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Posted By: Walt Mathers on: 05/21/2003 20:18:26 EDT
Subject: How Do We Get There From Here?

Message Detail:

I believe that not only the Camp Chase Gazette (CCG) reporter, but you, Dave Gaddy and I are actually speaking about the same thing: varied dynamics of functional period communication efforts at living history presentations, but more than that, at historical re-creations where scenarios are employed.

I agree with much of what you say about devoting our best efforts toward achieving historical accuracy in appearance and in the execution of our mechanics. What I must have failed to bring out, however, was that the (CCG) reporter was candidly sharing his understanding of the dynamics of mid-to-large-scale events and the degree of impact he has seen relative to the role of our communication emulators and event co-ordinators and over-all field commanders.

Your post, and that of Dave Gaddy's (in this thread, ref: Searching for Answers... 05/17/2003 09:48:18 EDT) about the 1860's American Civil War bugler group remind me that there are separate but equally important dynamics which must capture our attention if we hope to regain our prominence as sought-after members of the general staff at mid to major event arenas. We ought to see these areas as being equally important while keeping them separate with respect to their development.

On The Home Front of What We Do

First: We should want to develop the most accurate personal portayal using all the available documentation. Portrayal definitely includes taking on an 1860's military mission mindset in whatever decisions challenge us. It begins with YOU and ME and is a very personal thing. It encompasses the very reason why we'd want to be involved with such activities in the first place.

Second: We should want to operate and become or remain cutting-edge period-functional for the collective benefit (and worthiness) of our own unit members and the various detachments with whom we choose to associate.

Players at Upper Level Event Dynamics,
What are Their Needs & Rewards?

The American Civil War Buglers and, in fact, all functional field musicians have a lot in common with signallists and telegraphers: we're all striving to emulate period field communicators down to the last note of music or the final dip of the flag. Once these talking flags and bugles have completed their last measure, the message ought then to be executed, right? Wrong!

In reality, many musicians complain (as they have since I've been involved with re-enacting) that most calls played at the proper time of day and using the proper duty calls, mostly go ignored at a goodly number of events. This shouldn't be but it is. Why? Because the musicians have spent the majority of their time taking on an 1860's military mission mindset instead of attempting to convince the army (from the top down or bottom up) that the musical duty calls actually mean more than pretty little tunes to help keep you in step. Very few, outside of the musicians themselves, actually know the calls and can place a function to each call. After all, they aren't really required to mount a guard for 24 hours, go outside of camp or to the quartermaster depot when wood or water call is sounded or have their first sgts. conduct the designated sick to the surgeon. In essence, musicians, no matter how historically accurate they may strive to become, are almost superfluous in many cases at many events. Why? Because the rank and file do not embrace, nor have they elected (on their own) to submit to such regimentation. They're simply unconvinced that they really need to take on an 1860's military emersion mission mindset. As you put it, Dave, many re-enactors (even those outside of the mainstream) believe that, "it is more interesting to many spectators to hear the rifles fire, watch people flop on the ground, see our mortars lob a projectile into a lake, and hear our three cannons fire a volley".

Conversely, I truly believe that there are some over-all field commanders and event coordinators, wanting more than a shoot-em-up to occur every time they are in charge of executing historical scenarios. They also want to know that subordinate commanders have followed their portions of the scripts or know why the evolution couldn't be carried off at the time called for.

The pre-event on-site and gatherings and conference calls are conducted to ensure everyone within the 'loop' that things might work this time as opposed to last time.

At re-enactments over-all commanders operate in NOW TIME. They and their staffs have minutes or an hour or two out of a weekend to GET IT RIGHT. There are no re-takes at spectator re-enactments. Commanders and their staffs have little use for knowing 'how it was done' (better known as Signalling 101). The only thing that seems to matter is whether it can be done (pre-event thoughts) or 'whether or not it got done' (real-time no excuses).

Rich, you early realized that, "commanders donít know how and when to use comm." When it comes down to the bottom line, event commanders, movers and shakers focus in on orchestrating the flow of the event and the scenarios associated with it. Re-enacting CSO's and those detachments wanting to attain a lofty and purposeful place in the "Upper Level of Event Dynamics" must first know what is important to their field commanders. More importantly though, CSO's and their seconds must become intimately familiar with the event players and the latest game plan, then anticipate any changes in script as soon as these are known to them. Be prepared to act on the new direction immediately upon approval.

These would-be communications experts must also convince those in the various signal detachments what their mission is and see that the mission comes first. The mission is paramount. Fail to realize this and your importance on the staff or in the field dissolves. Once your effectiveness is compromised, your credibility, and those of others serving with you at events, is lost.

I hear many members of detachments echo your thoughts, "participation in large scale events is so small, that there is little opportunity to show our stuff." To this I ask, where are the linemen who show up at events sporting axes in hand (and having pre-permission) to cut the saplings and erect the telegraph lines? Where are the signallists supplied with red and blue pencils plus foolscap, tracing paper and pocket compasses ready to map out the suroundings for use by the commander and his staff? If at all possible prior to an event, knowing the anticipated camping grounds, might temporary signal towers or telegraph offices have been erected to add that special touch of site-specific realism?

Commanders don't want to know what you know as much as what you can do to help them get through the weekend. As I see it we should be focused on a few basic requirements if we are to gain and maintain a somewhat permanent position on someone's staff. They are:

1. Know as much as possible of what a commander wishes to see accomplished.

2. I know this will sound shocking to some but strive to be accessible (or have your second accessible) to your commander at a moment's notice during the entire event.

3. Have your adjutant and leading signal sergeant establish a duty roster that will enable the commander's mission to be successful on AND OFF the re-enactment field during an event. This is more important than you think when it comes to army staff prep. duties.

3. If you happen to be thrown in with a lazy general or staff, do your duty and don't concern yourselves with their lack of attention to detail. While you are serving your assigned command, remember you are also there to ensure the success of the event. Forget this little fact of re-enacting and you'll soon find yourselves on the dusty shelves of the has-beens.

4. Small events are the places to incorporate the 'what-if' scenarios. Make the event as realistic to your detachment associates as you can. Create believable field situations prior to arriving at the event site. Induce squads of mounted (if you can find them) or dismounted cavalrymen or infantrymen to post guard around your signal statons or telegraph offices. Raise armed escorts to accompany you on your reconnaissance missions. Convince the commanders how 'important' your areas are and have his and his adjutant's permission to post these videttes or pickets.

5. Do whatever you can to convince your own signal and telegraph personnel that they have a higher calling than most of the other attendees at an event. As you can see from the suggestions I've already made, we can and should be working fools if the event mission really does come first and is the reason for our attendance. If serving isn't what it's all about, you ought to pack up your kit and move in with the infantry. After all, their job is finished when they leave the mock battle area, right? A signallist serves with the staff and as the last infantryman takes off his Brogans and begins picking his toe nails a signalman can be seen scurrying about with, or transmitting despatches between, the various commanders in the field and the general head-quarters. Later these same flagmen can be seen attending after-action meetings and involving themselves with the planning for the next day's actions.

6. I am strongly of the opinion that we can only "educate, participate, and demonstrate" if we study the printed period materials, know our site-specific mission, and then apply all we have learned in earnest, at every event we choose to attend, and with the means at our disposal. This applies to every signal emulator who chooses to call himself such.

7. Don't rely on your leaders coming to your rescue when the parties become telescoped out to the point where, guess what?, you find that you are now in charge and the reputation of many now rests squarely on your shoulders.

August V. Kautz states in his 1864 tome entitled "Customs of Service" that, "The decisive events of a soldier's life are few and far between, and the intervals are devoted to waiting for these turning points. If the time he spends in waiting is usefully occupied in preparing himself for the critical moments, he will thereby enhance his chances of success, and add lustre to the promotion which his achivements are sure to obtain for him."

Kautz goes on to say: "The military profession involves a knowledge of almost every art, and information accumulated and held in store for the fortunate moment is suddenly demanded and called for, and he who can come forward and say, "I posess it," is the victor. A soldier can, therefore, never be placed in any situation in which his leisure moments may not be devoted to something that may sometime win him a grade."

Hope this helps,
Walt Mathers

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