Sunday, October 15, 2006

THE MARINE CORPS HISTORY DIVISION is a component of Marine Corps University, located in Quantico, Virginia. Those unfamiliar with military culture may find it surprising that the Marine Corps has a university. Stereotypes of the military in general, and the Marine Corps in particular, lead to the notion that our specialty is causing mayhem and breaking things. (“When it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight, call 1-800-THE-USMC!”) Certainly the application of combat power is our bottom line, but there is, in fact, a tremendous commitment to education in the Corps.

From the youngest Private to the most senior General, we are always learning, both informally and formally, to become more effective warriors and citizens. The informal culture of learning is pervasive within every command; from old Marine to new, Corporal to PFC, commander to unit, knowledge is constantly being shared. The formal process begins with boot camp and never ends. The Marine Corps University is charged with coordinating most of this effort. Its mission is “to develop, deliver, and evaluate professional military education and training through resident and distance education programs in order to prepare leaders to meet the challenges of operational environments.” A quick review of their website at http://www.mcu.usmc.mil/ will reveal how varied and thorough this educational process is for Marines of all ranks.

What role does the History Division play in this process? Anyone familiar with the Marine Corps knows about our tremendous pride in our history and commitment to our legacy. The new National Museum of the Marine Corps which will open in less than a month just outside Quantico’s gates is a magnificent symbol of this pride. See http://www.usmcmuseum.org/
for more information about this new "epicenter" of Marine Corps History. But where do the artifacts that go into a museum or the recollections that comprise a book actually come from?

A thorough knowledge of our past (its successes and failures) is an inherent part of our preparation for the complex modern battlefield. Our Mission Statement states, “History Division's (HD) primary task is to research and write the Marine Corps’ official history. HD also provides reference and research assistance; preserves personal experiences and observations through oral history interviews; and deploys field historians to record history in the making.” (See http://www.history.usmc.mil/ for more information.) That’s where I come in. As a history teacher, I understand the power of the individual human perspective in truly understanding and making sense of past events. My job will be to help capture the viewpoint of those making history today in Iraq and preserve their testimony for future generations of citizens, statesmen and warriors to learn from.

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