Officer Candidates visit Garryowen where the Battle Began

By Mike Craig- Intern at Custer Battlefield Museum

Fourteen days after the 132nd Commemoration of the Custer Battle, one hundred students from Fort Meade’s Officer Candidate School visited the Custer Battlefield. They are all part of the South Dakota National Guard 196th Regiment Training Institute.

This is the second consecutive year that trainees from the 196th have made the trek to study the Custer Battle and visit where Reno's command first struck Sitting Bull's Camp. The goal is to understand and analyze the decisions that led to the death of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and 7th Cavalry division.

“The purpose of a staff ride is to look at historic battles and see what happened on the ground,” said Lt. Col. Gary Miller, Senior Instructor of the Regional Training Institute. “It's a learning exercise for the candidates - what did Custer do right, what did he do wrong, and how does that apply to scenarios the candidates may find themselves in on a future battlefield? We want to make sure that the errors are not repeated,” said

Photo courtesy Custer Battlefield Museum
Officer candidates from Fort Meade’s South Dakota National Guard 196th Regiment Training Institute pay respect to the Tomb of the Unknown at Garryowen.

Miller. "We look forward to continuing to include a site visit to Garryowen in our curriculum. I'm sure we'll see you once again next year." He went on to explain that the battalion is comprised of National Guard Reservists that are in an eight-week training course to become officers.

"Since the Custer Battlefield Museum was built in 1995, we have hosted numerous United States and foreign military divisions that come to the battlefield to study Custer's grave mistakes. Examining battle strategy on the actual battleground obviously has a tremendous impact on a student. It brings home the relationship between terrain and tactics in a way that classroom study can't," said Chris Kortlander, the museum's director.

“You have so many elements that are happening; small unit activities, command and control, maneuverability,” Miller said. “Both Custer and the Native Americans were fighting, reacting, learning and changing their tactics – that is what we are seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“I think the lessons we learn from the battle are very applicable to today’s war zone,” Officer Candidate Bryant said. “We are fighting a very non-conventional enemy like Custer was. We have to be prepared for anything and the most probable course of action isn't always the most likely.”