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Staff Rides & Field Trips

AGS takes learning beyond the classroom.

What is a Staff Ride?

"The staff ride was created in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars by Prussians, the perfectors of European military strategy. They would walk 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 present their character's personal history, plans for the conflict and 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 understand not just who fought where and when, but what was planned, what ended up occurring, why those events occurred, and how they fit into the broader geopolitical context."

- AGS Alumnus Adam Lemon '17 

Dr. Peter Feaver discusses the terrain on the staff ride to Pearl Harbor.
Dr. Peter Feaver discusses the terrain on the staff ride to Pearl Harbor.
Photo oa Cemetary

World War II: Road to Rome

During Spring Break 2023, Duke’s Program in American Grand Strategy took a group of 39 students, alumni, faculty, and staff on a weeklong staff ride to Italy. The group followed the Allied Italian Campaign of Jan-Jun 1944 from Anzio-Nettuno and Cassino to Rome.

Where All Roads Lead

Photo of Luz in Italy
Pearl Harbor staff ride

Pearl Harbor Staff Ride

During Spring Break 2022, 38 students, faculty and alumni travelled to Oahu, Hawaii for a staff ride to learn about the planning and execution of Operation Z, failures in American intelligence and response to the attack, and how this part of history is relevant to the modern era.

Exploring Waters of Pearl | 2022

Students in Oahu, Hawaii on the Pearl Harbor Staff Ride

World War II Operation TORCH in Gibraltar and Morocco

Over spring break 2019, 40 Duke students, faculty, alumni and guests spent 8 days traveling throughout Gibraltar and Morocco tracing the steps of Operation Torch, part of the US North Africa Campaign during World War II.  Cities visited included: Gibraltar, Tangier, Fes, Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakech. Students were challenged to role play military and war-period characters alongside faculty and military experts to learn the stakes of war. Led by Professor Peter Feaver, students debated strategy from the perspective of embroiled contemporaries of war to learn the true costs and sacrifices of leadership.

Applications are required due to the high volume of
interest and the amount of thorough preparation
expected of each participant.

AGS Staff Rides and Applications

Each year, AGS holds one domestic and one international staff ride in which students, alumni, faculty and staff are welcome to participate. Recent staff rides have included trips to Hawaii, Morocco, Belgium, France, Vietnam, Grenada, England, Fredericksburg, VA and Gettysburg, PA.

Applications are required due to the high volume of interest and the preparation required of each participant.



Cold War in Europe | Berlin & Prague
March 10-17, 2024

Applications are due October 13, 2023 by 11:59 PM. Click here for details and application materials.

Staff Rides picture

AGS Field Trips

Beyond staff rides, AGS takes learning outside the classroom through national security related field trips. Capitalizing on Duke's strategic location and AGS's partnership with the Counterterrorism and Public Policy Fellowship program, recent trips have included Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC and the Navy SEAL base in Little Creek, VA.

From closed door Q&As and riding white caps in CRRCs with SEAL Team 10, to target practice and parachute simulations with officers at Bragg, AGS field trips provide civilian students with unparalleled opportunities to experience and develop a deeper understanding of the U.S. national security arena.