Army Combat Engineer Training Program Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an army combat engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about the training and job duties to see if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Army combat engineers, also known as Sappers, provide support during combat missions. The duty of combat engineers is to provide mobility to their unit by completing tasks like clearing routes of obstacles and mines. You can become a combat engineer by enlisting in the Army and completing specialized training.

Required Education OSUT, BCT, AIT
Other Requirements Sapper Leader Course
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) steady for all armed services
Pay Grade (2014) $18,378 for E1 private

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **U.S. Army

One Station Unit Training (OSUT)

Aspiring Army combat engineers participate in One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri ( OSUT allows recruits to complete Basic Combat Training (BCT) and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) with one unit at one location. The first three phases of OSUT, called the red, white and blue phases, consists of BCT. Recruits receive AIT during the last two phases, which are the black and gold phases.

Basic Combat Training

Recruits spend ten weeks of OSUT learning basic military skills. BCT begins with the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and classroom instruction in subjects including Army values, military law and rifle basics. During the first three weeks, recruits also learn nuclear, biological and chemical defense, marching, navigation and rappelling. The second phase of BCT, which lasts three weeks, consists of rifle training. Recruits finish BCT with three weeks of instruction in advanced weapons and combat tactics.

Advanced Individual Training

The last two phases of OSUT consists of AIT at the U.S. Army Engineer School. At the Army Engineer School, recruits receive field training in the operation of combat support vehicles, such as the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Recruits also learn to construct and destroy bridges, set explosives, clear obstacles and detect mines.


Before attending OSUT, recruits must pass medical examinations, drug tests and background checks. To graduate from OSUT, recruits must earn scores of 60 on each section of the APFT and pass all weapon qualifications. Combat engineers are required to have combat operation (CO) composite scores of at least 87. The CO score is calculated from the coding speed, auto and shop information, arithmetic reasoning and mechanical comprehension sections of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

To participate in the Sapper Leader Course, applicants must earn minimum score of 210 on the APFT since the course includes daily physical training sessions. Applicants are required to take physical exams that include blood work and complete the Combat Water Survival Test (CWST). A passing score on the CWST is not required; however, it is used to demonstrate an applicant's skill level.

Optional Training

Army combat engineers learn leadership skills and earn the Sapper Tab by completing the 28-day long Sapper Leader Course at the Army Engineer School. The course emphasizes leadership and works to build camaraderie by conducting all exercises in a team environment.

During the first phase of the course, engineers learn general topics, including demolitions, navigation, water and air operations, landmines and mountaineering. The last phase of training focuses on infantry operations with training in intelligence, patrolling, ambushes and raids, breaching and operation planning.

Salary and Employment Outlook

A combat engineer's pay will depend on rank and years of experience, and many soldiers earn bonuses or receive other special pay. According to the U.S. Army, the base pay for a private with the rank of E1 who had two years of experience or less was $18,378 as of 2014. In comparison, a staff sergeant with six years of experience had a base pay of $35,578.80.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that employment opportunities in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces should remain steady from 2012 until 2022.

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