Thursday, July 30, 2009

National Guard Comes Home To Fort Craig

By Brenda Wilkinson Bureau of Land Management
FORT CRAIG – On Monday, July 20, two Blackhawk helicopters landed on the Bureau of Land Management’s Fort Craig historic site south of Socorro. A tour conducted by the New Mexico National Guard was a homecoming of sorts given that the New Mexico Volunteers – ancestral to the National Guard – made up the bulk of the Union troops at the Battle of Valverde in February of 1862.
The National Guard was conducting a battlefield tour of the area for key staff to provide insights into military operations, tactics and leadership. For the trip, the Guard paired senior officers with less-experienced officers as part of a mentoring program.
Led by Gen. Kenny Montoya, the group gathered around a scale model of the fort in the visitor center and discussed decisions made by both sides during the Battle of Valverde, evaluating the merits and consequences of those Civil War decisions.
Members of the group did considerable preparation for the trip, studying the history of the fort and conflicts involving its men. Many of the participants had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and comparisons were made between those engagements and issues that troops at Fort Craig faced during the so-called Indian Wars – examples used by the military to study the challenges of dealing with a small, irregular group of warriors in inhospitable terrain and among an unfamiliar culture.
After leaving the visitor center, the group toured the fort and then continued the discussions over lunch in the picnic area. After lunch, the group flew north to Black Mesa to view the Valverde battlefield from above. The Black Mesa portion of the tour was hosted by Tom Waddell, ranch manager for Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch.

Photo caption: Two Blackhawk helicopters land at Fort Craig. Photo by Brenda Wilkinson/BLM Socorro Office

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