The tradition of the Staff Ride dates back to the early 1900s when Maj. Eben Swift, the assistant commandant of the General Service and Staff School Fort Leavenworth, Kansas would take students to visit Civil War battlefields.
Today, units across the Army, like the North Carolina National Guard’s 139th Regional Training Institute, still conduct Staff Rides as a way to enhance professional military education and training.
For the 139th’s Officer Candidate School Class 61 the Chancellorsville Battlefield near Fredericksburg, Virginia on May 3-4, 2019 gave the students an opportunity to discuss tactics and evaluate the decisions of leaders who came before them.
The 16 students were each assigned a leader certain leader at different points in the battle and presented the information they gathered about what the leaders were doing during specific moments in the battle.
“We have to learn from history, or we keep making the same mistakes,” said 1st Lt. Miles Komuves, an OCS instructor with the 139th RTI. “It makes it real. You can teach lessons in the classroom and people learn different ways, but here they are walking around on some of the same terrains and exploring some of these ideas that they learn in the classroom and applying them out there. The value of learning from history never diminishes.”
Maj. Ryan Shields the OCS company commander with the 139th RTI said the goal is for students to be able to look at the decisions some leaders made during the battle and formulate how they would have made those same decisions with the skills they have learned through the OCS program.
“It gives them a good understanding of how leaders in certain positions formulate and execute plans,” Shields said. “It also gives them a great opportunity to visualize what they have learned in the OCS program and they can apply that moving forward.”
The staff ride is seen as a culminating event for the class before they enter the last few months of OCS, Shields said many students in previous programs have come to him and said the staff ride was where the training really clicked for them.
“One of the most important things that I’m getting out of this is the perspective from the different military leaders through the war and being able to apply that perspective to today’s fighting,” said Tim Marshburn, one of the Officer Candidates in Class 61. “Being able to put it all together and apply the tactics and troop leading procedures to the different sections of the battle brings all the training into perspective.”
Several leaders from throughout the NCNG also attended the staff ride to help provide insight into the decisions based on their career fields including a medical officer, an armor officer, and a chaplain.
During the staff ride, the students also found out which officer branch and unit they will be assigned to once they receive their commission signaling that they are nearing the end of their training.
Should all 16 students make it through the third phase of OCS, they will graduate and earn their commission as new Army Second Lieutenants in August.