Army Logistics University students get unique look at Civil War battle
April 25, 2012
By Amy Perry
HOPEWELL, Va. (April 25, 2012) -- All officers experience staff rides throughout their Army careers, but very few take a look at the operational strategic level like students from the Theater Logistics Studies Program from the Army Logistics University here.
The TLOG class produces officers -- and now sergeants major -- who are trained to operate at the sustainment brigade, expeditionary sustainment command and theater sustainment command levels, said Lt. Col. Alex Greenwich, TLOG director.
Last week, nearly 30 students participated in a weeklong staff ride that examined the overland campaign led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War.
"We surpassed the traditional staff ride where tactical plans are the central focus. We looked at the battlefields. We talked about the events surrounding the battle that led to the decisions by Grant," said Greenwich. "We wrapped it up at City Point (in Hopewell), which was the logistics hub for the remainder of the war and during the Siege of Petersburg. We looked at the operational logistics and how it impacted the Civil War."
The class studied the Wilderness Battlefield (near Fredericksburg), Spotsylvania Battlefield, Carmel Church and North Anna Battlefield, Hanover Battlefield, Cold Harbor Battlefield, Wilson Crossing (near the James River Crossing site), and City Point.
On April 19, the class spent the morning discussing the logistics behind Grant's crossing of the James River.
Soldiers from Fort Eustis' 1098th Transportation Detachment, 24th Trans Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, traveled to Wilson Crossing with their Landing Craft Mechanized vessels to bring the TLOG students to the point where Grant's forces crossed the river.
"Whenever you look at a map of the James River, you can't really gain an appreciation of the width of the river, and the fact that, despite the limited technology back then, they spanned the river with a pontoon bridge," said Greenwich. "The James River is a tidal river so you get currents going both ways. When you get a chance to get them out of the classroom and look at the ground and orient it, there's a much better appreciation of the terrain and what the Soldiers were going through during the war.
"Of course, we could do this in a classroom, but you don't get the impact," he continued. "You don't feel the weather, you don't see the current."
Sgt. Maj. Sean Rice, an S-3 operations sergeant major from Fort Bragg's 82nd Sustainment Brigade and the first enlisted Soldier to attend the TLOG course, was part of the group responsible for the briefing about the crossing of the James River.
"The historian does a broad overview of it, and each of us is tasked to speak about a specific portion in detail," Rice said. "It forces us to do research to bring light to the staff ride."
Actually going out to the place where Grant's troops crossed the river really helped the class put the event into perspective, said Rice, and they could really imagine how they utilized joint operations between the Army and Navy to cross the river.
Dr. Steve Anders, the CASCOM historian, helps guide the students through the battles. He and his Ordnance and Transportation counterparts help teach the historical perspectives during the staff rides for officers going through ALU throughout their various classes.
"These staff rides are training exercises," said Anders. "The Army does hands-on training exercises as much as possible. The staff rides give the students a look at real events from the past.
"You don't know what lies ahead," he continued. "And in the present, the operation tempo is fast moving. But the past is a way to examine how other armies have been successful."
The TLOG class has more involvement in its staff rides, as the students are responsible for briefing each aspect of the campaign, and Anders gives them an overview of the battles. In other classes, the historians and instructors have much more involvement.
In studying the past, the class gets an opportunity to see the commonalities between operations past and present, said Anders.
"As logistic Soldiers, they are interested in sustaining Soldiers," Anders sad. "During this campaign, we watched how an army maneuvered in the field and kept its troops supplied. I remind them that from Hannibal to Hitler, from Caesar to Schwarzkopf, there are certain principles: one of them being that an army without supplies is a defeated army."
The most important aspect of the staff ride is integration where the students make connections from past operations to current ones, said Anders.
"It's important to make it not just a history lesson," he said. "It's a training exercise. If you don't connect the past to the present, then it's not a good exercise. The integration is key."