Documenting the Past: Training the Military History Units

By Harford, Lee S., Jr. | Army Reserve Magazine, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Documenting the Past: Training the Military History Units


Harford, Lee S., Jr., Army Reserve Magazine


There are 22 military history detachments in the Army ..16 in the Army Reserve.

In Greek mythology, the Muse Clio presided over history. In Army Reserve Military History Units, one could call the Reservists trained as military historians modern day Muses.

This is based on the percentage of military history units in the Army Reserve and the Army Reserve's long history with this important capability.

Military history units have existed since 1943. They came into being during World War II when the Army created teams of historical personnel to capture data on divisional operations. Some 300 officers and enlisted men were serving in these historical units when the war ended in 1945. Among the prominent Army military historians of World War II were Col. S.L.A. Marshall, Maj. Hugh M. Cole, and Master Sgt. Forrest Pogue.

Post war reorganization reduced the historical structure to one active duty and 26 Organized Reserve Corps military history units, consisting of approximately 100 soldiers.

Military history units served in the Korean War (1950-53), the Vietnam War (1965-72), the Gulf War (1990-91), and in the recent peace keeping operations in the Balkans (1996-98). From these conflicts, tactical deployment policy evolved to the present doctrinal concept that calls for a military history detachment to support each combat unit, down to division and separate brigade level. These military history detachments deploy on operations to collect and preserve the data needed to produce the Army's official histories.

Today there are a total of twenty-two military history detachments in the Army: one in the active Army, 16 in the Army Reserve, and five in the Army National Guard.

The military history detachment operates as an independent table of organization and equipment unit (TOE) of three personnel. Ideally, the commander is a branch immaterial major holding a "Historian" 5X additional skill identifier, which indicates advanced professional training in the field of history (a masters or doctorate degree). A public affairs sergeant first class serves as' the unit's photojournalist, holding special abilities in interviewing and photography. The detachment administrative assistant sergeant performs as the unit expert on records management and transcribes oral history interviews.

Due to the small size of the unit, all personnel MU it be cross-trained in the essential tasks of the military history detachment. These are:

(I ) To conduct and transcribe oral history interviews;

(2) To take photographs;

(3) To colle It and accession historical artifacts ard documents; and

(4) To provide historical information.

The unit is armed with individual weapons, is mounted in a 1-1/4 ton tactical vehicle (HMMWV), and, ideally, is equipped with audiocassette recorders, transcription machines, and an automation system composed of laptop computers, digital cameras, scanners, and printers.

Department of the Army and U.S. Army Forces Command regulations recommend a training cycle for military history detachments that coincides with the three-year tenure of the commander. The Army Reserve Historian, as the organizational integrator (01) for history units, has the responsibility for monitoring the readiness and training of Army Reserve military history detachments.

In recent years, the Office of Army Reserve History has worked very diligently with the Army Center of Military History, and the Forces Command History Office and active Army 44th Military History Detachment to formalize a three-- year training program for the detachments. As a part of this process, the Office of Army Reserve History has developed a triad of military history readiness exercises to support execution of the three-year cycle: Exercise Delbruck in year one, Exercise S.L.A.M. in year two, and Exercise Clio in year three. The three exercises provide the detachment a flexible, sequential, progressive and standardized (tiered) system of collective hands-on practical application in the primary military history mission essential tasks. …

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