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Bringing the Boardroom to the Battlefield

Corporate Staff Ride NEWSLETTER - African Leaders Staff Ride to Gettysburg: Operational Decision-Making

May 12, 2014

For Rising African Leaders, Gettysburg Provides “Laboratory for Decision-Making at the Operational-Strategic Interface”
By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 03/25/2013

On March 14, participants in the Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Course (NextGen) travelled to Pennsylvania to visit the U.S. Army War College and the Gettysburg battlefield, site of a major turning point in the U.S. Civil War. “Traveling to Carlisle offers NextGen participants the opportunity to learn about the senior service college system in the United States,” said Professor Thomas Dempsey, Chair in Security Studies at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “But Carlisle is also important because of its place in American history.”

Carlisle Barracks, the military base where the War College is located, is the oldest active military installation in the United States. Initially established in 1760, the founding of the Carlisle Barracks predates the Revolutionary War. The U.S. Army War College was later founded in 1901 in response to perceived U.S. military failings in the Spanish American War. Over the past century, the War College has evolved from a military school preparing officers to work on the Army general staff to a graduate-level educational institution, accredited to award a master’s degree in strategic studies to students.

In addition to educating and developing strategic leaders in the U.S. security sector, the War College invites security sector personnel from across the globe to participate in the prestigious International Fellows Program. At a dinner held at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, several International Fellows from Africa shared their experiences at the War College and spoke to participants about the importance of developing strong, capable leaders to address the strategic challenges facing the continent.

“We live in a time of constrained resources,” said Colonel Joseph Seelo, an International Fellow at the War College who also participated in the 2005 Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Course and is now a member of the ACSS Community Chapter in Botswana. “As 21stcentury leaders, we are expected to do more with less, but the challenges continue to multiply.”

Colonel Seelo stressed that Africa’s next generation of strategic leaders must strive to develop effective communications skills. “A strategic leader who cannot communicate,” he said, “is akin to a weapon without ammunition.”

Participants boarded a bus early in the morning of March 15 on Hanover Street in downtown Carlisle to travel to Gettysburg for a tour the famous Civil War battlefield. Across the street, the columns outside the Old Courthouse bear the scars of a shelling by rebel troops during the Civil War. As the bus traveled south along the same route Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s troops marched to Gettysburg in 1863, Colonel Dempsey explained that, in addition to providing participants with a better understanding of U.S. history, the tour of the Gettysburg battlefield offers numerous lessons that are relevant to strategic leaders across Africa.

dempsey-at-gettysburg“Gettysburg opens a window into American history, American culture, and how Americans view the world,” said Professor Dempsey. “Going to Gettysburg and viewing the battlefield helps participants understand that we, as Americans, share many of the same experiences that they have had in Africa.”

The American Civil War, Dempsey said, also illustrates how underdeveloped democracies are less equipped to confront major internal political challenges. “Had we had a more robust and more politically mature system, we might have been able to resolve the issue of slavery, and slaves would ultimately have been emancipated and would have been integrated into American political life without violence.”

Dempsey pointed out that many of the challenges faced by General Robert E. Lee, commander of Confederate troops at Gettysburg, are similar to the challenges facing contemporary multinational peace operations forces in Africa. “In a very real sense, the confederacy looks a lot more like ECOWAS than it does a nation state,” he said. “The army that Lee commands looks an awful lot like peace operations forces deployed in Africa where you have contingents from several different African countries who are all listening to their own governments—and you have a force commander who is trying to get them all to work together,” he said. “This is Lee’s challenge.”

“The Gettysburg staff ride,” Dempsey said, “is a laboratory for decision-making at the operational-strategic interface.”

Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, fought for three days in July 1863 with 51,000 casualties. The victory by Union General George Meade ended attempts to invade the North and put the Confederate army on the defensive for the remainder of the war. In November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was among the speakers at a dedication at the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg. His succinct remarks, now known as the Gettysburg Address, have become one of U.S. history’s central statements of democratic principle, emphasizing that the war aim was to prove the strength of democracy, then a relatively new form of government, and to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The Gettysburg National Military Park is today maintained by the National Park Service and hosts approximately 3 million visitors per year from across the United States and around the world.

- See more at: http://africacenter.org/2013/03/for-rising-african-leaders-gettysburg-staff-ride-provides-laboratory-for-decision-making-at-the-operational-strategic-interface/#sthash.9dc3HJ0p.dpuf

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