Friday, March 3, 2023

Georgia National Guard's Georgia Military Institute Explores Military History Through Staff Ride

 By Maj. William Carraway, Historian, Georgia National Guard

Collage: The Georgia Military Institute shoulder Sleeve Insignia of Class 1 and officer candidates of Class 62.

Officer candidates of the Georgia Army National Guard’s Georgia Military Institute conducted a staff ride March 3, 2023 at the Atlanta History Center. The staff ride is part of the long tradition of military history education in the GMI leadership curriculum.

Officer Candidates of GMI Class 62 conduct a sand table brief on the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain January 7, 2023 in preparation for the March
staff ride in Atlanta. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

For two months prior to the staff ride, the officer candidates researched the Atlanta Campaign and the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Assuming the roles of staff and commanders for the Federal and Confederate forces, the candidates conducted sand table briefs covering operational and terrain considerations and evaluating courses of actions for commanders on both sides of the conflict. Major William Carraway, Historian of the Georgia National Guard and graduate of GMI Class 46, presided over the briefings linking the events with the principles of war and modern military tactics. These principles and tactics will be the focus of training for the officer candidates as they begin phase three of training in the field in April.


Drew Hathaway recounts the evolution of military history training at GMI. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

Retired Captain Drew Hathaway opened the staff ride at the Atlanta History Center with an overview of the evolution of military history education at GMI over the years. A graduate of GMI Class 49, Hathaway was part of the first class to train fully at the Clay National Guard Center after GMI relocated there from Macon.


Historian Michael Hitt covers the antebellum to Civil War history of the Georgia Military Institute. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

Historian Michael Hitt, dressed in the antebellum uniform of a GMI instructor, addressed the officer candidates on the history of GMI beginning with the first period which ran from the opening of the institute in 1851 through the destruction of the campus in 1864 and the surrender of the cadet battalion in 1865. Hitt next recalled the brief period beginning in 1891 when GMI was resurrected with campus buildings in Atlanta. This heretofore little known period of GMI history had not appeared in printed history of the institute and represents an emerging field of study for the history of the Georgia National Guard.  Ultimately, the second iteration of GMI ended in 1898 with the auction of campus buildings and land which would form part of the Woodward Academy in College Park. 

This building served as part of the Georgia Military Institute in Atlanta from 1891-1898. Photo by Maj. William Carraway. 

While the campus might have closed, the legacy of this iteration of GMI continued forward as graduates served during the Spanish American War, on the Mexican Border in 1916 and through World War I.


Doctor Gordon Jones, senior military historian of the Atlanta History Center provides officer candidates of GMI Class 62 with a close view of
artifacts relevant to the institute’s history. Photo by Maj. William Carraway.

Doctor Gordon Jones, senior military historian of the Atlanta History Center provided the officer candidates with a close view of artifacts relevant to the institute’s history. The candidates viewed Cadet John M. Hazlehurst cadet uniform worn while attending the Georgia Military Institute as well as his field jacket from his service in the Cadet Battalion from 1864-1865. Additionally, Dr. Jones and Michael Hitt demonstrated civil war weapons used by and against the Cadet Battalion during their service in the American Civil War. Among these weapons was the Spencer Repeating Rifle which was employed by the 9th Illinois Mounted Infantry against the Cadet Battalion in skirmishes before the Battle of Resaca in May 1864.


Officer Candidates of GMI Class 1 March in formation at their armory in Forsyth in 1961. Georgia National Guard Archives.

While the staff ride was rich in military history and lessons of prior conflicts, the officer candidates were also immersed in the history of the Georgia Military Institute. The current GMI was authorized in 1961 by Governor Ernest Vandiver and was based in Forsyth, the present location of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment. In October 1967, GMI relocated to Milledgeville and occupied the Carl Vinson Training Center. It would remain in Milledgeville until February 1985 when the institute relocated to Macon. From its Macon location, GMI conducted field training in wooded terrain in nearby Griswoldville. The institute moved to its present location in 2009 where GMI Class 48 became the first class to graduate at the Clay National Guard Center.


This collage represents 24 years of GMI history. Top left: Class 23 conducts PT in Milledgeville. Top Right: Class 29 rappelling. 
Bottom left: Class 46 conducts field training at Griswoldville. Bottom right: GMI in Macon in 2007. 

Since GMI Class 1 graduated in 1962, the institute has commissioned 1,217 second lieutenants in the Georgia Army National Guard. These officers have served in all of America’s wars beginning with Vietnam and continuing through ongoing conflicts overseas. Georgia Military Institute graduates were part of the 48th Infantry Brigade’s deployment to Bosnia Herzegovina and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. From Class 1 to the present class 62, GMI graduates have risen to the highest ranks of the Georgia National Guard including the office of adjutant general while others have gone on to joint commands in the U.S. Army as general officers.

The Georgia Military Institute is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 122nd Regional Training Institute commanded by Lt. Col. Jeff Freeman, GMI Class 32. The 122nd RTI is commanded by Col. Theodore Scott, GMI Class 36. The Georgia Military Institute’s senior instructor is Capt. Joshua Merry, GMI, Class 55.


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