By Melody EverlyJune 8, 2017
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 8, 2017) -- Members of the Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) Inspector General's Office spent the morning of June 5 immersed in the history of their field of service during a visit to the New York State Steuben Memorial Historic Site in Remsen.
Located on top of a hill overlooking the rural countryside, the memorial was built in honor of Frederich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben, or Baron von Steuben, who was the first effective U.S. Army inspector general.
In 1777, Steuben, a Prussian native who had previously served as a captain in the Germany army, volunteered his services to Benjamin Franklin and was sent to Valley Forge, Pa., to advise a poorly structured and largely untrained Army composed of farmers and tradesmen.
New York State Park Ranger Dave Bandych spoke of the important role that Steuben played in helping to transform the Continental Army from a disorganized mob into a cohesive team of war-fighters.
"The Continental Army was a force made up of tradesmen and laborers -- none of them were professional Soldiers," Bandych said. "There was no set standard in terms of how they trained, so nobody knew how to march together, fire together or how to work together on the battlefield."
Steuben formed an honor guard composed of 120 men from various regiments. He developed guidelines and performance standards, and worked day and night to train these individuals, earning the nickname the "Drillmaster of the American Revolution."
Once the members of this elite honor guard were trained to his satisfaction, he sent them back to their regiments, where they, in turn, were responsible for training the remainder of the Soldiers according to these newly defined standards. In effect, he had created the first noncommissioned officer corps.
In addition to basic training principles, Steuben also taught the troops how to perform inspections, march in formation, perform sentry and guard duties, and to use bayonets in combat. This new program instilled confidence within the ranks, boosted morale, and strengthened the Army.
"By the time the Army marched out of Valley Forge in 1778, they were no longer a mob that vaguely traveled in the same direction, but an Army marching together," Bandych said. "Von Steuben had transformed these civilians into an Army of Soldiers able to fight toe-to-toe with the well-trained armed forces of Europe."
As a result of his success in training the Soldiers at Valley Forge, George Washington officially appointed him inspector general of the Army and asked him to compile his standards and guidelines in the format of a manual to be used across the entire Army. Steuben wrote "Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States," a manual that would later be adapted into the "Blue Book," which remains the definitive guide to Army standards and organization.
After concluding his service with the Army, Steuben was awarded a land grant, and he built an estate in the hills of Remsen.
The visit to the historic site concluded with a tour of a wooded five-acre plot known as the "Sacred Grove." The trees in the grove had intentionally been planted in neat rows, Bandych said.
"They were planted in this way as a representation of the Continental Army in formation -- a sort of eternal honor guard for von Steuben," he said.
Inside the grove, a large monument marked the final resting place of the man whose work has proved instrumental to defining military organization and operating procedures.
Lt. Col. Todd Bajakian, command inspector general for Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division (LI), said that it was wonderful to have the historical site located in such close proximity to the installation.
Bajakian said that the role of the inspector general is to be the "eyes, ears, voice and conscience of the commanding general," and to report on the "readiness and efficiency of the division." He said that inspector generals have four functions -- to teach and train, to assist, to inspect, and to investigate.
"All of those four functions require us to be intellectually curious, and this site provides an opportunity to feed that curiosity and to learn more about the person who was the founder of our branch of services," he said.
Bajakian said that Steuben's work was an essential part of shaping and molding the future of the Army.
"Steuben understood the importance of having established standards," he said. "Before he developed these standards, the Continental Army was just a mass of farmers and tailors. Once the standards were put in place, then we really had a fighting force, capable of defeating the most powerful army of the time."
While guidelines and methods of operation have been modified and adapted over the years, one thing that has not changed is the need for the clear standards, Bajakian said.
"As inspector generals, it's our job to teach those standards, to assist Soldiers and leaders in understanding them and -- through the inspection process -- to ensure that they are being met," he said. "Meeting the standards is essential to the Army's No. 1 mission -- Soldier readiness."