by Maj. Charles Emmons, Georgia National Guard
The Georgia Army National Guard’s (GANG) 161st Military History Detachment (MHD) completed a nine-month deployment to document history as it happened in the Atlantic Resolve mission.
Atlantic Resolve brings U.S. units to Europe to build readiness, increase interoperability and enhance the bond between ally and partner militaries through multinational training.
The team of three soldiers from the 78th Troop Command in Marietta spent the better part of the year throughout Europe working on behalf of the U.S. Army Center of Military History (CMH) and U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR). They returned home October 17, 2019.
The team was strategically assembled several months before mobilizing, with GANG leadership hand-selecting two enlisted public affairs professionals and an officer with a strong background in history. To prepare, they trained during drill weekends and attended the Military History Detachment course in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
“We had ample opportunity to learn about each other, identify strengths and weaknesses, and to rehearse some aspects of our mission,” said Capt. Bryant Wine, the officer in charge of the 161st MHD during the deployment. “By the time the deployment started, we were already gelled as a team and devoted our attention to the mission at hand.”
The primary mission was to document modern history as it happened, including the recording of 305 oral history interviews with service members supporting Atlantic Resolve. The interview subjects ranged from junior enlisted soldiers at the platoon level through senior leaders in command of battalions and brigades in the theater.
“We conducted a lot of interviews with people that make decisions at the strategic level,” said Staff Sgt. Amy King, the senior noncommissioned officer of the detachment.
The team collected interviews in Germany and forward-deployed to nine locations in Poland and the country of Georgia. Members archived more than 50 gigabytes of documents, photos, operations orders and other materials into the massive digital archive at CMH.
While in the country of Georgia, the detachment reunited with fellow GANG members during the Agile Spirit exercise, which marked the 25th anniversary of the State Partnership Program between the state and country of Georgia.
“My favorite interview was Mamuka Gogiditze, the Georgian military historian,” said King. “I had no idea what he was saying before his words were translated, but so much communication is nonverbal.”
The 161st Military History Detachment is one of seven National Guard MHDs in the program. There are 38 MHDs, most of them comprised of Army Reserve units.
“The MHDs are the historical tip of the spear, so to speak, as they collect the operational data for the U.S. Army,” said Col. Craig Mix, the CMH chief of military programs.
The 161st MHD was the second history detachment to cover the Atlantic Resolve mission. Some of the detachment’s challenges came from arriving as a small, unknown unit consisting of a company grade officer and two non-commissioned officers and having to integrate into a theater-level organization commanded by a three-star general.
“We experienced a lot of growing pains, having to learn on the fly,” said Wine. “Our mission was relatively new to the theater, and we were Guardsmen working with mostly active-duty soldiers.”
While the learning curve was steep, the detachment succeeded by building relationships, establishing new processes and educating leaders about the importance of the history collection mission. Wine found that overcoming the adversity was the most rewarding aspect of the detachment’s mission.
“Seeing the personal growth of myself and the other Soldiers of the detachment… we all had to rise to the mission itself and these newfound responsibilities,” said Wine.
Before the deployment, Wine taught full-time as a history teacher at Johns Creek High School in Fulton County, Georgia.
“As a teacher, I instruct students about methods of writing history,” said Wine. “Through this deployment, I was actively part of the historical process. As a result, I can return to the classroom with real-life examples to articulate the concepts I teach.”
The soldiers of the 161 MHD now return to their civilian lives and continue to drill as traditional GANG members. The unit will likely be called upon again to deploy and collect historic data for another theater-level command.
“The fact that we now have experienced soldiers which we didn’t have before this mission is definitely going to make the next mission more successful and easier to accomplish,” said Wine. “It may not be the same individuals that go on deployment, but we have people that can explain how to do the mission so the next deployment will be even more successful.”
The efforts of the team were recognized in late September when the soldiers were awarded Army Commendation Medals by senior leaders of USAREUR.
“We are really proud of the outstanding work the MHD accomplished in support of the USAREUR mission,” said Maj. Gen. Joe Jarrard, USAREUR deputy commanding general for Army National Guard, and former adjutant general of the GANG. “Their accomplishments will benefit our organization and the Army in telling our story for years to come.”