WHINSEC CGSOC Staff Ride in a Two-Century-Old Tradition
By Assistant Professor Ruben D. Colon, History and Leadership Department, CGSOC August 16, 2016The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) Command & General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC) staff ride to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, on August 8th and 9th, which carries on a tradition that began in Germany in the 19th Century. CGSOC Class of 2017’s 66 students were making a historical study of operational leadership during the United States Civil War as a tool to aid their professional judgment and understanding of the strategic and operational ideas during combat. Students used the historical analogies found during the battle at Chickamauga to analyze, explain, and comprehend contemporary events and relate them to future issues during military operations. The staff ride was preceded by classroom study of the battle of Chickamauga to prepare the students for the visit to the battlefield. Phase II was the actual visit on the ground at Chickamauga, where the students were challenged to identify the critical issues and problems facing commanders during this battle. Phase III concluded the staff ride allowing students to reflect on their experiences and integrating all they learned of the attributes demonstrated by leaders during the Chickamauga Campaign. Mexican Army Colonel Alejandro Nuñez Robles, a partner-nation instructor at the Institute, was the primary instructor for this event, steering the students through the learning objectives. Mr. David S. Stieghan, the Infantry Branch Historian at the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, and Mr. James Odgen, a Park Ranger at Chickamauga, provided insight at areas that were strategically important during the complex battle at Chickamauga. Their expertise, knowledge and understanding of the battle augmented the learning objectives students had prepared during their presentations. At one site on the battlefield, Stieghan arranged students into the rank and file formations used at Chickamauga. He then simulated a maneuver across the old battlefield in order for students to experience some of the confusion and duress that both Union and Confederate troops felt during the battles of that campaign. Students admired Stieghan’s approach, one commenting that “the rank and file exercise gave [the participants] an appreciation for the difficulties in battle that leaders faced then and still face today.” The staff ride is a tradition that began in Germany during late 19th century as a tour of specific Napoleonic battle positions to train the German general staff officers to study the failures and successes of events in combat that offer lessons that can be applied by leaders in the future. The CGSOC class of 2017 is composed of field grade officers from the U.S. Army’s active component, U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps; and military and law enforcement officers from the nations of Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. Logistical support for the staff ride was provided by U.S. Army Major Jacob Kim and Mr. Pedro Valle of WHINSEC School of Professional Military Education, with Mrs. Maria Marrero and Mrs. Ana Brewington, Translation Division, providing interpretation services.