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What is the Army Corps of Engineers?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a branch of the Army that specializes in engineering projects. The majority of its employees are actually civilians, overseen by a small group of military personnel. The branch's motto is “Relevant, Ready, Responsible, Reliable,” and, reflecting that motto, the Corps is often first on the scene at disaster areas. Many other projects fall under the realm of the Army Corps of Engineers, including civil engineering projects such as dams, military facility construction, and support of the Department of Defense.

In 1775, a chief engineer was appointed to handle Army constructions and fortifications. In 1802, the Army Corps of Engineers was formally established, along with the West Point Military Academy in New York. The branch managed West Point until 1866, when it became a more general military academy, and one of the most highly reputed schools in the United States. West Point graduates have served in the United States Army with distinction and make up a significant percentage of serving officers in the Army.

Major construction projects are undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers all over the world. Dams and bridges in the United States and abroad are built by the Corps, which also helps civil engineers in other countries to build schools and other significant public buildings. It also provides engineering related support to the military. The disaster response arm can be found on site all over the world helping to restore engineering order at major disaster sites.

In addition to working in the field, the Army Corps of Engineers also conducts research. The research laboratory analyzes construction techniques, attempts to refine safety measures in new engineering projects, and works on creating sustainable infrastructure. The lab also looks at environmental issues such as air and water quality, and works on engineering science in unique situations, such as extreme cold. Much of this cutting edge research is shared with the engineering world in general.

People interesting in working for the Army Corps of Engineers can take a number of career paths, depending on their goals and focus. Trained civilians can apply for open job positions, and people can also join after training at a school like West Point. Many job opportunities with the Corps are open to civilians, as the organization supports almost 35,000 civilian employees in a variety of positions, along with 650 members of the military.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon968660 — On Sep 04, 2014

Summing, yes. You will have to go through basic training. Essentially the military part of the Corps is made up of soldiers who are also trained as engineers. You'll most likely go to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood and AIT (engineer job training) will be there as well. I'm not sure how to join them as a civilian but as a soldier, I love the Corps and can't see myself leaving anytime soon. I encourage you to look into it more.

By summing — On May 25, 2012

What do I need to do to join the Army Corps of Engineers? Is it an actual Army post or do you only need training in engineering.

I have always admired the goals of the Corps and I think that it is good, honorable work. But I have never wanted to be a soldier and I do not want to be involved in any way with the two wars we are fighting. Will I be required to go through boot camp if I join up with the Corps?

By Ivan83 — On May 25, 2012
Many people do not realize how many important projects the Army Corps of Engineers is involved in. They maintain the Mississippi River and many of the largest and most important man-made lakes in the country.

Every year, tens of millions of people enjoy the places that the Corps is responsible for maintaining. It is not an easy job to keep nature operating in a way that is favorable to man but that is what the Corps does.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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