News: DLA historians work to rebuild agency-wide history program
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Garas
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Two historians are working to establish a history program to help connect the Defense Logistics Agency’s mission and employees with its history.
“Learning about the history and heritage of a unit or organization helps connect the workforce and helps instill a sense of pride in the organization,” Harold Raugh, DLA’s agency historian, said. “History forms that overarching umbrella.”
During an Aug. 14 video teleconference with designated field activity history representatives, Raugh explained that the director has called for a reinvigorated history program and careful archiving of current DLA information. During the meeting, Raugh explained the qualifications for and how data should be accumulated and archived. He also explained the importance and reasoning behind compiling the history for the institution.
“It’s really effective in providing institutional memory for the agency,” he said. “It can be used by the senior leadership in the problem solving and decision making processes.”
Field activity representatives document accomplishments, and this allows historians to compile annual strategic overviews, Raugh said.
These overviews serve as a reference from which future generations can determine the progress of an organization, staff historian Chrissie Reilly said.
“It typically winds up being the most requested materials from a history office,” she said. “As individual organizations within an agency change, they often want to see what they did last year.”
An agency’s strategic overview allows various branches within the organization to gather insight on a variety of factors, such as programs that didn’t work, staffing levels, budgets and new initiatives, she said.
Raugh added that it also allows agency leaders to learn from past mistakes.
“There’s also a lessons-learned type of document,” Raugh said. “Hopefully a few years from now someone can ask, ‘Didn’t we do that before?’ and, ‘How did we fix it?’”
Raugh and Reilly said the history program will use multiple methods to capture and preserve DLA’s history.
“This is only one of the many components of the history program,” Raugh said. “We have an oral history interview program; we have a historical artwork program; and we are responsible for professional historical development.”
Both Reilly and Raugh said the initial work to get a history program up and running is challenging, particularly due to the absence of historians at DLA for the past 13 years. They explained that the void created a hodgepodge of historical collections across the agency that need to be brought under one umbrella.
In one example, Reilly described going through a collection of documents and photographs from the DLA Joint Reserve Force that were indexed, labeled and organized by binders.
“We think there’s probably a lot of that throughout the agency,” she said. “The challenge is just finding materials.”
Another problem Raugh mentioned is the digital age itself. Today documents are created digitally, so their deletion is usually permanent and leaves no historical record.
This is where field activity history representatives come in. They’ll work with the DLA historians to find and account for historical information, both hard copy and electronic, in their organizations.
Reilly explained to the organizational representatives that the data they are seeking is often composed of repackaged versions of items many of them already have and that after the program is implemented and becomes routine, the workload for the field activity historical representatives should lessen.
Raugh said he believes the history program will be valuable not just to DLA’s operations, but to the employees themselves.
“It’s really important for us to capture this institutional memory of the agency to help preserve and perpetuate the military history and heritage of DLA,” he said. “People take pride in what they do because their predecessors did it so well, and they want to meet that same standard of excellence.”