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Officers and staff noncommissioned officers from Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., attend a professional military education session near Sharpsburg, Md., at the battlegrounds of Antietam on Nov. 22, 2014. The PME is part of a series in which the Marines of MBW travel to various Civil War battlegrounds to study leadership and tactics.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Varney)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Varney

Barracks Marines visit Civil War battlefields

25 Nov 2014 | Lance Cpl. Christian Varney Marine Barracks

 A common trait of Marines is to seek ways to improve themselves regardless of rank or job.

A recent trip to the battle grounds of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Md., by the officers and staff noncommissioned officers of Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., exemplifies that very trait.

The trip is part of the Barracks’ professional military education series which takes the Marines to various battle sites of the Civil War.

“We are not only trying to make better Marines and leaders, we are trying to make better citizens and students of American history,” said Col. Benjamin T. Watson, commanding officer, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

Throughout the day, the Marines visited the strategic positions throughout the battlefield. The Marines in attendance studied from the Confederate defense at Burnside’s Bridge to the Union offensive through a cornfield. Throughout the PME, it became evident the result of the battle would be a stalemate.

Dr. Bradford Wineman, a professor at Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University, and Watson led discussions about the command structure and organization of the Union and Confederate Armies.

There were also briefs on the administrative, logistical, and communication methods used during the 1860s. These briefs were coupled with discussions on medicinal practices and the use of different combat arms support elements such as cavalry, artillery and reconnaissance.

“The close proximity of the Marine Barracks to several Civil War battlefields is a great learning opportunity,” said Watson. “Studying history helps us to better understand military tactics and strategic decision making.”

The following day, Headquarters and Service Company took a trip to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., as a continuation of the Barracks’ historical PME program.

There are future field studies being planned for Gettysburg and Chancellorsville.