The Engineer

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"Hey look, buddy, I'm an Engineer. That means I solve problems. Not problems like 'what is beauty?', because that would fall within the purview of your conundrums of philosophy. I solve practical problems."

In war, equipment is an essential part of victory. From tents and rifles to bases and vehicles, no army can fight on manpower alone. They need technology, and people to maintain it and move it forward. The average soldier actually does not have full knowledge of how his equipment works, let alone have the knowledge or time to maintain said equipment. Bigger and badder pieces of equipment require even more know-how and maintenance. There are also myriad obstacles and situations which a soldier will not be equipped to handle, like obstacles that impede troop movement, difficult to traverse terrain, and the elements themselves falling on their heads.

So, behind the glamorous officers and the rough-and-tumble enlisted soldiers, there's one man who will always be there to give them a technologically empowered hand: The Engineer.

The Engineer is the go-to guy for anything technological in this man's army. Just as the Medic takes care of the soldiers' lives, the Engineer takes care of their equipment to make sure that the Medic is not needed. He's also the one that constructs shelter and support machines like turrets and gun emplacements to give the infantry cover and a little extra oomph. Perhaps most importantly, the Engineer is usually the main mechanic, handling upkeep of vehicles.

The Engineer is practically never one of the protagonists, since the more glamorous frontline soldiers are the ones that usually get the spotlight. However, if the Engineer is in a story, he will always be an ESSENTIAL character, and you can expect his skills to be crucial for victory at some moment in the story. Engineer characters also usually tend to be older, more experienced soldiers who are a father figure to younger soldiers, be they frontline soldiers or younger engineers. They can also have elements of the drill sergeant, demanding constant effort and discipline from his crew, although this is not surprising considering the frontline soldiers depend on the equipment they service to survive. Younger engineers can have a tendency to be very passionate about their work, and have the gift of creativity and tenacity on their side. Expect young Engineers to come up with new technologies and strategies using existing technology that will give their allies a new edge in combat. Sometimes, an Engineer will actually get the spotlight on him and remain a major character.

If an Engineer actually decides or is forced to FIGHT, expect it to be AWESOME. As it turns out, knowing how to build fix machines and structures together also gives you a wealth of knowledge in how to break them. Engineers are also the guys to call when terrain needs to be modified. From building roads to blasting obstacles, Engineers will clear the way. Combat Engineers and Sappers(explosives-oriented engineers) are a thing to behold: with their capacity to utterly destroy enemy equipment and fortifications and their specialized equipment, they can cause massive panic amongst enemy forces.

Engineers can also be... a little eccentric. Sometimes, they can show more caring for a piece of equipment than a human being. If they're particularly skilled with explosives, they may also be a bit too quick at suggesting them as a solution to any problem. They can also have, in more fantastic settings, a little bit of mad scientist tendencies, inventing and testing new technologies that may or may not make a difference.

Note that this trope is about The Engineer as a particular type of character, not as a profession, so it would not actually comprise ALL that army engineers do. An engineer who deals with sanitation and construction of things like storehouses and office/administrative buildings would not be very interesting after all. This trope applies to Engineers as a palpable force in combat, be it as support or actually participating in battle.

There are various types of Engineers which feature heavily in media:

  • The Combat Engineer: This is the Engineer that's right in the middle of it just like any other soldier. However, unlike his fellows who rely on more conventional weapons, the Engineer will utilize lots of specialized equipment not available to the average soldier, like demolition explosives and gun emplacements, sometimes automated. He will also assist in the maintenance of his fellow soldier's equipment(a duty that is never neglected, no matter what type of Engineer it is).
  • The Support Engineer: This is the Engineer that remains on stand-by for when he is needed, working on equipment maintenance and ready at a moment's notice to jump into the field to help his fellows. Support Engineers don't see as much combat as their other brethren, but they fulfill essential duties in preparation for major offensives, like constructing shelter and destroying obstacles that impede troop movement. This is the most true to life interpretation of what an army engineer is.
  • The Mechanic: DO NOT piss off The Mechanic. No other type of Engineer is as essential for the maintenance of troops' ability to attack and move, and no other type of Engineer has a shorter fuse. The Mechanic is the king of the motor pool, every vehicle is one of his babies. Bring a vehicle in a sorry state and prepare for a massive butt chewing at best and a wrench on the side of the head at worst. They have a tendency to spout Technobabble at a moment's notice.

For strategy games, see Worker Unit.

Examples of The Engineer include:

General[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Anytiime a story has Dwarves in it expect them to be this as a race, usually using clockwork and occasionally steam powered technology.


Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • The faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabulous Leeron of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. For the first half of the series, he practically takes care of all the Gunmen, the Gurren Lagann AND the massive Dai-Gurren all by himself! And post-timeskip, he's even MORE talented.
  • The maintenance crew in Godannar. Also a major source of comedy and UST.
  • Gai from Getter Robo, in all his incarnations, is the main engineer in charge of maintaining the Getter Machines. He also becomes an Ascended Fanboy when he ends up in the pilot seat of Go/Neo Getter-3 and Shin Getter-3.
  • Franky from One Piece is the crews shipwright, responsible for the upkeep of the Thousand Sunny (which he designed and built, of course). He's a Combat Engineer by virtue of turning himself into a cyborg.
  • Heihachi in Seven Samurai who lacks martial experience, but fights with engineering tech instead.
  • Gundam series often have at least one engineer to take care of the mecha. Pilots may or may not carry out some maintenance.
  • Seiya Uribatake of Martian Successor Nadesico is the person in charge of maintaining the ship's mecha and gets very angry when one of them gets banged up.
  • Code Geass features Rakshata on the side of the Black Knights, and Lloyd Asplund for Suzaku.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Q from the James Bond movies. Seriously, where would 007 be without him?
  • R2-D2
  • In The Army Now focused on water-purification military engineers.
  • John Wayne's 1944 film The Fighting Seabees illustrates the trope perfectly.
  • The German film Stalingrad follows a platoon of combat engineers, known as Sturmpioniere, fighting in the eponymous city.
  • Yori in Tron. She ran the Solar Sailer simulation, and a "blink and you miss it" Chekhov's Gun in the beginning of the movie indicates she helps control the laser.
  • In the 2009 Star Trek, Montgomery Scott is looking to be as brilliant a chief engineer as in the original series. The same cannot be said for his position's predecessor.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Cross Time Engineer is about how a single 20th century engineer thrown back to 13th century Poland manages to introduce heavy industry.
  • The Engineer Trilogy by K.J. Parker features an engineer as the central character. Set in an alternate Middle Ages, engineering pervades the story: design, manufacture the application of machines (particularly war machines) are all tightly interwoven into the plot. Ziani Vaatzes, the titular engineer is a subtly terrifying genius who applies his deep understanding of mechanics to manipulate everything from people to empires to achieve his own ends.
  • Julio Poertena and his "pig pocking wrench" from the Prince Roger series by David Weber and John Ringo qualifies.
  • While there are no major Engineer characters in John Ringo's Posleen War Series-at least after the first significant Earth landing-the Posleen nonetheless quickly learn to fear the sigil of the Corps of Engineers.
  • Jules Verne's books are an ode to the Engineers. Expect every major character to be one.
  • Captain Hogan (later promoted) from the Sharpe novels is combat engineer and spymaster for The Duke of Wellington.
  • Malakai Makaison from the Gotrek and Felix novels is a Dwarven engineer Slayer who hauls around such exotic weapons as a gatling gun, grenades, and a rocket launcher. He also built an airship that plays a major role in several novels.
  • Harry Harrison's "The Ethical Engineer" - of course a double entendre regarding 1) the behavior of the protagonist, and 2) the things he was engineering.
  • Leo Graf in Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free: At first he wonders what he can do, as just an engineer, to save the Quaddies from their plight, but then he realizes that it is an engineering problem, and that he's just the engineer to solve it.
  • In Starship Troopers, Johnnie is enthusiastic upon learning he may be interacting the engineering corps on a mission. He states the unit's mottos ("Can do!" and "First we dig 'em, then we die in 'em.") to be literal truth, even calling out their bravery under fire. High praise indeed, from an MI (they appreciate specialists, but usually are eager to remember and remind everyone else that warfare ultimately is about whose boots are last standing on that ground).
  • Master Klopp in Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

Admiral Adama: In your opinion, off the record, what was Garner's flaw?
Major Lee Adama: He was used to working with machines. Command is about people.

    • Chief Galen Tyrol also exemplifies this, particularly "The Mechanic". He spends most of his appearances fixing one thing or another (usually vipers), is very possessive of the vipers, and has an entire crop of newbies to mentor. The few times he does go into combat mode, its like watching Gordon Freeman.
  • Danger UXB is a case of the engineer as protagonist. Lt Brian Ash is an engineering student who Got Volunteered into the command of a Bomb Disposal section in World War Two.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Warhammer 40,000 has a variety depending on which army you're playing
    • Space Marines have Techmarines, specially trained by the Adeptus Mechanicus to maintain their battle-brothers' equipment. Due to being every bit as tough and skilled as other Space Marines, they're the Genius Bruiser type.
    • The Salamanders, however; belong to the Promethian Cult which value self-reliance and have anvil, hammer and fire as important symbols; and as their Primarch was a blacksmith, they all maintain their equipment by themselves personally. There are still Techmarines within their chapter though, and due to every battle brother in their chapter taking care of their own equipment, they are free to make even more impressive items.
    • Imperial Guard have Enginseers, Tech-Priests attached to the unit specifically to maintain their equipment.
    • Meanwhile, the Orks have Mekboyz - who construct insane steampunk death machines that somehow work - and no, it's not entirely "it works because they believe it does", although there is a strong element of that. Their method of repair usually involves pounding on it with a hammer and screaming at it.
    • Although they have little-if-any representation in-game, in the background material the Earth Caste fill this role for the Tau.
  • Subverted in Paranoia: each Troubleshooter team generally has a designated Equipment Guy (among other Mandatory Bonus Duties), but it doesn't mean he's any good (especially when The Computer assigns roles based on who needs the most practice).

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Quite obviously, The Engineer, Dell Conagher (and both his father and grandfather, likely to be a family tradition, considering a few images seemed to imply that his father is the engineer from Team Fortress Classic) from Team Fortress and Team Fortress 2. He specifically is an example of a Combat Engineer, supplying ammo and equipment to fellow soldiers and constructing turrets and teleporters.
    • The Engineer is better at defense than offense, though he can be played as a "Battle Engie" with the right loadout (specifically, the Gunslinger and the Frontier Justice).
    • The Demoman is also an engineer of sorts, as the resident explosives expert.
  • Any Engineer unit in any squad-based game, quite common in FPS games.
  • The Engineers in Valkyria Chronicles. Isara, Kreis, Zaka and Leon are the biggest examples, storywise. Isara, Kreis and Zaka in particular also participate in battle as tank drivers, and have important roles in the main story. But other than them, there's also Engineers who are actual footsoldiers in the battlefield. They are essential units for their capacity to repair tanks, disarm mines, construct shelter and resupply soldiers with ammo. Engineers also have bigger Ragnaid capsules than the other units, so they're also the designated medics. In Valkyria Chronicles II, Engineers can actually specialize into Medics.
  • Practically every RTS ever has at least one unit to build your base/defences or repair things. They may also double as the workers for its Command and Conquer Economy.
    • This is especially true to Earth 2150. The ED Gruz and the UCS Mammoth can both carry out tasks like digging trenches and tunnels, building bridges and walls, etc.
    • The custom-map-only Engineer unit in Empire Earth can repair buildings as well as construct bunkers and (pathetically weak) barbed wire fences.
  • The Gnomes and Goblins in the Warcraft universe are known for being experts in engineering. Engineering is also an optional job you can train in. You can make fantasy motorcycles that way.
  • Roland the Soldier in Borderlands dabbles into this trope, as his action skill is summoning an automated turret to fire for a bit. The turret can be upgraded to be more effective, provide supply drops or also fire missles from his skill tree while the character's potential abilities in general can directly provide more to a group than any other.
    • The Crimson Lance Engineer enemy summons a turret to help them out similar to Roland. It's stated in the Official Guide that Roland was a former Crimson Lance Engineer.
  • The worker units in StarCraft fulfill the role of engineers, but it is the Terran SC Vs that follow the trope most closely, being piloted units dedicated to construction, mining, terrain-forming, and unit repair. Science Vessels and their succeeding equivalent in the sequel are worth mentioning too, as their detection capabilities are invaluable, and their abilities are no less useful in harassing the enemy or supporting allied troops.
  • In Alpha Protocol, there is an Engineer class which can focus on miscellaneous benefits, including increase in hacking speed, better grenade usage, more ammo/health that can be taken from dead enemies, etc. It may not seem like much, but it adds up.
  • Basically all of Cid's incarnations in Final Fantasy, except for I, VIII, XIII, and the spinoffs. IV, VI, and XII are probably closest to the trope as written.
  • Leonardo da Vinci plays this role in Assassin's Creed II. He shows some HEAVY mad scientist tendencies, inventing a FLYING MACHINE and all...
  • In the Command & Conquer titles, engineers are used to either sabotage/capture enemy structures or instantly repair one's own.
    • In Tiberium Sun, the engineer in fact became the lynchpin of the cheapest tactic in the game. In what essentially becomes a great all-or-nothing game of chicken, if one puts 100% of their resources into making engineers and storms the other base before they have enough time to prepare defenses it is possible to convert the entire enemy base to your own, thus winning instantly and within minutes of starting. Conventional attacks in this early-game phase do not work at all due to buildings having sufficient hitpoints. On the flip side, this can be countered by pouring all your resources into defense, which leaves a deficiency in technology...
    • In Renegade's multiplayer, Engineers are indispensable: they can help defend and maintain the base, repair vehicles, and are an essential component in any APC raid on an enemy base. Just try playing a game without making use of them at all.
  • In Dawn of War 2, the unit type you start with in multiplayer can repair. That is it for going into the trope for them, as they are otherwise just supposed to fight; aside from the Eldar Guardians and Imperial Guardsmen who can build cover. The Space Marine Techmarine and Ork Mekboy commanders are definite Combat Engineers though, being capable of getting some impressive ranged weapons, creating turrets and some interesting tech abilities.
    • Imperial Guard Enginseers in the expansions to the first game are the toughest builders available. Other factions tended to use various types of slaves or drones or other squishy units.
  • The Worker in Fat Princess. Not only are they absolutely essential for harvesting resources and upgrading structures, general consensus actually has them as the game's best combat unit. A team composed of upgraded Workers and Priests supporting them is pretty much an unstoppable juggernaut.
  • Lucca from Chrono Trigger. She invents a teleporting machine and a device to control time portals, she built a prototype battle robot, and she can repair more advanced robots that exist over a thousand years after her time!
  • Eddie Riggs, in an unusual example of The Engineer being the protagonist. Sure, he can fight, drive, lead armies and turn into an ass-kicking demon, but the main reason he's so valuable to the Ironheade army is his knowledge of mechanics and capacity for building stuff. He's a perfect example of how Engineers help turn the tide of battle through usage of technology. Later in the game, Mangus and Jack(the Headbanger with the hydraulic car jack of death) are examples as well.
  • Lock's Quest, being from a tower defense genre, also has an Engineer protagonist, along with Engineers being a core part of society. Also unlike the present examples, Lock starts out as a freshman to Engineering, over the course of the game developing bigger and better guns, walls, and traps. Though mostly working as a Support Engineer, Lock is also expected to help out in the frontlines, to collect Source used to build more towers, pre-engage Mecha-Mooks, and stop Boss Mooks from reaching your defenses and the source wells/pathways you are guarding.
    • In fact, nearly any protagonist of a tower-defense game could be considered an Engineer of sorts.
  • Andy from Advance Wars. His CO Power heals and buffs all his troops.
  • PROTAGONIST engineer Isaac Clarke of Dead Space. His armor is meant for use in spaceship repairs are the majority of his plasma tools. As it turns out, said armor and tools work just as well against Necromorphs.
  • PROTAGONIST engineer from Doom 3's expansion pack
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, T3-M4. And Bao-dur in the sequel. Bao-Dur in the second Knights of the Old Republic is a Tech Specialist (a class unique to him). His hit points aren't great, but he gets insane bonuses to his technical stats, making him very useful for slicing, droid repair, and most anything that isn't brawling or bluff. It's almost not worth it to cross-class him.
  • Makai Kingdom has Mechanics as a class of Player Mooks. They're the ones who patch up your vehicles between battles, though you'll need Professors to improve them. Oh, and they can do field repairs with giant wrenches.
  • Sly Coopers Bentley. In the first game he is mainly much needed Support, but in the second and particularly the third he outfits himself with some sleep darts and explosives and heads out into the field, proving himself to be truly badass in Combat as well.
  • Party member Tali from Mass Effect is acknowledged to be a mechanical and programming/hacking genius, even landing the job of Chief Engineer on the ship in the second game. Shepard's class can also be engineer, giving you numerous technical skills, though you still mostly use them to blow stuff up. There are 2 main indicators which show just how brilliant Tali is at her job:
    • The first, Tali is one of the best engineers from her species. Her race, the quarians, are considered the most expert of all the species in the game at engineering. It's their biggest hat, which they need it to cover the baldness of their rickety, jury-rigged antique space vessels.
    • In the endgame, the player has to select a party member to infiltrate through a series of tubes to hack into a huge door blocking the team's progress. The three "good" choices are Tali; Legion, a brilliant Data-style robot; and Kasumi, the galaxy's best thief, assuming you have her downloadable-content mission.
    • Of course, the main point of Tali and Engineer!Shepard is to hack enemy robots' IFF targeting systems and make them go on a berserk rampage through their own lines.
      • As well, there are a number of minor examples who are engineers for the Normandy. Gabby and Kenny in particular within 2 serve as Those Two Guys (well, That Guy and Girl.) with humorous conversations.
    • Mass Effect 3: If this as picked as the player's class, they can make their Overload ability from Mass Effect 2 into Chain Lightning, and can also throw a Weak Turret Gun across the battlefield.
  • The Thing: The Game where it is one of the three classes of NPC helpers, and they are essential for opening doors. As Spoony put it: "There are three kinds of guys: The Engineers, who you need to keep alive, Medics, the guys you really wanna keep alive, and back in there, there are Soldiers..."
  • In Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the Engineer is the most important class in multiplayer, since they are the only class that can plant and defuse dynamite, which is the only weapon that can destroy objectives. They gain more support roles in the Enemy Territory expansion, where they can lay mines, build support structures, and repair damaged equipment.
  • The Mechanic from Dungeon Fighter Online is an example. He has the basic attack skills of the original Gunner, with the added bonus of several robots that he can send out to fight for him, such as a turret emplacement, a small exploding 'bot, and a floating gun that follows him and shoots blue energy orbs.
  • Touhou Project kappa show signs of every sort of Engineering, depending on the story in question, from building all the technology for the Youkai of the mountain after Subterranean Animism to Nitori's Gadgeteer Genius use of tools like extending arms and Optical Camoflauage. Kappa are the standard Hand Wave explanation for how anything gets built in fanon.
    • A good canon example of this in the realm of Magitek comes from Patchouli Knowledge in Silent Sinner In Blue, who created a working spaceship out of essentially plywood, duct tape, a whole lot of magic charms, and a Miko channeling the power of Gods of Voyage for an energy source, as well as a backup thruster in the form of Marisa and her Master Spark.
  • Regular American Engineers and Wehrmacht Pioneers constitute each side's starting units in Company of Heroes, and while they aren't very impressive as-is, they can get a big firepower boost once upgraded with flamethrowers. Not to mention, their repair abilities make them absolutely vital to any armored campaign. The British and the Panzer Elite in the expansion pack play with the trope a little: every jack-of-all-trades Panzergrenadier is an engineer as well as an experienced soldier. The Brits split the difference - their basic infantry build basic defences while the dedicated Sappers don't arrive for a while but build really good defences and repair stuff faster than their opponents.
  • In Civilization, the Engineer is a vital upgrade to the Settler class, able to build roads, railways, irrigation canals, mines, and cities twice as fast.
  • The Formers in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri have the ability to raise and lower terrain. With this simple tool, they can change rainfall patterns, create new land for themselves, destroy their enemy's lands, and even destroy enemy cities not protected by Pressure Domes.
  • Needless to say, Engineers are one of the 3 player classes in Star Trek Online. Most of their abilities on the ground have to do with creating machines and coaxing other machines into overpowered glory. In space, most of the abilities involve reworking the ship's power systems into short bursts to increase defenses and otherwise help keep the ship in one piece. It's a mostly defense oriented class, but not quite up to the traditional title of "tank".
  • The Robotics class from Global Agenda can be pretty much any type listed at the top of the page. They can carry multiple types of turrets, semi-automated killer drones, stations that provide health and energy to their team, force fields and giant mobile suits. They can buff and repair anything mechanical with ease, and are the best or only choice for using a vast array of field gear in a particular gameplay type. The only things limiting them are a limited number of stat points, forcing them to choose a specialty, and being able to only carry three devices at any given time. Like many classes in this game, the Robotics class can best be described as the Team Fortress 2 engineer in space. Well, "in space".
  • Engineers in Civil War Generals 2 build and remove obstructions, fortifications, and bridges, but are poor fighters.
  • In Torchlight II, the Engineer is not only capable of making turrets but is also the resident Tank wearing Steampunk Powered Armor while wielding hammer-like wrenches.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Gossard from Roughnecks (the Starship Troopers animated series) is pretty much the patron saint of this trope.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Every major character in Girl Genius.
    • Apart from the mad social scientist, of course.
      • He has a built in pulse cannon, so presumably has at least some practical engineering skills since sparks tend not to be keen on allowing other sparks to operate on them.
    • Special notice to Moloch von Zinzer, who is only an engineer, not a Spark. And NOT the Lady Heterodyne's Head Minion. No! He isn't!
  • Sev'vil of Juathuur... but not for juathuurs, who don't use any form of technology.
  • Schlock Mercenary has Kevyn Anderson as general Mad Scientist/"make something work in a pinch" type, Elf as the more practical fabber savant, and later roboticist Para Ventura, all extremely competent engineers. Kevyn especially, having built, amongst other things, a telescope array from stocks of torpedoes; thereafter known as the Very Dangerous Array. UNS space customs had (she was moved to an embassy) Haley Sorlie, who studied to become a shipwright.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Obviously Truth in Television. No major military operation since the dawn of time has advanced without the help of engineers, even if the term didn't even exist at that time. Any operation where terrain needs to be modified, fortifications built or machines and equipment used, engineers have made their mark.
    • In fact, until relatively recently, all engineers were military engineers. The term "civil engineer" was coined in the late 18th century and originally referred to any engineer who wasn't associated with the military.
    • For a long time Engineers and artillery were the distinctively intellectual types of warfare. Cavalry and Infantry officers thought of themselves as warriors rather then technicians.
      • As a matter of fact, the earliest heavy artillery, ie: Catapults and Trebuchets and the like, were referred to as Siege Engines. Engineers were the guys who set up and ran them. Thus, the earliest artillerymen WERE Engineers.
  • The earliest engineer (and architect, and physician) in recorded history was Imhotep[1] of Ancient Egypt, who lived in the 27th century BC and is credited as designer of the very first pyramid, which still stands today, almost 5,000 years later.
  • Zhuge Liang, strategist extraordinaire for the Kingdom of Shu, was also known as a gifted inventor. He is recognized as the inventor of Mantou buns, a staple of Chinese cuisine, as well as a rudimentary landmine and the Kongming lantern. Many of his inventions were used as strategic staples in many battles. Keep in mind, this was between the first and second centuries CE.
  • In his Memoirs, retired Lieutenant General (and former President of the United States) Ulysses S. Grant gives the lion's share of the credit for America's victory in the Mexican War to the Combat Engineers.
    • Grant himself was technically a Combat Engineer. West Point was the first Engineering School to open in the United States, and most officers retired to work as engineers for rail road companies.
  • U.S. Navy Construction Battalions (Seabees) during WWII earned 33 Silver Stars and 5 Navy Crosses for heroism in the Pacific Theater, and were active throughout the globe.
    • The Seabees were arguable the single most important element of the Allied "island-hopping" strategy in the Pacific Theater, as without them, the transformation of small Pacific islands into "unsinkable aircraft carriers" in record time would simply have not been possible.
  • One of the things that gave Rome an edge was its war engineering. One of Caesar's less heard about claims to fame is his decision to ford the Rhine into Germania... by building a brand new bridge across it. Romans could also get a fully functioning fortification up and running by nightfall, though admittedly this is more akin to more modern "digging in" than a permanent fortification. In fact, the adage "all roads lead to Rome" was literal at one point in history: Caesar, when invading another country, would just have his engineers build roads from Rome to the invaded country and just drive his army there.
    • Sorta, Roman Legions were the engineers of the empire. Their military road construction relied heavily on the fact that after six thousand (or more) men have marched, lock step with iron studded boots, along the exact same route there will be a road there, regardless of what was there before. Then after whatever battle they were marching to was won, the legionnaires would go to the local quarry, mine as much stone as they could carry (in carts and by hand) and put them along the exact path they took to get there on their way back. In modern times we use steamrollers, the Romans used fancy footwork.
    • Many have commented that the Roman Legion's greatest weapon was the shovel.
  • The EOD aspects of this trope are currently being automated in the form of the Pack Bot, of iRobot (creators of the Roomba) fame. The robots save so many soldiers' lives that they're treated as squadmates and have been on occasion mourned by their squad when destroyed by bombs. Apparently, there's nothing so terribly heartbreaking as seeing a hulking soldier crying over shreds of a robot, asking if it can be repaired.
  • Mickey Marcus was a US Army officer that took service with the IDF in the 1948 war. When the roads to Jerusalem were blocked he made a whole new road to bring supplies.
  • The Dutch Wars of Independance had a vague resemblance to World War I with their labyrinthine fortifications and dominance of high amounts of firepower. Except they went on for generations. Engineers and artillery were the premier arms of the war.