By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsApril 19, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 19, 2018) -- Fort Drum community members have an opportunity to help tell the Army story by becoming a volunteer oral historian.
The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center's (USAHEC) Veterans Ambassador Program is a nationwide initiative to train volunteers as oral historians who collect stories from veterans for inclusion in the Army's historical archives. The USAHEC, part of the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, is the Army's historical archives and research center dedicated to the preservation of Soldier History.
A two-day training event is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 23-24 at the Robert C. McEwen Library and Education Center. Registration is limited to 20 participants.
The USHEC has been collecting veterans' stories for years but the VAP is a relatively new program, according to Karl Warner, USAHEC program and education coordinator. He said that they hope to recruit close to 30 active volunteers from states along the east coast by the end of May.
"We always need hard-working volunteers willing to learn and stay flexible to help us collect the Army's story," he said. "Our team is small, and the ambassadors provide us the leverage we need to reach as many Army veterans as possible. We are making a push now because the VAP is finally ready, after five years of hard work, to go national."
Warner said that the long-term goal is to recruit and train small cadres of volunteers throughout the country so that, eventually, there will be at least one ambassador in each community.
An ambassador's mission is threefold -- represent, distribute and collect. They are responsible for representing the USAHEC and VAP in their community by talking with veterans about the program. Volunteers distribute the Veterans Service Survey, an eight-page questionnaire that captures the most essential information about the veteran. The survey serves as both a historical document and a reference for ambassadors to prepare for oral history interviews. Finally, the ambassadors are trained to prepare for, conduct and collect interviews with Army veterans in their community.
"The ideal ambassador is ready to work, is smart and mentally flexible, is a 'people person' and, most importantly, is enthusiastic about preserving the Army's story from the Soldier's point of view," Warner said. "Every Army veteran's story is important, and there is no requirement to have military background or formal history education to be an ambassador."
Warner said that anyone can become a volunteer oral historian, as long as they have the time, inclination and desire to serve as ambassadors. He said that some people only conduct one or two interviews a year, others only when they find a veteran who interest them, while some conduct monthly interviews or wait for a unit reunion so they can collect several interviews at once.
"The commitment we do ask is that if an ambassador starts the process of collecting an oral history, they stick with it until the interview is complete," Warner said. "To maintain an 'active status' in the program, the ambassador only must work with me regularly to accomplish as least one of the three main missions of the program."
To register for the two-day course at Fort Drum, contact Warner as email@example.com or (717) 245-4491.
"Being an ambassador may not be for everyone, but it is one of the most fulfilling things someone can do," he said. "By collecting and preserving a Soldier's story, that Soldier's experiences live forever."