News: Leaders learn lessons from Civil War battlefield, each other
Story by Staff Sgt. Jacob McDonald
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Leaders with 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne), 82nd Airborne Division, traveled to Fredericksburg, Va., and Washington on a staff ride May 5 through May 7 to build teamwork and learn how the past has affected the way we fight wars today.
More than 55 officers and senior enlisted Soldiers from across the brigade participated in the three day event that included a visit to the Fredericksburg battlefield, Arlington National Cemetery and the National Mall.
Before leaving for the ride, the Soldiers involved were tasked with learning about individual parts of the Fredericksburg battlefield and preparing briefings about the conflicts, movements and skirmishes.
"We were given questions to focus us and help us analyze what we were looking a," said Capt. Jason Jones, commander, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS). "It helped us add some critical thought into the strategy and tactics."
They took what they learned in their research and prepared a brief to present on the battlefield.
"We took a battle that was more than 100 years old and analyzed it to see how it applied today and where our doctrine comes from," Jones said.
First Sgt. Elroy Grant, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 18th Fires Bde. (ABN), said some of the challenges the Civil War Soldiers faced are similar to the challenges facing troops today.
"It allowed us to compare the battles from the past to the ones we fight in the present," Grant said. "You get to actually see how it relates to the current war, the challenges they faced back then and whether or not we face some of the same challenges. Some of them we face, but a lot of them we have overcome."
As they toured the battlefield on the second day of the trip, they followed Mr. Frank O'Reilly, the Fredericksburg National Battlefield Historian, through the course of the battle visiting sites like the Rappahannock River crossing, Chatham House, Prospect Hill, Marye's Heights and Pelham's Corner. Grant said having the historian with them gave them more insight into the battle and how it played out.
"It actually expanded my knowledge of the battle of Fredericksburg," Grant said. "I knew about it, but I didn't know it in that detail. Mr. O'Reilly was very energetic and enthusiastic with his briefing. It was outstanding."
Other participants were also impressed with the knowledge they were able to glean from the tour.
"A definite highlight was being able to see the battlefield from both sides of the fight in each of the areas we studied," said Maj. Robert Hurd, brigade S4, 18th Fires Bde. (ABN). "We got to see the battle and the challenges and obstacles they faced from the Union and the Confederate sides. We got to see the battle unfolding and the decisions that were made that affected the outcome."
On the final day of the trip the Soldiers held a leader run on the National Mall, visiting memorials along the way.
"We ran from monument to monument around the National Mall. We ran from Lincoln's Memorial across to the Korean War Memorial, then to the Vietnam Memorial and sprinted all the way up to the World War II Memorial," Jones said.
Grant was grateful for the early morning run and the opportunity to get out before the tourists.
"One of the advantages to getting up that early and doing the PT was it allowed us to see the sites and monuments almost unimpeded," he said.
Later in the day the Soldiers traveled to Arlington National Cemetery and toured the grounds.
"For me a personal highlight was getting to go to Arlington since I had never been there," Hurd said. "I also got to see the grave of a friend who was buried there that I hadn't seen."
Jones said he felt the trip was a great opportunity for the leaders to take the time to learn something and grow professionally.
"It took the commanders out of their every day job and away from the day-to-day work to get professional development," he said. "We get locked up in the day-to-day business and we forget that not just our Soldiers need professional development, we need it too."
Jones said even though he is from the area and knows it well, he still learned from the experience.
"I am a history major and I am from that area in Virginia, so I already knew about the battlefield and the history, but it was still a big learning experience for me," Jones said. "Not everyone is a history major and not everyone is from Virginia, but everyone there together helped me learn more about teamwork and critical thinking. We all come from different backgrounds and we all have different education levels, but we all bring something to the team."