AGS Staff Rides
AGS holds staff rides annually in which students, alumni, faculty, and AGS staff may participate. Applications are required prior to each staff ride due to the high volume of interest and the amount of thorough preparation expected of each participant. The upcoming Spring 2017 Vietnam staff ride is full, but please return for more information about additional future staff rides. Past staff rides have included trips to international and domestic destinations, such as Grenada, D-Day (London, Portsmouth, Normandy & Paris), Fredericksburg, VA, and Gettysburg, PA. For more information about what a staff ride is, please read the short article below by AGS Council Member Adam Lemon.
What Is a Staff Ride and Why Do We Need It?
The staff ride was created in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars by the Prussians, the perfectors of European military strategy and training. They would walk the battlefields of previous wars, observe the terrain and have officers research and take the roles of various commanders and political leaders on all sides. An officer would then present their characters’ personal history, their plans for the conflict, as well as their actions during it. The other participants then adopt their characters’ roles and counter or question the presenter’s arguments in order to point out disagreements, mistakes, or good strategies. Staff rides are invaluable because they help the participants to understand not just who fought there and when, but what was planned, what ended up occurring, why they these events occurred, and how these events fit into the broader context of political or geopolitical issues.
Staff rides allow students to gain a deeper understanding of political-military functions than they could ever achieve from a lecture or textbook. In Grenada, the problems of hasty planning and a dysfunctional chain of command became painfully clear when every commander began by blaming every other commander. Before visiting Normandy it was easy to forget about how weather impacts operations. The stormy, gray Channel coast made it hard to forget again. While we knew about the horrors of Omaha Beach, it was not until we stood on the shore where so many fell and looked up at those imposing cliffs – clad in concrete and barbwire – that we truly knew in our hearts. The price of freedom and cost of war cannot be fathomed until you gaze upon the never-ending rows of crosses in the cemetery and realize what a small fraction of war dead it was.