Army Contracting Command-Aberdeen Proving Ground hosted the first of three Civil War staff rides as part of a leadership development program.

On Thursday, June 8, 15 employees from ACC-APG took a field trip to Antietam National Battlefield, the site of the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.

Park Ranger Keith Snyder, their tour guide for the day, greeted them at the battlefield. The tour began with a 20-minute video at the visitor center that explained what took place on that fateful day. The group then moved upstairs to get a panoramic view of the battlefield as Snyder pointed out the locations mentioned in the video.

The group then visited key locations on the battlefield as Snyder described what took place at each one. They walked the hallowed grounds, learning the strategies, maneuvers and countermeasures Generals Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander, and George B. McClellan, the Union commander, employed during the battle. Standing in the actual locations provided the group with a perspective that a picture or description could never clearly communicate.

They saw how terrain dictated the generals' decisions and ultimately the battle's outcome. The group learned how the two Armies' leaders and Soldiers responded to ever changing conditions with resolve, determination and tenacity. The tour group also learned how effective leaders must quickly analyze a situation, develop a plan of action, render a decision, and motivate personnel to execute the decision to achieve a favorable outcome.

The tour ended with a stop at the Antietam National Cemetery where the victims of the battle were interred years after the actual battle. They came upon a monument within the center of the cemetery known as the "Private Soldier". The monument is a likeness of a Union soldier, who is facing north. The inscription reads "Not for themselves but for their country", a sentiment that still rings true today with our armed forces.

The team-building event was held at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland and it is located about two hours west of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Antietam National Battlefield is one of the 390 parks within the National Park System. The battle at Antietam is so-named because it took place along the Antietam Creek. On Sept. 17, 1862, 23,000 soldiers were either killed, wounded or missing after 12 hours of savage combat. The battle lines did not shift significantly that day, so the Union saw it as a win because they were able to hold back the Confederate Army. The battle marked the end of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia's first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln's issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

After spending a beautiful, sunny day at the site of the nation's deadliest battle, team members returned to APG with a far greater appreciation and respect for the gallant men who bravely fought at Antietam. They also returned with a better understanding of the complexities and challenges leaders face and the responsibilities leaders have for their team members.