A combat engineer is a soldier in a military who is primarily responsible for building or demolishing combat-related components such as fortified structures, trenches, and bridges. He or she may also be responsible for placing and detonating explosives. The combat engineer may work in a supervisory capacity, or he or she may work as part of a supervised team responsible for a variety of combat-related tasks. This person is likely to be on the front lines of military operations, which means the job is extremely hazardous and can result in injury or death.
Combat obstacles may be placed by a combat engineer. Such obstacles include trenches, barbed wire fences, and even land mines or other weapons. It is important for the combat engineer to be properly trained on how to use such items and place them safely without risking injury or death to himself and fellow soldiers. Many militaries therefore have several levels of combat engineer qualifications; a person new to the profession will start at the lowest level and work his or her way up through the ranks as experience is gained in the field. The highest levels of engineers will primarily be responsible for monitoring and educating lower-level engineers.
One of the other primary responsibilities of the combat engineer is evaluating and improving mobility opportunities. If, for example, a water crossing must be done, the engineer must evaluate the territory to find the best way to safely cross the water. This may mean simply getting troops across the water, or it may mean transporting large vehicles and cargo across the expanse. The job can therefore require reconnaissance abilities, training in math and sciences, and an ability to communicate effectively with other engineers as well as other troops participating in the crossing. In some cases, the team of combat engineers may actually have to build roads from scratch to allow safe passage of military vehicles.
During battle, the combat engineer may have several responsibilities pertaining to demolition or construction. He or she may have to destroy enemy fortifications using explosives or heavy machinery, or the engineer may be responsible for fortifying his own structures. If the engineer's troops will be conducting an assault, he or she will need to assess and, in some cases create, open assault routes that will ensure safe and quick passage. The engineer may need to clear land mines and other hazards in preparation for the assault.