Until this summer, only the Special Forces tab and the Ranger tab were authorized for wear above the unit patch on the left shoulder.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker approved the Sapper tab June 28 for award and wear by engineer Soldiers who complete the Sapper Leader Course. The course is part of the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. This award is retroactive back to the graduates of the first SLC on June 14, 1985.
The tab will be worn below the Special Forces or Ranger tab, if a Soldier has either of those. Other details concerning the wear of the Sapper tab will be released through official G-1/Human Resources Command channels sometime in the next 90 days, officials said.
Sappers are combat engineers who advance with the front-line infantry, and they have fought in every war in American history. For example, they played a vital role in securing Omaha Beach on D-Day, and that incident is faithfully re-created in Saving Private Ryan.
The invading Soldiers were unable to advance through the beach obstacles, and were pinned down by the German machine guns. A group of combat engineers crawled forward under heavy fire. Despite their casualties, they assembled a bangalore torpedo (a long tube filled with explosives), slid it under a barbed wire obstacle, and blew the obstacle apart. The Soldiers behind the engineers then fought their way through the gap, took the German defenses, and won the battle.
The Sapper Leader Course is a fast-paced 28-day course designed to train joint-service leaders in small unit tactics, leadership skills, and warfighter tactics required to perform as part of a combined arms team in a contemporary operating environment. The SLC is open to enlisted Soldiers in the grades of specialist (promotable) and above, and engineer officers captain and below.
Phase I of the course lasts 14 days and covers general subjects including medical techniques, land navigation, demolitions (conventional and expedient), air and water operations, mountaineering, expedient antennas, knots and rigging, and land mines used by enemy forces.
Phase II is also 14 days. It covers basic patrolling techniques and battle drills that emphasize leadership. The subjects include urban operations, breaching, patrol organization and movement, and recon/raid/ambush tactics.
The second phase of the SLC concludes with a three-day situation training exercise, and five-day field training exercise. Training missions conducted during the STX/FTX are a 60/40 mix of engineer and infantry missions. Engineer missions include bridge reconnaissance and demolition, covert obstacle breaching, road cratering, minefields, and field expedient demolition.
Leadership is emphasized throughout the SLC, engineer officials said. During Phase I the leadership positions are rotated daily. During Phase II, the position of squad leader is rotated daily, and the patrol leader and assistant patrol leader after each phase of the mission. Each Soldier will be evaluated at least twice on leadership during patrolling.
The results of the Sapper Leader Course are Soldiers who are worthy to wear the new Sapper tab, officials said, adding that they are hardened combat engineers who are qualified to fight and lead on todays battlefields.