An emplacement is one way of saying “fighting position” which is the Army way of saying foxhole.
For my first enlistment, this was a small emplacement excavator.
As you might imagine, digging a hole 6’x3’x6’ by hand with that is not merely unpleasant, but also time consuming. And time is the one commodity no commander can ever receive replacements for.
Now, while the primary responsibility for digging an individual emplacement is always with, well, the individual, the Army also realizes that the three-fold mission of Combat Engineers is mobility, countermobility, and survivability. And nothing improves survivability like a good fighting position. And so the Army sought to field a vehicle that could help the poor grunts dig in faster.
The result was the rather ungainly SEE, or Small Emplacement Excavator. By attaching several hydraulic accessories to the popular German made Unimog truck, the Engineers had backhoe/bucket loader with respectable on road speed, and theoretical off road mobility.
As a grunt, I very rarely saw a SEE, but when I did, it was certainly nice to watch someone else dig a hole for me.
But while I liked the SEE, it was, in my experience, pretty much universally loathed by the operators. It was quite top heavy, and aside from plowing snow, the front bucket was next to useless for earthmoving. It did however, aid in stability when using the backhoe.
Entering in service in 1985, and widely fielded within just a couple years, the Army officially phased them out in 2005, th0ugh a few served a couple more years.
The need for a similar vehicle hadn’t gone away, however. So the Army instead turned to the HMEE, High Mobility Engineering Excavator. Made by British tractor company JCB, the “Himmy” fulfills the same role, but on a purpose built chassis. It shares a similar layout to most backhoes, but is much faster on a roadway, while still maintaining good off road mobility.
First fielded in 2007, the Army bought about 800 units.
In the end though, most of the time, the average grunt will still be digging his own position.