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In warfare military geologists pursue five main categories of work: tactical and strategic terrain analysis, fortifications and tunneling, resource acquisition, defense installations, and field construction and logistics. In peace they train for wartime operations and may be involved in peace-keeping and nation-building exercises. Although many geologists view military geology as a branch of engineering geology, the U.S. military does not include geologists in its force structure and gets geological assistance on an ad hoc basis. The army does, however, include organic terrain teams at division and higher levels to provide routine information for mission planning and execution. The classic dilemma for military geology has been whether support can best be provided by civilian technical-matter experts or by uniformed soldiers who routinely work with the combat units.

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