Becoming a Military History Instructor in the Army

06/21/2014  |  By Maj. Jordan Brehove 104th Training Division (LT)
The Griffon

Maj. Jordan Brehove, 4/415th, 104th Training Division (LT), fires a matchlock musket replica from the early 1600s during the historic weapons range at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Photo by Lt. Col. Matthew Dale, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. —Two officers from the 104th Training Division (LT), along with Soldiers and civilian professors from around the country became certified instructors of U.S. military history on January 17th after a two-week course at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The popular Military History Instructors Course course, abbreviated MHIC (pronounced em-hik), occurs only twice a year with roughly 40 students per session to certify an annual crop of professors to teach cadets and undergraduate students military history courses at universities affiliated with ROTC programs.

Unique at this course is the focus on critical thought and experiential learning while covering U.S. military history from 1775-present. Col. Thomas Hanson, the director of the Combat Studies Institute, which delivers the course, says that other history courses focus on names, dates, and places, but MHIC focuses on relationships and significance.

One instructor, Dr. Louis DiMarco said “We don’t teach history, we teach the use of history.” The MHIC instructors emphasize to future professors of military history that the insights are more important than the minutiae.

The course trained attendees how to add a dimension beyond normal collegiate history courses by including experiential learning. The MHIC students were trained on conducting effective staff rides by engaging in their own staff ride at the 1864 Battle of Westport, known colloquially as the “Gettysburg of the West.” Perhaps even more valuable was their introduction to the innovative virtual staff ride software that can allow viewers to follow battles from anywhere in the world. This includes places that are not quite safe enough for staff rides at the moment, which is the case for the 2008 Afghanistan Battle of Wanat where a platoon lost nine men in modern combat. Multimedia helped viewers fly over the terrain and see computer-designed models next to aerial photography. Viewer consensus was that it was a great option when you can’t visit the field. It even had features that you just don’t get on a normal staff ride.

Military History Instructor Course Students lined up on a hilltop as the Confederates did during the 1864 battle of Westport "Gettysburg of the West." Despite holding tactical advantage on the high ground the Confederate line broke from a frontal infantry attack and an artillery barrage from the rear.

Photo by Lt. Col. Matthew Dale, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The MHIC goes the extra mile by conducting familiarization with historic weaponry. Perhaps the most popular aspect of the class was firing historic weapons ranging from matchlock and flintlock muskets of the early colonial and revolutionary times to the 1903 Springfield from World War I. One student mentioned “firing the historic weapons helps you understand the smells and sounds that people experienced hundreds of years ago on the battlefield. The labor and time involved in reloading was eye opening too.”

Maj. Bruce Cunningham of 4/414th and Maj. Jordan Brehove of 4/415th, 104th officers, completed their training along with 40 other graduates. As the course closed all seemed eager to continue to evaluate and share the lessons of history with others and their students. The value of this course and the study of history in the Army to prepare for the future are summed up well in the Combat Studies Institute’s motto “The Past is Prologue.”

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