Staff ride carries on tradition that began in Germany

Park Ranger James Ogden orients CGSOC students to the terrain of the first day's Battle of Chickamauga, which occurred Sept. 18, 1863. The three-day engagement was the biggest battle fought in Georgia.

Park Ranger James Ogden orients CGSOC students to the terrain of the first day’s Battle of Chickamauga, which occurred Sept. 18, 1863. The three-day engagement was the biggest battle fought in Georgia.

By Ruben D. Colon, WHINSEC /

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Command and General Staff Officer Course staff ride to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Aug 8-9 carries on a tradition that began in Germany in the 19th century.

Sixty-six students made a historical study of operational leadership during the U.S. 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 of 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 identified the critical issues and problems facing commanders during this battle. Phase III concluded the staff ride where students reflected on their experiences and integrated all they learned of the attributes demonstrated by leaders during the Chickamauga Campaign.

Mexican army Col. Alejandro Nuñez Robles, a partner-nation instructor at the Institute, was the primary instructor for this event, steering the students through the learning objectives.

David Stieghan, the Infantry Branch historian at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, and James Odgen, a park ranger at Chickamauga, provided insight at areas that were strategically important during the complex Battle of 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 said they 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 Maj. Jacob Kim and Mr. Pedro Valle of WHINSEC School of Professional Military Education, with Maria Marrero and Ana Brewington, Translation Division, providing interpretation services.

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