Signal Corps Association Reenactors Division (SCARD)

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Posted By: Chuck Lee on: 06/18/2002 08:39:38 CDT
Subject: RE: Recognizing Competence

Message Detail:
Mr. Wagner,

We're viewing this from the same perspective. It would never occur to me to go to an event as a "walk-on". If an event is close enough to me to consider going, I pre-register and pay to attend even if I think there's going to be a schedule conflict with my real world job, because projects get canceled, held up, or stalled all the time. Since fees almost always go toward historic preservation, I consider it a donation if I don't go.

Perhaps it's my experience as an artilleryman, like you, that drives me to pre-register. A cannon's a pretty big "surprise", showing up unannounced, especially since you need eight to ten folks per cannon. In the same way, the Signal Corps impression has to affect so many folks that I just wouldn't have thought to show up at an event without having pre-registered; lobbied the military command for a chance to pitch what we could do for them; received their permission to participate at some level; and made sure I had my people lined up and ready to go, along with a contingency plan in case there was a foul-up.

But the Signal Corps - Artillery comparison breaks down here for me, as we can work with a diminished numbers crew (to a point that constitutes an irreducible minimum), and in a pinch, we can draw from some Infantry and Marine impressions who are friends and trained cannoneers to fill in a hole or two on our crews; but our fledgling Signal Corps effort will not immediately allow for "diminished numbers" - we're already AT that point...lol - and we know of no one else trained as a flagman to any degree whatsoever who could potentially be part of a Signal Corps "pool" of reserve(s).

You're right, too, about the sharpshooter being an unknown quantity to most event commanders. Most event commanders are Infantry commanders, and far too many don't even understand how skirmishers are supposed to work, much less sharpshooters, or how the more common Cavalry is supposed to operate and what they can bring to the party; and the Artillery, to most of them, are there just to alert the crowd that something is about to happen, and to make noise so the Infantry won't be heard clanking through the woods.

A significant part of the "pitch" I'll be making to event organizers and commanders is that we'll provide an auithentic, period substitute for the walkie talkies as long as there's light (we don't have torches yet - trying to get dimensions, and maybe even layout plans for them; and I haven't built any telegraph sets as of now, but recognize that not every event will be able to utilize or accommodate telgraphy, either). I think it will be a fine thing we'll have done when we can finally walk away from the sight of a fellow on horseback, the horse's tack authentic down to the last blanket thread and leather cinch, his uniform and arms flawless reproductions, the man himself trim, groomed in the mid-19th century fashion, and a black plastic electronic gizmo jammed in his mouth as he tries to talk with someone across the field of battle.

We have some experience with specialty impressions (though I'm inclined to define those more broadly as "any reenacting group that portrays a specific unit from the war" - nothing generic about a specific uniform and specific weapons, to my way of thinking). Many events think that all Artillery companies are specialty impressions; and we think of Field Chapels and Field Hospitals as specialty impressions, of which we have one of the former and two of the latter affiliated with our group. In order to be set up where they will be properly utilized, it's always necessary for us to coordinate with the event command staff to make sure that our people will be utilized, and well utilized; and that our specialty folks will be allowed on the field under the auspices of the military command. In other words, our folks won't just wander out onto the field and start dishing out water and prayer, or grabbing folks and toting them off the field without having first met with the event command and gotten permission, as well as attending the planning sessions so that all the officers and commanders will know the role our people will play on the field, and we will know the scenarios so that we don't get in the way.

(Our specialty impressions with the Field Chapel and Field Hospital most often serve as subordinates to the Safety Officers at events, at least in regard to First Aid and making sure that fellows stretched out on the field are doing so volitionally, not due to real illness or injury.)

Being able to put forth the case for the Signal Corps' rightful place in reenacting is a compelling reason, in my mind, to gather anecdotal information from SCARD members on video and CD so that we can make our case to event commanders that they can hear over and over, should they so desire. More than having a prepare shpiel - which we'll have to have in order to make a personal presentation, of course - a video or CD, or both, gives us the chance to address what there may not always be allotted time to address at a meeting. The Signal Corps is not the only item on the agenda at these meetings, naturally, and may be given short shrift until they learn how valuable we can be. But they may be like Sherman writing his memoirs years later - the value of the Signal Corps can be downplayed or forgotten as they recall their own glorious part in making everything work. Handing them a good video or CD - lots of color, strong voiceover, lots of music and lots of action - will keep us from leaving a meeting, grumbling that "...they didn't give me time to make the full presentation", or cussing ourselves because we forgot to mention one or two or more salient points. It will also help those of us who are not very good public speakers overcome our deficiencies in making a case by having someone better suited to the task help us make our case via video or CD. Putting together the materials will also make us review all the arguments and pare down the anecdotes so that our entire story can be readily digested.

Why am I such a big advocate of videos and CDs, but especially videos? I used to conduct a lot of training, and I found that folks would watch a 20-minute video more willingly than they would read five minutes' worth of material. And we can give them more real UNDERSTANDING of what it is that we can do with three minutes of MOVING PICTURES than we can with 30 pages of text.

By putting ourselves in front of the event commanders in the planning stages of the evvents, we certainly will get to know them, and more importantly, they'll get to know us. You're right on the money there, as you know from history and experience. We've enjoyed the same benefits from becoming integral to the planning, or at least party to it. I expect to do the same as we work in the Signal Corps.

Using them to do a simple, "can't fail" sort of demonstration is an excellent idea, too. That's where pre-concerted codes and a "pre-concerted code cheat sheet" will be extremely valuable. The intelligent ones selected for the demonstration will understand quickly and realize the potential in what we do, and the dumb ones will be pleased to be part of a demonstration, and one that they did well. The others who watched will see that it can be done.

I admit that I'm a virgin as regards the pre-concerted codes, and would like to see the same essential pre-concerted codes - a baseline, if you will - be established through SCARD and applied consistently at events everywhere. In that way, when those of us from Louisiana come to Gettysburg 140th, for instance, and want to fall in with y'all from Michigan and Illinois and Indiana and Maryland and Virginia and California and England, etc., then assuming that we meet the minimum acceptable standards of the massed Signal Corps, we wouldn't have to re-learn what we've already become accustomed to using through our events down here. The smaller the learning curve, the more rapidly we adjust and fit each other, and the more effective - and less potentially confused - we'll all be.

>>>Suggestion. If the artillery or if there is calvary present need to act on a que of some sort, what better way to do that than by flag? This is a good way to introduce your effectiveness in an event. Why do I say this? Well, if a cue is important, timing is important. If you are told to send a quick msg out to a station to cue them to the field you are helping the success of the event.<<<

Mr. Wagner, I think you're dead on with that idea. Since most events begin either with a Cavalry skirmish or Artillery opening fire, that means that the Signal Corps could make its presence known at most events by being the first to do anything in the battle event. Helping the event succeed, maintaining the flow of the battles and other actions of the day, and establishing an additional element that, like bugling, is so often missing from the authentic appearance of events will demonstrate the importance of utilizing the Signal Corps, giving a stronger contemporary vision of the look of the Armies of the Civil War, and establishing our place and utility.

>>>I differ on one thing. When it comes to safety, I'm sorry, but I whole-heartedly believe if the event organizers want to depend on walkie talkies, let them. The DISADVANTAGE is at large events where those little FRS radios might have reception problems. THAT'S where having the signal flags is important.<<<

I'm guessing here that you're making a distinction between the event organizers and the reenactors who consitute the military command staff and civilian oversight staff. In other words, my question is whether you're saying that the folks in period costume will be carrying walkie-talkies / cell phones / FRS radios, or the only folks carrying them are those involved with the event, but who are wearing modern clothing and staying on the sidelines.

>>>ALL YOU NEED is to send MM. That should be enough, and be sufficiently fast enough, to alert someone to send someone's butt over to you immediately to find out what's wrong. MM is the stutter code for Medical Emergency. It should be reserved and not used for anything but that...a medical emergency.<<<

Mr. Wagner, do you know if that is used consistently throughout Signal Corps reenacting? It makes sense to me to use that, but it makes more sense to me if it's in use everywhere there are SCARD reenactors.

I appreciate your comments very much. I appreciate the help as I try to figure out just what I've gotten myself into...lol. Thanks!

Chuck Lee
3.3.3.

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