By Nick Minecci
USAG Public affairs
HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - About two dozen of USAG Fort Detrick's upper and middle managers from the Garrison's directorates visited here March 23 to learn about John Brown's raid and poor planning and management that led to his failed raid and subsequent execution, as well as their own leadership and communication styles.
George Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, led the group and described the town's history and how it parallels modern Fort Detrick, as well as leading a discussion of what lessons attendees learned.
Wunderlich explained that the town was located in a key strategic location between two major transportation routes, the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and home to a vital arms manufacturing industry, mush like Fort Detrick sits between I-270 and I-70.
"This town was very much the Fort Detrick of the 19th century, it was you," he said.
After visiting the John Brown Museum, the group toured a replica of one of the arms manufacturing shops and general store, to see how the citizens of 19th century Harpers Ferry lived.
"One of the big mistakes people make is thinking that people back then were backward, they most certainly were not," Wunderlich said. "They were as advanced for their day as we are in ours today," he added.
Following the tour the group returned to the John Brown Museum to discuss what they learned and what lessons they can incorporate into their leadership styles.
During the discussion, Col. Judith Robinson, commander, US Army Garrison Fort Detrick told the group that clear and honest communication was vital for USAG to succeed.
"You can't be afraid to be a change agent, and you can't be afraid of change. You may have to shape that change, you may have to tell the emperor he has no clothes on," she said.
She also discussed a previous trip the group took to Gettysburg National Battlefield and how Maj. Jonathan Letterman was able to change how the US Army medicine operated.
"[Letterman] was a mid-grade officer, and had lots of people who outranked him by a great deal, and yet he was the one who was really able to be the impetus for making these dramatic and long-lasting changes," she told the group.
Following a lunch in Charles town the group visited the Jefferson County courthouse where Brown was tried, and Col. Judith Robinson, commander, US Army Garrison Fort Detrick, asked each member of the class what they took away from the experience, and to remember the lessons learned when dealing with subordinates and those above them alike.