Gettysburg staff ride provides leadership lessons

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Patrick O‚ÄôReilly
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Reserve Citizen Airmen from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio; and Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts; ventured to the historic battlegrounds of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Oct. 23-28, 2022 to reflect on what it means to be a leader.

The tour was led by Col. Donald Wren, 445th Mission Support Group commander, Wright-Patterson AFB, and Col. Barry Crane, 307th Mission Support Group commander, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.

Wren organized the first iteration of the 445th AW’s Gettysburg staff ride in 2010. Since then, dozens of 445th Airmen have participated in the week-long historical and educational tours. The two commanders facilitated this year’s second staff ride which included a museum tour, a documentary film, and extensive presentations at 20 different historical sites around the Gettysburg battlefield region. The group also participated in an officially licensed, guided tour of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

Each day signified a day during the three-day battle, and the group visited various locations and learned the background of the history and personnel posted there almost 170 years ago.

“The event is based on historical army “staff rides” which were used routinely to develop their junior and senior officers in the operational art of warfare. We’ve taken it and transposed it into a having a leadership perspective,” said Wren. “Take the events of the three-day battle here, the key critical decisions that were made, and understand how those decisions that were made and how the leaders got those 170,000 men to walk in a long battle line to face an enemy that was just as intent on killing them for their cause as they were on defending their own.”

Crane said the visit is about professional development and self-reflection. The adventure illustrates how the Airmen can better themselves and the units that they work in by using Gettysburg as a historical backdrop for a leadership laboratory.

“This is a transformational leadership staff ride. We are trying to present leadership characteristics to our NCOs to help encourage, motivate, and develop them and the people that they lead,” said Crane.

Chief Master Sgt. Timothy C. White Jr., command chief of Air Force Reserve Command, was also part of the visit and said the visit to Gettysburg is a direct correlation to leadership.

“Gettysburg was a significant point in our history. You can read about it, watch it on TV and hear about it, but there is nothing like being here and seeing it for yourself to get a greater understanding of what occurred here,” White said. “It’s interesting to see the challenges both armies had back then that are not too different from the challenges we have today: command and control, logistics, and morale. Our commanders and the leaders back then had the same challenges. And as a country, some of the things we faced then are some of the things we face today. It’s important that we learn from our mistakes as a country and as military leaders and tacticians.”

Toward the end of the visit, members were encouraged to provide input. A few participants who were impacted by the staff ride provided comments.

“Don’t let this be the last time that you talk about what you saw and learned about here,” said Lt. Col. Edward Hale, 445th Maintenance Group commander. “Take this home and keep talking to people you’ve met here, to the people in your sections. Mentor your Airmen. Mentor your fellow NCOs and senior NCOs who were unable to be here. Mentor your officers and the people you work. Don’t forget about the young company grade officers who rely on you more than you can possibly know,”

“My is hope is when they walk out of this course, they have a better appreciation for themselves as leaders and have a better understanding for the United States of America and the deep history that we have,” said Wren. “There are a lot of subjects that are uncomfortable, and you have to consider those subjects and formulate an answer or at least a personal understanding of them. I think when they do that, when they can understand what this country is and how all these threads of the country are put together, it better equips them to do their jobs.”

“I would recommend this (visit) to anybody who has the opportunity to come here. I need to take a look at how we can continue to support and make this opportunity more available to Reserve Citizen Airmen,” said White.