Staff Ride gives leaders glimpse into past lessons
April 30, 2014
FORT OGLETHORPE, Ga. - Members of the 314th Press Camp Headquarters recently toured the expansive battlefield at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park not only to learn about history, but to take away lessons in leadership they hope will help them make better decisions in the future.
"There is no greater place to learn leadership lessons from a historical battlefield than here," said James Ogden, staff historian at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. "The veterans who fought here and hallowed this ground envisioned this place as a giant outdoor classroom not just for future civilians, but future military professionals."
The soldiers of the 314th took part in a long-standing Army tradition called the staff ride, where officers and senior non-commissioned officers tour a battlefield to understand higher level decision-making, tactics and leadership. Several of the unit's leaders role-played as generals who fought in the battle and gave briefings to their fellow soldiers.
"The staff ride program is important to the development of the officer corps and the senior NCO corps," said Lt. Col. Stephen Harlan, commander of the 314th PCH. "I want our officers and NCOs to see that leadership challenges are not something new to today's Army. Hopefully, they can apply historical leadership lessons to what they might experience in their own careers."
In the fall of 1863, the Union and Confederate armies clashed at Chickamauga, just one of the many battles fought to determine the fate of the nation. Though that battle has faded into history, its lessons about leadership remain clear to this day.
"A lot of lessons about leadership, both good and bad, can be gleaned from a battlefield such as this one," said Dr. John Boyd, the command historian for the 81st Regional Support Command. "If just one soldier learns a lesson that one day helps them to make a decision that saves lives, it's absolutely worth it."
As the two great armies battled all those years ago, men desperately fought for their lives as their commanders tried to make sense out of the chaos. Split-second decisions, made by stressed and sleep-deprived commanders under the worst of circumstances, often ended up costing lives as wells as changing the course of history.
"That is one of the main lessons our military leaders can learn here: How do you function in such a desperate environment and deal with great adversity?" Boyd said. "But you can see that the men who fought here had a spirit of never giving up, no matter how much pressure they were under."
Capt. Sara Morris, the briefing officer for the 314th, did extensive research about the battle at Chickamauga as well as Gen. Braxton Bragg in preparation for the staff ride. Morris said learning about how Bragg meticulously prepared his battle plan, as well as how it fell apart as the fighting began, was an eye-opening experience.
"There were a lot of lessons to be learned about battle planning and preparation," Morris said. "Building successful relationships with subordinates is definitely something I learned is important after reading about how Gen. Bragg's relationships with his officers impacted the battle. I'll definitely be able to take what I learned here today and apply those lessons as my own career progresses."