For more than a century soldiers have used the battlefields of previous conflicts as outdoor classrooms, learning the lessons of history and applying them to today’s military.
There is no truly adequate training for war, no way for professional soldiers to determine how they might respond tactically, operationally or strategically when called to the field. A close approximation, however, is the staff ride, an immersive learning technique that provides a vicarious experience by placing soldiers on the ground where important events took place and asking them to consider and analyze the actions of their predecessors.
“Staff rides represent a unique and persuasive method of conveying the lesson of the past to the present-day Army leadership,” wrote former chief of staff of the Army Gen. John Wickham, Jr. “Properly conducted, these exercises bring to life, on the very terrain where historic encounters took place, examples, applicable today as in the past, of leadership tactics and strategy, communications, use of terrain, and, above all, the psychology of the men in battle.”
The American Battlefield Trust partners with the U.S. armed forces and National Park Service to conduct staff rides for the military on historic battlegrounds.