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Army Unit Helps Bagram Make History

By Sgt. Johnny A. Thompson, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2003 – Poet and philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it." For Army units here, a repeat performance of past Army calamities is unlikely because of the 130th Military History Detachment's work.

The 130th, a three-man National Guard unit out of North Carolina, is the Army's conduit to understanding the welfare of soldiers in Afghanistan.

"Our mission is to collect historical information and material on Army units," said Maj. Ronnie Baugh, the unit's commander. "We are responsible for recording the roles and missions of the units in Afghanistan for the Army to understand how it's using its resources and how those resources are performing."

The 130th is one of 26 active, Reserve and National Guard Army components that gather information about units to be used for historical purposes.

In performing its mission, the 130th collects artifacts, documents and interviews from soldiers to compile files on units that ultimately will find their way onto the pages of Army history.

"The information that we collect is given to the Center for Military History, the Center for Army Lessons Learned and Army museums. From (our information) they convert materials into historical items," said Baugh. "We collect American troops' weapons, uniforms, equipment, maps, map overlays, fragmentary orders from operations and anything else that tells the story of units' missions."

Baugh noted his team helps units to increase their history at the local level by aiding them in keeping items they gain on missions.

"For (a) battalion-level unit and higher, we help with the process of retaining one piece of artifact they seized from a mission for their own unit history."

Besides being used to "capture the moment" for the Army, material collected also aids in creating and amending Army doctrine.

"Our mission is to create a database for the Army's history, but the information units give us also helps the Army understand what is working and what is not working for the soldiers," said Sgt. 1st Class Dwight Green, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 130th.

Using laptop computers, digital cameras, voice recording equipment and transcription equipment, the 130th engages units to get a thorough understanding of their goals and accomplishments.

"We are focusing on the nation-building stage of Afghanistan," said Baugh. "We are recording information to tell the story of (the) reconstruction period of Afghanistan. That's our main concern."

The 130th also interacts with the Air Force and Marines to gain information, said Baugh. And because Bagram is a coalition base, his unit plans on working with the coalition countries to include their roles.

The unit is scheduled to visit the Kabul Military Training Center and document the structure and training of the Afghan National Army.

"The history unit of the Army has been established since World War I, but not until Desert Storm has there been a big push to capture the Army's history and its story (from within the organization)," said Baugh. "Since that time, (the Army) has been committed to capturing its history." Green noted that history detachments also are serving in Iraq and Bosnia.

The 18th century French military officer, novelist and poet Alfred de Vigny said, "History is a novel for which the people is the author." If his theory holds true, the 130th MHD is the journal in which soldiers in Afghanistan write their novel.

"Our information is tapped into the soldier," said Green. "Their information is what creates doctrine, creates changes in the Army, but most importantly, what creates the Army history."

(Sgt. Johnny A. Thompson is assigned to the 4th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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