By Zach Morgan, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerApril 24, 2009
The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk continue to make history. The 45th Military History Detachment, from Fort Gillem, Ga., validated during a rotation through JRTC with the 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. The detachment, the first of its kind to validate at either JRTC or the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Ca., is one of 25 other MHDs across the Army.
According to Army Field Manual 1-20, Military History Operations, "A military history detachment is a small, independent unit that collects historical material to supplement the historical records of Army units in the field. MHDs consist of three Soldiers.
"Within its geographic area of interest, the MHD is mobile and collects all relevant historical information. Continuous personal liaison with command elements keeps the MHD abreast of unit activities and allows it to provide historical advice and assistance.
"The historical data gathered by the MHDs will be used to write the history of the U.S. Army. This history is used to inform the general public and provide civilian and military scholars with reliable, historical studies and source materials. It also will help provide the basis for developing future Army doctrine, training, leadership, organization, plans, as well as material and management techniques."
Lt. Col. Steven Logan, commander, 45th MHD, explained his unit's experience at JRTC. "We're piggy-backing on the 82nd as they conduct their JRTC rotation, and at the same time we're performing our mission," he said. "We have several irons in the fire. I'm training my unit for our upcoming deployment, we're training with the 82nd and we're getting validated as an MHD. This is the first time an MHD has been validated for deployment at JRTC. MHDs used to complete their initial training and then deploy, but it has been determined that they should complete a JRTC or NTC rotation before deployment."
Logan said the rotation has been beneficial in several ways. "We have learned about what equipment we need," he said. "We brought a printer but it's an office printer. We now know we need a portable printer, because our mission keeps us on the move. These are things you don't know until you get to the field. Our combat skills, as Reservists, are probably not where they need to be. Attending the convoy training and street engagement training has brought us up to speed with our tactics and interacting with the roleplayers has been excellent training. I'm impressed with the 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne. The training has allowed us to hone our skills, refine our paper work and do a better job at collecting information."
Despite the obscurity of the MHD mission, the 45th has been well received by its host unit. "We've been part of the team from day one," Logan said.
"Coordination has been a challenge, but they're working with us," said Master Sgt. Karl Williams, 45th MHD operations NCO. "If I had my choice, I'd be proud and happy to go to combat with the 82nd," Logan said. At press time it was unclear to which theater the 45th would deploy.
Logan explained his unit's mission further:
"We don't actually write the history on-site," he said. "We collect the data and send it back to the Center for Military History in Washington, D.C." Logan said past efforts in historical research have been key in avoiding mistakes. "I'm glad that someone collected information so we don't go down the wrong path on weapons procurement or changing doctrine," he said.
"The MHD mission may not sound important, but as soon as the battle or war is over, the first thing we want is information. We cannot assume that we can get the information from eyewitnesses. It is vitally important that we collect the data as objectively as possible, as soon after the event as we can, to send to the CMH."
Logan's former command was a cavalry squadron of 300 troopers.
"Now I'm commanding a unit of three people. It's quite a different dynamic. We all depend on each other. If anyone goes down, we've lost a third of the unit. We work well together, and that's key for an MHD. If three people are living, sleeping and working together it's important that they get along. My team is gelling," said Logan.
"This assignment has given me a bigger picture of the Army in general, and how history is being made," Williams said.
"I don't have a background in history, so this job is challenging, but interesting. It's a big operation and we can only capture so much. We have a lot of work ahead of us."
"I'm going to recommend to the CMH that all MHDs come to either JRTC or NTC to be validated because this has been a positive and valuable experience for my unit," Logan said.