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NEWS | Jan. 3, 2023

Staff ride program shares lessons learned with Army Reserve Soldiers, civilians

By Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris 99th Readiness Division

The U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division continued its staff ride program this past fall as its Soldiers and civilian employees learned lessons from the history of lower Manhattan.

The intent of the staff ride program is to give participants a greater appreciation for, and provide historical context to, their potential role in responding to natural and manmade disasters.

“This professional-development program focused on applied study of current doctrine to a historical operation, specifically of the national intelligence community and emergency services crisis response,” said Stephen Harlan, 99th RD command historian, of the New York City event.

The staff ride program is divided into two phases: the preliminary study phase, consisting of classroom instruction and self-study, and the field study phase, which includes visits to locations such as battlefields, museums and other historic sites.

The first phase for this recent event included two classroom sessions focused on numerous themes that ultimately intersected the morning of the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, to include the evolution of harbor defenses of New York City from first European contact through the Strategic Defense Initiative, historical timeline of Ottoman Empire regional dominance and the post-imperial Middle East, the rise of non-state violent extremist organizations from the 19th century through current threat analysis, interagency culture and communication, and the doctrinal paradigm shift from homeland defense to homeland security to homeland operations.

During the time between the two classroom sessions, participants had self-study requirements to view video productions about FBI Special Agent in Charge John O'Neill, Morgan Stanley-Dean Witter Chief of Security retired Col. Rick Rescorla, and the FDNY leadership. They also had to read three short articles about Rescorla's leadership traits, the waves of modern terrorism, and the May 2022 Congressional Research Service report on al-Qaida.

“Sometimes, we spend so much time looking at the trees that it is good to step back and see the forest,” said Col. John Wildermann, 99th RD G3. “This was a great opportunity to step back from our normal daily duties and look at how other leaders handled stressful decision-making situations.”

The field study phase began by crossing New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry with observation of the historic defensive battery and missile locations from the 18th-20th centuries. On Manhattan, the discussion focused on the Dutch colony fortifications of the 1660s through the Continental Army's loss of the city in 1776 while trekking along lower Broadway.

“The culminating point was entry into the National September 11 Memorial and Museum for discussion of the interagency missteps leading to the attacks, and the crisis leadership knowledge, skills and abilities displayed on that day,” Harlan said.

“9/11 was such a pivotal day in the life of the U.S. military that it was valuable to take the time and digest all that was presented at the 9/11 Museum and Memorial,” Wildermann said.

“9/11 was a significant event in our history, and it changed how our emergency services and government agencies interact with one another and conduct business,” said Maj. Axel Acosta, 99th RD HHD commander. “Seeing the artifacts at the memorial was a stark reminder that we should never be complacent, but it also served as a reminder of American resolve and what we can accomplish when we work as a team – especially when it comes to interagency cooperation.”

The 99th RD’s Homeland Operations/Defense Support of Civil Authorities cell supports the National Incident Management System, Incident Command System and Federal Emergency Management Agency, and was selected to work as the lead agency in developing the Incident Command Training Program for the entire Army Reserve.

“Our job at the 99th is to support many activities throughout our 13-state area of responsibility, to include Homeland Operations in support of civil authorities during natural or manmade emergencies,” Acosta explained. “This was a great opportunity to review how much we can contribute in such an event, and how important our day-to-day operations are to enabling the success of the Army Reserve as a whole.”