Army, Sappers are combat engineers or other personnel who support the front-line infantry, and they have fought in every war in American history. To wear the Sapper Tab, a Soldier must complete the Sapper Leader Course (SLC) which is operated by the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri . The Sapper Leader Course is a 28-day course designed to train joint-service leaders in small unit tactics, leadership skills, and tactics required to perform as part of a combined arms team. The course is open to enlisted Soldiers in the grades of E-4 (in the Army, specialist) and above, cadets, and officers O-3 (Army, captain) and below. As students can come from any combat or combat support branch of the service, female soldiers are permitted to attend, but priority is given to engineering, cavalry, and infantry soldiers. The course is divided into two Phases: Phase I lasts 14 days and covers general subjects including medical, navigation, demolitions, air and water operations, mountaineering, and landmines and weapons used by enemy forces. Phase II is the remaining 14 days. It covers basic patrolling techniques and battle drills that emphasize leadership. The subjects include urban operations, breaching, patrol organization and movement, and reconnaissance, raid and ambush tactics. It concludes with a three-day situation training exercise, and five-day field training exercise. These missions are a 60/40 mix of engineer and infantry missions. Each training event is graded and scored. To graduate, a sapper must earn 700 out of 1000 points in order to wear the sapper tab. Modern combat engineering and sappers still retains the Roman role of building field fortifications, road paving, and the breaching of terrain obstacles. The combat engineering role includes practices and techniques of camouflage, reconnaissance, communication methods and enhancement of survival by other troops. Combat engineering also includes construction of roads, bridges, field fortifications and obstacles. In their role, combat engineers use a wide variety of engineer hand and power tools. They are also responsible for construction rigging, demolitions, camouflage, field fortifications, obstacle clearance and construction, assault of fortifications, bridge erection, use of assault boats in water obstacle crossings, expedient road and helipad construction, general construction, engineer route and road reconnaissance. Combat engineering employees a wide range of transportation vehicles and equipment, and uses weapons unique to the engineers, including those used in land mine warfare. All these role activities and technologies are divided into several areas of combat engineering.

Broader Terms:

554th Engineer Battalion
combat engineers
Fort Leonard Wood

Narrower Terms:

assault breach
breaching operations
explosive hazard(s)

Related Terms:

combat engineering

CALL Homepage >> Thesaurus Last Updated: Sept 17, 2008