The Duke University Program in American Grand Strategy hosts ambitious ‘Staff Rides’ where students role play military and war-period characters alongside faculty and military experts to learn the stakes of war. Led by Professor Peter Feaver, students debate strategy from the perspective of embroiled contemporaries of war to learn the trust costs and sacrifices of leadership.
“The staff ride was created in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars by the Prussians, the perfectors of European military strategy and training. They would walk the battlefields of previous wars, observe the terrain and have officers research and take the roles of various commanders and political leaders on all sides. An officer would then present their characters’ personal history, their plans for the conflict, as well as their actions during it. The other participants then adopt their characters’ roles and counter or question the presenter’s arguments in order to point out disagreements, mistakes, or good strategies. Staff rides are invaluable because they help the participants to understand not just who fought there and when, but what was planned, what ended up occurring, why they these events occurred, and how these events fit into the broader context of political or geopolitical issues.” – Adam Lemon, American Grand Strategy Alumnus
This year in mid-March, nearly 40 Duke AGS undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members and alumni trekked across Belgium and France for the World War I End Game Staff Ride. Duke produced an incredible photo story featuring our time abroad entitled “Learning on the Battlefield.” Click here to check it out!