Among the three Uniformed Services of the Indian Armed Forces, Indian Army is the largest component.

I shall be talking about the Indian Army Pioneer Corps or Pioneers. The Pioneer Corps is the Operational Logistics Arm of the Indian Army. The Pioneer Corps provides disciplined and well-trained manpower, though the corps are not a Combat Arm.

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They provide manpower where civilian labour is not available. These corps are mostly committed in the forward and operational areas.

Pioneer Corps were once the third largest troop in the Indian Army and had a strength of 26 Pioneer Companies till 1999. Today there are 21 Pioneer Units under various commands. The Pioneer Corps Training Centre (PCTC) is currently located in Banglore.

There are certain functions that the Pioneer Corps perform:

  • Provide logistic support to the fighting forces – with the Service Corps it brings up vital supplies and stores, with the Ordnance Corps it keeps up the flow of guns and ammunition.
  • Loading and unloading of stores, rations, equipment and ammunition over land, sea, and air.
  • Detect and are involved in laying and breaching of landmines and minefields.
  • Construction, activation and maintenance of roads, mule tracks, border fences, bridges, airstrips, railways, aerodromes and helipads.
  • Works in hospitals or acts as stretcher bearers with frontline troops.
  • Opening and maintenance of Jawahar Tunnel, Zojila Pass, Sadhna & Tithwal Passes (J&K).
  • Laying and breaching of mines and minefields.
  • Carrying back the body bags during ‘Operation Vijay’ in the higher reaches of Kargil, Drass and Mushkoh.
  • Bringing back the wounded from recaptured entrenchments.
  • Expatriating prisoners of war.

The birth of the Pioneer Corps is entwined with the historic struggle for the independence of India. The origin of the Pioneer Corps dates back to 1758 in Madras, where the first Pioneer Companies were formed. By the time World War-I broke out, there were as many as twelve Pioneer regiments consisting of one battalion each of Pioneer in the Indian Army.

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