Twenty-two military science level IV cadets, along with cadre from the Royal Warrior Battalion took part in the program’s “Staff Ride to the Antietam National Battlefield,” the site of the bloodiest day of fighting in American History, on Nov. 2 and 3. The military staff ride is a tool designed to help cadets and officers gain insight into a specific battle or conflict in order to come away with a better understanding of military history, tactics, terrain analysis, leadership, as well as battle command. A firm understanding of these areas is vital, as they play into an officer’s ability to plan, execute and assess training and missions. The Army views the staff ride as a means of conveying the lessons of the past to the present day Army leadership for current application. The staff ride is also a pre-commissioning requirement all cadets are required to complete prior to becoming a commissioned officer. Additionally, this year the staff ride was special as it marked the first time the battalion had visited Antietam, as well as this year marks the 150th anniversary of the battle itself.
To help the cadets prepare for the Staff ride, they were presented a copy of the work “Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam” by bestselling and award-winning author Stephen W. Sears. All cadets were required to prepare and present a briefing on one particular aspect of the battle as part of the event. Cadets and cadre visited 10 different key sites located across the National Battlefield, including the Dunker Church, Sunken Lane (a.k.a Bloody Lane), and the Lower Bridge. At each site various cadets delivered their respective presentations and field questions. In addition to the tour of the battlefield, the group viewed a 25-minute movie on the Battle of Antietam produced by the National Park Services and received a 30-minute briefing by a member of the park service staff who shared with cadets a number of key insights about the battle.
“Last weekend the seniors involved in ROTC went on a staff ride to Antietam, Md., to present projects about the Battle of Antietam,” stated cadet Jennifer Bullis, a Nursing major and future Army Nurse Corps officer. “The seniors spent time before the trip researching different aspects of the one-day battle that were presented at different points on the battlefield. On Friday, we all went to dinner together at the Crazy Horse restaurant where we all had a good time catching up with each other. On Saturday, we woke up early to tour the on-site museum and battlefield. There are not a lot of chances to get together with the seniors from the other campuses that are associated with the Royal Warrior Battalion, so the staff ride was great chance to get together. The trip provided a relaxed environment where we were able to interact with cadets and cadre and discuss how aspects from historical battles (such as Antietam) carry military aspects that are still relevant today. It was really fun trip and we learned a lot before making the drive back to our respective campuses on Saturday afternoon.”
Cadet Battalion Commander Jessica Persoon, soon to be commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Army National Guard, shared the following: “Every year, our ROTC seniors (MSIVs) conduct a staff ride to a historical landmark in American history. This year we headed to Sharpsburg, Md., which was new and exciting because not many of us have been there before. The day we toured the battlefield it was cold and overcast, but that did not ruin our good time. Fortunately, many of us have been in worse conditions throughout our cadet careers so we have developed a tolerance to bad weather. But even more importantly, the seniors this year get along very well and are all close friends. So despite the cold weather, we were all just happy to spend a weekend with each other. This year's staff ride was a great opportunity to create more memories before we commission and go our separate ways as we make the natural progression of life into the real world.”
Master Sergeant Roland Cuellar, the battalion’s senior military instructor, reads about the fighting which occurred in and around Dunker Church.