KOUMAC, New Caledonia —
Whether it’s building schools or changing the battle space, combat engineers have always been there to pave the way.
Though established as a military profession in 1775, the first combat engineers didn’t see much recognition until the War of 1812, when Army Col. Jonathan Williams, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, and his successor, Joseph Swift, built expanding fortifications around New York Harbor. This included an 11-pointed fort that is now the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Today, combat engineers bring both constructive capabilities, such as building bunkers and providing utilities; and destructive capabilities, such as demolition and breaching support on the battlefield. This unique combination of capabilities provides knowledge, experience and skills to commanders at the operational and tactical levels with which they can, according to Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-34, reduce friction, facilitate maneuver and improve the morale of friendly forces or create friction and disorder for the enemy.
“My favorite thing about being a combat engineer is that my job is so versatile,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph Manzie, who’s assigned to Marine Rotational Force Darwin 18. “I can build schools for communities, or obstacle courses to keep Marines fit to fight. I also have the ability to change…