The Fort Knox Medical Department Activity participated in a staff ride to the Perryville Battlefield. Staff rides are conducted as learning opportunities about military operations, concepts in leadership, and an appreciation for the type of terrain where historic battles were fought.
Dale Davis, a curriculum developer at U. S. Army Cadet Command, facilitated the staff ride and provided additional educational information to MEDDAC members. “Techniques and equipment may change, but a lot of other things don’t. So you take an organization out to a battlefield and let them see the environment those soldiers were in,” said Davis.
“As I was researching, the unit my leader was from was the 123d Illinois, which has a personal tie to my family,” said Cpt. Wendy Dwigans, Fort Knox MEDDAC Chief Army Hearing Program. “My husband’s two-time great grandfather served in the 123d Illinois, and we discovered this was his first battle.”
Dwigans said this was her first staff ride, and having the personal tie to her family made seeing the terrain and conditions that the Soldiers fought in gave her a new appreciation for the trials they faced. “It is humbling to learn how they marched 70 miles from Louisville in a drought, where most of the Soldiers were thirsty, and then sort of happened upon the battle here by chance.”
Davis highlighted this fact during the staff ride. Pointing out that it is easy to read about historic battles in a book, and say ‘Why didn’t they do this?’ or ‘Why didn’t they try that?’ When you get on the grounds and see the real environment, it paints a clearer picture of how it all came to be.
“My favorite lesson to emphasize at Perryville is mission command. There are opposing vignettes that highlight the book ends of styles of leadership used,” said Davis. “The vignette of Medal of Honor awardee Pvt. William H. Surles, showcases trust built over time by those commanders, while other organizations would not even speak to their commanders.”
“We need to bring these lessons forward into our operations today, because the Soldiers at this battle paid for that with their blood, sweat and tears,” said Davis. “So we need to learn from their example and carry those lessons learned forward with us today.”