Military Staff Rides
Staff rides began with the Prussian Army in the mid-1800s and with the U.S. Army in the early 1900s as a way to further the development of officers.
They began to gain popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, and today, both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps use Staff Rides extensively and define them the same way: "A staff ride consists of systematic preliminary study of a selected campaign, an extensive visit to the actual sites associated with that campaign, and an opportunity to integrate the lessons derived from each. It envisions maximum student involvement before arrival at the site to guarantee thoughtful analysis and discussion. A staff ride thus links a historical event, systematic preliminary study, and actual terrain to produce battle analysis in three dimensions. It consists of three distinct phases: preliminary study, field study, and integration."
A staff ride is a group exercise in which each participant gives a briefing on plans, orders, events, decisions, and individuals. They frequently take on the persona of one of the primary participants in the battle. Afterwards, his/her colleagues question him/her about that participant's view of what has occurred on the battlefield at that point.
Crucial concepts addressed in a staff ride should include the nine principles of war: mass, objective, offensive, surprise, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, and simplicity. These should be covered at each stage of the battle.
Both the Army and Marine Corps determine that "staff rides have often been confused with other exercises that involve the terrain. A tactical exercise without troops (TEWT) uses terrain and hypothetical scenarios, but not history, as a teaching vehicle. A historical battlefield tour is a visit to the site of a battle but involves little or no preliminary systematic study on the part of the student. While a historical tour can stimulate thought and discussion, it is limited by the lack of student preparation and involvement."
The Wilson's Creek Staff Ride book by Major (Ret.) George E. Knapp may be found at this link:
Staff ride participants can find other useful information on the History & Culture pages.