March 25, 2016 –
Cayce, S.C. — Citizen-Soldiers have been around in some form or another for generations. Since the onset of the Civil War, everyday citizens have put on a uniform to defend their homeland and though their names, uniforms and missions have changed over the years, one thing has remained the same – their passion for their country.
In today’s evolving environment, Army Reserve Soldiers must take that fervor and combine it with complex and diverse training. Traditional skills of shooting, moving, and communicating are still important, but today’s Citizen-Soldiers must also know their history, and how it applies to their futures, said Maj. Gen. Mark McQueen, commander of the 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training), as a group of Soldiers gathered at the Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve in Cayce, South Carolina on March 24.
“History really helps us understand that dimension of leadership,” he said.
Testing and building on leadership was exactly why the Soldiers stood at the historical site. For four days preceding their tour to Conagree Creek, Soldiers of the 108th had been competing in a combined Best Warrior and Drill Sergeant of the Year competition at Fort Jackson: a competition that included everything from weapons qualification to essay writing to a 12-mile ruck march. Their final task was the historical tour and a lesson on how battles of the past apply to today’s Army.
Adding applied history as an element to the competitions helps our future leaders learn from the past, said Allen Skinner, Command Historian, 81st Regional Support Command. “These are already the best and the brightest who will turn into our future sergeant majors and command sergeant majors. It’s our job to develop them.”
As the Soldiers walked through the site, volunteers from the River Alliance Organization, most whom were veterans themselves, explained the historic battle’s tactical details. They pointed out topographical challenges, passed around civil-war ammunition shells discovered in the area, and held up displays of weapons from that time period.
The combination of visuals and discussion helped paint a picture of how we have advanced as a society; leading to a better understanding and appreciation of technology, said Spc. Antony Palmer, the Soldier-level winner of the Best Warrior Competition for the 98th Training Division (IET). “Learning how things were done in the past, makes me appreciate our progress and technology now.”
Building each generation is exactly why history, and tours like this are so important, according to Skinner. “We are here to develop you as leaders,” he told the troops as they discussed the battle scene and historical documents.
The vast differences between the Civil War Soldier’s tools and disciplines to today’s Army Reserve Soldier’s, was explained even further when the Soldiers met with Joe Long, curator of education, at the South Carolina Relic Room and Military Museum. Through Long’s researched stories, he showed the Soldiers why leadership matters even more today with all our advanced gadgetry. “Leadership principles don’t change. If we are not careful, all the new technology will just allow us to make the same mistakes faster.”
Getting the tour from fellow veterans made it more interesting, said Sgt. 1st Class Ethan Feldner, Best Warrior competitor from the 95th Training Division (IET). “I really liked all the graphic aids and how they applied to our jobs as Soldiers today.”
Breaking down the facts of the battle to Soldiers was an enjoyable assignment, said Douglas Patterson, senior volunteer and Army veteran who served time in both the active and Reserve Army.
“The military side of me likes to see Soldiers. I can relate to them and they can relate to me,” he said.
Teaching them history was not just for fun though. Patterson, a passionate history buff, says that knowing where we came from is critical for our future generations to avoid the same mistakes. “If we don’t learn from our past, that old adage, history repeats itself, can be very true.”
Elise Partin, City of Cayce mayor, agreed.
Taking time out of her busy schedule, Partin was there to greet the Soldiers at the start of their tour. “Our Soldiers give so much to us, there are not enough ways to give back, so it’s important to do so every opportunity we can.”
Her appreciation for Soldiers, particularly drill sergeants, comes from family and community.
“My father and father-in law both did their basic training at Fort Jackson, so I’m thankful for all those who helped to make them the great men they are,” she said.
“History can tell us so much, even what mistakes we don’t want to make again. If we understand our history well, for what it is and what it isn’t, it can help us to have an even better future,” she added.
Molding future generations is a responsibility for all leaders, said McQueen to the Mayor and other volunteers.
“Your investment in our Soldiers means a lot,” he told the volunteers as the group departed.