By Dustin Perry, U.S. Army Inspector General AgencyMay 24, 2018
WASHINGTON (May 24, 2018) -- A 5.5-mile trek through Manassas National Battlefield Park in northern Virginia provided a group of inspectors general with a history lesson that doubled as an opportunity for professional development.
Nearly 30 members of the Department of the Army Inspector General's Assistance Division visited the historic Civil War battle site April 12 for a "staff ride," a common Army event in which Soldiers tour a battlefield, analyze key events that took place during the conflict, and determine any relevant insights they can apply to their current day-to-day missions.
Manassas National Battlefield Park is a 5,000-acre expanse in Prince William County, Virginia, where the historic first Battle of Bull Run--the first major battle of the Civil War, also known as the First Battle of Manassas--was fought in July 1861. The second Battle of Bull Run took place there one year later. Now overseen by the National Park Service, Manassas Battlefield Park draws approximately 15 million visitors annually.
Col. Lawrence Aiello, the Assistance Division chief, suggested the staff ride as a way to give his Soldiers a brief but productive respite from their daily office environment, said Maj. Deana Gomez, who helped organize the event.
"This staff ride gave us the chance to learn about the history of this area and the Manassas battlefield, and to try to get an idea of what role the IG played in that history," said Gomez. "We were able to look back on it from our modern perspective and say, 'Where can we, as the IG, make the leaders' and Soldiers' jobs easier or their situation better by being involved with it?'"
The group's tour was a 5.5-mile hike along a looped trail that took them through several notable sites of the first Battle of Manassas. The first site they visited was Matthews Hill, which was the site of the initial combat between Union and Confederate forces. Next was the historic Stone House, which, during the Civil War, served as a makeshift hospital. Further along their route was Henry Hill, the site of a fierce artillery clash. A house belonging to Judith Carter Henry, a widow, was located in the middle of the battle. Henry refused to evacuate her home and was killed by cannon fire.
Jim Burgess, who has worked at Manassas National Battlefield Park since 1980, served as the group's tour guide. An Army veteran, Burgess was stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia, for nearly three years. It was there that he "caught the Civil War bug" and became deeply interested in its history. He started doing volunteer work at local historic sites and was later selected to work at the National Mall during the Bicentennial celebration in 1976. Burgess was then selected for a work detail at Manassas four years later and was selected for a permanent position shortly after.
"Because of my military background, I oftentimes get assigned these staff rides," said Burgess. "Generally, [military groups] are very interested in the tour, and of course they're always happy to get away from the office for a little while. It is also useful for their job assignments as well. It was a good group; they had some good questions."
Burgess told the group how Stone House had issues with organization and cleanliness, making it a less-than-ideal environment for the wounded patients who were housed there. There was also no regulation as to when and how the railroad system was used during the battle. Burgess explained that the adjutant for the Confederate forces also served as the inspector general. His record-keeping and efforts to regulate the sterility of the hospital and the use of the railroad were "game changers," said Gomez.
Maj. Christopher Urynowicz, an investigator in the IG's Whistleblower Reprisal section, said the tour was very enlightening from an IG perspective. Urynowicz, also a history buff, said he has visited Battlefield Park several times. Though a frequent visitor there, Urynowicz said he learned a lot about the battle itself--and the IG's contributions--that he previously did not know.
"This tour was a great opportunity to get out in a non-paperwork setting and actually do some walking on the battlefield," said Urynowicz. "I think we're blessed in this area with such a rich history, with all the battlefields that are in areas that are kept up."
Gomez said the staff ride helped build camaraderie among her co-workers and allowed them to engage with those they don't see on a daily basis.
"The IG system has been around for a long time, but to learn a little more about ... a specific point in history when the IG was involved was pretty interesting," said Gomez. "In the military, we get stationed in so many different places. I think it's important to take advantage of that and learn about things in the area where you're stationed because you may never go back there again."