The 40 participants attending this year’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Course traveled to Pennsylvania on March 22 to visit the Gettysburg National Military Park and U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks.
Course participants toured the Gettysburg battlefield where on July 1-3, 1863, Union and Confederate forces clashed. An estimated 46,000-51,000 troops were casualties. This was the largest number of casualties in any battle of the American Civil War and is often described as the turning point of the war.
The group was escorted throughout the Gettysburg battlefield by two Army War College faculty members, Colonel Len Fullenkamp, U.S. Army (ret.), and David C. Bennett, a retired U.S. Department of State Foreign Service officer with many years of Africa experience. Both Colonel Fullenkamp and Mr. Bennett are experts on the battle and the American Civil War era, sharing with the participants an in-depth narrative of the three-day battle and its consequences on American history.
Mr. Bennett, explaining that the purpose of the participants’ visit to Gettysburg was twofold, said: “On the battlefield, leadership matters. At Gettysburg it was important in the decisions the commanders made and with the battle’s outcome.
“We had to go through four years of civil war as part of our country’s history and founding. We have worked at resolving this and learned from it. We survived our civil war. Other countries can, too.”
Course participant Lieutenant Colonel Jean Paul Habimana of Burundi, Commander of the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, said he learned from his visit to Gettysburg and hearing about the American Civil War was “from a sad experience a better future can come about.
“Looking at what happened in my country, it was a war between brothers. In war there are winners and losers,” Colonel Habimana continued. “We had to go through this. We realized a cease-fire agreement, and the rebels were integrated into the national army. We had a new army that was restructured and reformed. Now the army represents all of the population.”
He added: “The army became more professional, and our experience has become an example in Africa. Within one year, two enemies have become brothers. Within two years, the same army was called to intervene in Somalia. So two enemies are today brothers, fighting side by side in Somalia. Often from a sad experience we can get a better future.”
Upon arriving at Carlisle Barracks, the participants were treated to a speaker who portrayed President Abraham Lincoln. Saying that as President he could “replace a general but can’t replace an army,” he went on to discuss his many challenges in finding a commander who could successfully lead the Army of the Potomac after it had suffered a series of military defeats at the hands of the Confederates. He also discussed America’s governing principal of civilian authority over the military which was called into question in some quarters during the Civil War.
During the session’s question and answer period, one course participant questioned President Lincoln’s judgment and criteria in picking a succession of unsuccessful commanders. Another participant asked for the President’s advice about those seeking to become leaders in Africa. And others queried him about the issue of slavery in America and why Lincoln opposed it.
Following the participants’ meeting with President Lincoln, Moroccan Lieutenant Colonel Younes El Kabbadj, head of the Instructional Division, Royal Armed Forces Armory Inspection, pointed out about America’s founding years: “Morocco was the first country to recognize the U.S. (independence).”
Colonel Fullenkamp next presented an historical overview of the American Civil War. He discussed the basis for the country’s civilian authority over the military and the roots of the Civil War, pointing out that “war is a glorious thing for those who have not seen it.”
He explained the strategy that the two sides chose to fight the war and delved into the role of American presidents as commander-in-chief of the military outlined in the Constitution. Colonel Fullenkamp said successive U.S. presidents have looked back to Lincoln for lessons in matters of civilian control of the military.
Senegalese Major Jean Sylvestre Djibiany Biagui, Division Head, Ministry of the Armed Forces Legislation Control, remarked after Colonel Fullenkamp’s presentation: “There are lots of lessons from the (American) civil war. It was in many respects like a modern war, lasting four years, involving thousands of men. How can military leaders think both strategically and tactically about logistical needs? What made him (General Robert E. Lee) decide to attack on the third day and have no reserve? It’s a paradox.”H
Guest speaker at the evening dinner held at the Carlisle Barracks Officers Club was Dr. Neil B. Weissman, Provost and Dean at Dickinson College. Expounding on universities in U.S. society, he focused his remarks particularly on the evolving relationship between academia and the military.