Soldiers look to the past for professional development
October 10, 2013
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Officers and senior noncommissioned officers of the 174th Infantry Brigade, recently took on roles of Civil War battlefield commanders and walked the hallowed grounds of the war's bloodiest battle, not only to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, but also to improve their own professional development.
"Professional development is not a one-stop shop," said Army Lt. Col. Dwight Griffith, commander, 1st Battalion, 314th Infantry Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade. "It's a process of combining different perspectives to grow leaders that are more competent, confident and self aware."
The Battle of Gettysburg was not only a turning point in the Civil War -- the Union victory ended General Robert E. Lee's second and most ambitious invasion of the North -- but was also the high water mark of the rebellion. With nearly 51,000 casualties, Gettysburg was also the site of President Abraham Lincoln's most memorable speech, the Gettysburg Address.
Dr. Christopher Stowe, War College historian and General Meade expert, accompanied the officers and assisted with the accuracy and detail of the battlefield training.
"This was my second historical staff ride accompanying this brigade, and each time I've been impressed by your group's effort," said Stowe. "Anyone can show up and take a guided tour, but you made the battlefield come alive."
More than 40 leaders in the 174th began preparing for the staff ride several months ago. After a brief battlefield overview given by the brigade commander two months prior, the officers were assigned roles and began studying. Battalion commanders were the Union and Confederate Army commanders, Meade and Lee, while subordinate officers took up the roles of brigade and battalion Civil War leaders on the ground.
In addition to discussing the pivotal battles that took place July 1-3, 1863, each Patriot officer was responsible for providing background on their respective Civil War leader to include education, previous battles, personality traits, and points of interest.
"I Learned more from researching my role and hearing my fellow officer's viewpoints on their generals than I could hope to have learned on my own," said Army Capt. Robin Chao, Team Chief with 1st battalion, 307th Infantry Regiment.
Chao added that Soldiers can learn a lot from doing their own research.
"Studying the small skirmishes and larger battlefield maneuvers, assessing which principles of war prevailed or failed, helps us truly understand the scope of what our Civil War commanders were enduring," said Chao.
"Professional development is a core area of emphasis in today's military," said Griffith. "Events like this help grow our future leaders to be trainers, role models and standard bearers."
Griffith went on to say events like this are also a great tool for senior leaders to assess our junior officers' competence and potential through continuous education and feedback.
"By walking the path of Pickett's charge, I got a better sense of what this battle meant," added Chao. "At the end of the day, recounting Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation brought a sense of closure to our exercise, marking a 'new birth of freedom. ' This was a labor of effort that proved rewarding for all."