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Posted By: Jared Snawder on: 02/21/2016 13:10:10 EDT
Subject: Similarities Between Civil War and Current Signal Officers

Message Detail:
I am a current U.S. Army Signal Officer with 16 years of mostly tactical operations experience. Over the past couple of months, I have been reading and re-reading J. Willard Brown's The Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion. Overall, a fascinating read and insight into the efforts of Signaleers across the various departments during the war.

While present day transmissions are measured in milliseconds vs. minutes during the Civil War, I am often struck at the similarities between our predecessors and present day Communicators. Some are communications specific, but many general challenges/aspects of military leadership have endured over the past 150+ years. An example to ponder:

Brown notes in a couple of places in the book that some of the Signal Officers were very quick to put down their flags and volunteer for service as Aides/Staff Officers during some of the campaigns. While surely some of this was done in an effort to be recognized for promotion, I wonder if these Officers were easily overwhelmed/frustrated in getting the message through, preferring to fall back to less technical, more comfortable staff work.

I often see this in present day Officers as well. Our communications systems are extremely technical in nature and can be difficult to put into system in a timely manner. Some of our Officers (especially the history majors!) can be easily overwhelmed in trying to understand the system. They will often fall back to general leadership responsibilities or volunteer for staff work, rather than truly trying to understand signal flow and properly train/lead their Soldiers in getting the message through.

As such, we have to emphasize to (and sometimes force) these leaders to get back down to the communications terminals and understand the intricacies. I have found over my experience that those who take the time to learn the systems are considerably more effective(and more promotable) leaders, compared with those always want to write orders.


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