By Capt. Charlie Dietz, 214th Fires Brigade PAOMay 30, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla.-- The command teams from the 214th Fires Brigade were ready to partake in their quarterly Soldier caring boards May 14 and 15 in their normal conference room, however the brigade commander, Col. Timothy Daugherty, decided to make the boards more enjoyable by taking the group to Muskogee, Okla., for a few extracurricular events.
The Soldier caring boards are a round table discussion between the brigade commander and command teams from each company or battery within the brigade. It serves as an opportunity to not only check on such issues as high-risk Soldiers, status of non-deployable Soldiers and serious incident reports, it also serves as a sharing time of new ideas.
"I wanted something that these commanders and first sergeants would remember. Rather than just sit around a table and discuss our Soldier caring boards, I decided to take these leaders out and let them experience a bit of history, give back to our veterans and still do the boards in an enjoyable setting," said Daugherty.
The two day trip started with a visit to Honey Springs Battlefield in Checotah, Okla. The engagement between the Union and Confederate armies at Honey Springs was the largest of more than 107 documented hostile encounters in the Indian Territory. Cherokee and Creek regiments fought on both sides of the battle with more than 9,000 men serving, including the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, the first black regiment in the Union army.
All of the brigade's commanders previously studied the battlefield and briefed the group on the battles on the actual sites during the day. This was a way for them to not only learn some history, but see how other military leaders' actions affected the war.
"The top thing I found interesting was that a quarter of combat power was lost because the gun powder got wet. I was reminded here that we really need to lead from the front, just like the Union general involved here, even if you're sick, like he was, or times are getting hard," said Capt. Joshua Wade, 609th Forward Support Company commander.
Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Bonham, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery CSM, told the command teams what he found to be the biggest take away from the battles.
"We have to do more with less today just like they did here. We need to fight battles smarter and with lower numbers. If we are well trained and do proper combat checks and inventories while assessing our avenues of approach, we will not make the same mistakes that many men made here," said Bonham.
Even the park ranger of Honey Springs, Christopher Price, seemed impressed with the analysis of the battle by the Soldiers.
"This is really an under-researched battle that really only historians or family members of the Soldiers who fought here pay much attention to. It's great to see these current Soldiers doing things like analyzing battle positions and discussing the logistics of war," said Price.
Following the battlefield trip, the teams visited the Jack C. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Muskogee. The group received a quick brief about services the VA offers and then set off to hang out with patients and let them know that they care. One worker said that they have never hosted an active duty Army group in the years that he had worked there.
"I really enjoy coming out here and giving these veterans the opportunity to tell their stories. We can relate and discuss our shared misery of being a grunt and through this let them know that we are going through similar struggles that they had when they were in," said 1st Sgt. Johannes Bowers, 529th Network Support Company.
"It is a really good feeling to be an outlet for them and remind them that they are still relevant and that we are working on their legacy, striving to make improvements. I believe they appreciate seeing that their hard work so long ago wasn't for nothing," he said.
Benita McClellan, the public affairs representative for the VA center, said the patients just want to talk to someone who understands what they are going through and are extremely thankful for the chance to do so.
Daugherty wanted to keep the trip as cheap as possible and called VFW Post 474 in Muskogee. He talked with retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Rowland, VFW state service officer, and asked if they could sleep there and host the brigade's boards in the morning. Rowland agreed and even cooked dinner for all 47 Soldiers.
"We were extremely pleased to host these Soldiers here. Being all former combat veterans we brought it up to our meetings and everyone said 'Sure, why not?'" said Rowland.
"We don't have any showers, but we figured that these were Army guys and they'd be okay, especially since they're sleeping on cots. This is something we haven't done before, and we were all very happy to open up and host a group like this," he said.
The following morning the teams conducted their Soldier caring boards, discussing issues and accomplishments with the other command teams. They first went over physical fitness plans that were working; commanders talked how to remind Soldiers that they care about them, and the brigade commander delivered his intent with the brigade's programs, amongst other discussions.
The teams left the VFW and went to War Memorial Park to walk along the USS Batfish and discuss its history with a former Sailor who was aboard the ship. The group agreed that the trip was very memorable and far more enjoyable than staying in the conference room.