History is the Teacher

Teaching newly commissioned officers how to successfully lead Marines is no small feat. But the staff members from The Basic School know the first step is to learn the history of past military leaders.

Teaching newly commissioned officers how to successfully lead Marines is no small feat.

But the staff members from The Basic School know the first step is to learn the history of past military leaders.

To brush up on their tactical know-how, Marines from TBS staff attended a professional military education trip to Gettysburg National Military Park. The Marine Corps Association & Foundation sponsored the two-day tour for about 60 Marines to study enduring lessons of military art and science on the historical battlefield.

“As TBS staff members we’re effectively teaching our next generation of commissioned officers,” said Capt Joshua Rogerson. “We need to take our job extremely seriously and this is another step in our continuing education. It’s imperative we expand our knowledge of these battlefields that are close to us and are able to tap into them to enhance our learning.”

The trip was funded through MCA&F’s Commanders' Forum Program, which provides funding to assist Commanders in developing and providing forum opportunities specifically tailored to enhance their Marines’ knowledge of operational matters from a historical, cultural or operational perspective.

“You can only get so much out of reading a book,” said Maj Matthew McDonald, Assistant Operations Officer at TBS. “Seeing it paints the picture for you and brings it all together with a different perspective.”

Col Vince Goulding, USMC (Ret) and Marine Corps Gazette editor Col John Keenan, USMC (Ret) led the group in exercises and lessons as they studied the three days of battle, including the action of McPherson’s Ridge and Picket’s charge. MCA&F then funded the group’s one-night stay at the Comfort Suites of Gettysburg.

Rogerson said the trip was his third time to the Gettysburg battlefield, but he continued to learn from Goulding and Keenan about the details of the war. The pair described the personal relationships between the different generals on each side and why certain decisions were made, Rogerson said. They were “passionate” about the research and it “enhanced the study,” he said.

The Marine Corps Historical Company brought replica uniforms and weapons of both the Confederate States and United States Marine Corps from the Civil War. GySgt Williams, USMC (Ret) explained the details of the uniforms and how the ammunition was employed.

“Seeing how the equipment was used lent some understanding why the Civil War units fought the way they did,” Rogerson said.

The Marines also got a surprise visit from the man in the stovepipe hat.

Actor and historian Jim Getty professionally reenacted President Abraham Lincoln and taught the Marines about the famous president’s leadership during the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.

McDonald said it was a different and fun way to learn about the battle.

“It’s a way to build camaraderie amongst the staff,” McDonald said. “We’re learning about history but also bonding with each other. They couldn’t afford this out of their own funds because money is tight, and to be able to have MCA&F provide funds for additional experts on battles helps make the experience that much better for the staff.”

To apply for funding from the Commanders' Forum Program, contact Col John Keenan USMC (Ret) at 800-336-0291, ext. 163 or j.keenan@mca-marines.org. To become an MCA&F member or donate to MCAF, log on to www.mca-marines.org.

More information about the program is available HERE.


"President Lincoln" teaches the Marines about the leadership decisions of the Civil War.