Recognizing that a wide aperture would permit a greater impact for its ability to achieve its mission, SAME upon inception, drew the lines for membership “on the broadest possible lines consistent with the achievement of its aims.”
Members came from the U.S. Army’s Construction Division, Quartermaster Corps, Air Service and Tank Corps, alongside members of the Geological and Geodetic Surveys, the Forestry and Reclamation Service, and the U.S. Navy. Professionals in civilian positions at industry firms, the railroads, and municipalities joined in equal standing. Likewise, the lines for discussion were drawn across aisles, encouraging members to avoid “the narrow development which so greatly restricts his usefulness.”
Articles from the Postmaster General, the Park Service, the Secretary of Labor, the newly formed Bureau of Standards, and by the Director of the Bureau of Investigation by the name of J. Edgar Hoover were given a place in The Military Engineer alongside technical reports and first-hand military field accounts. This comprehensive and inclusive approach to the full development and enrichment of members continues to this day as articles from the engineering chiefs of the uniformed services lay alongside detailed project examinations by industry practitioners.
Throughout the histories of SAME and TME, the subject of engineering for national security has remained intentionally broad—because national security is best defined broadly, as it encompasses defense, diplomacy, transportation, logistics, public health, the economy, research and technology, and education, training, and leader development.
As the Society celebrates its Centennial in 2020 and enters its second century of service, it has cultivated the 2025 SAME Strategic Plan around supporting these very inter-related aspects, and how the organization’s members, partners and stakeholders throughout the engineering profession, collectively, are prepared and equipped to advance them.
The principal nature of the Society then, and today, has remained the same: enabling professionals from military, government, industry and academia to come together, make connections, develop relationships, and build trust. By creating a network to share information, identify challenges, and document lessons learned, the engineering profession has remained ready to support America in times or war and peace.
While the founders of SAME admonished the engineering community for a lack of preparedness when the United States entered World War I (admittedly, few foresaw the incredible demand placed on engineering capabilities in the conflict), they accepted responsibility to help ensure it would not happen again.
From the November-December 1921 issue of The Military Engineer: “Our future armies, like our A. E. F. in the World War, will consist of a mixture of professional military men and civilians with only a small amount of military training. The military mind and the non-military mind must co-operate in a common cause. To bring these two classes together and to hold them together in time of peace, to enable each to appreciate and in the greatest possible measure to share the point of view of the other, thus paving the way for more effective co-operation in time of war, is the aim and purpose of our Society. This basic idea cannot, we believe, be too often repeated.”
While the roles and responsibilities of military engineering professionals have evolved over the last century, and the challenges and the circumstances different that draw members together, the importance of enhancing collaboration to secure the nation’s future has remained at the core of SAME’s mission for 100 years—and, just as then, it cannot be too often repeated.
The Society of American Military Engineers is now 100. Founded in 1920, in the interests of patriotism and national security, the organization has never wavered from a vow to support the needs of the United States and strengthen the profession of engineering. As was stated in the inaugural issue of The Military Engineer a century ago: “this Society will serve no selfish purpose.”
The genesis of SAME was born from the lessons of World War I, and the realization of those who went “over there” that the engineering community was unprepared for what was confronted. That prescient leadership would prove invaluable, as “The War to End All Wars” was anything but.
During 2020, the Society is celebrating a century of service to the nation through local and national events, programs and special activities, and coverage in print and online. At Bricks & Clicks, we will be publishing information from the TME archives, capturing the growth of SAME and the emergence of engineering and technology on the world’s stage. Follow and contribute using #SAME100.