FORT PICKETT, Va. –
In 21 years, Col. Thom Morgan has only missed teaching Virginia Guard officer candidates military history one time, and that was when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. He and his father, Lonnie Morgan, work together each year to give the officer candidates a unique first-hand look into Virginia’s military history, and have been doing so since 1992.
“I want them to understand they are justified in taking great pride in their service in the Virginia National Guard,” said Morgan on his goal in teaching the candidates military history. “Studying history enhances their decision making and benefitting from the lessons of history does not have to be boring.”
The military history class, typically taught to the senior class candidates during a drill weekend, begins with a classroom lecture.
“I familiarize the officer candidates with the history of the Virginia National Guard and legislation that resulted in the National Guard of today,” Morgan explained. “I address the importance of studying history to the military profession, the impacts of technology upon tactics and the extensive technology developed during the American Civil War.”
After gaining a basic understanding of the history of the Virginia Guard and the importance of studying that history, the candidates get a chance to get up close and personal with a wide range of military weaponry, primarily from the Civil War era. The weapons come from Lonnie Morgan’s personal collection and, during the most recent teaching of the course in April, the candidates encountered more than 75 pieces of primarily Civil War-era military weaponry.
“Col. Morgan’s class is one of the highlights of OCS training,” said Capt. Jonathan Fair, OCS training officer. “Candidates learn about the history of the Virginia Guard and also about the tactics and weapons of the past. It has become one of the rites of passage of OCS.”
Morgan first became involved with the OCS program in 1990 when he became an adjunct instructor teaching several classes during annual training and monthly drills. The next year, in November, he was hired on as the OCS training officer, a position he held until 1995. Later, Morgan was appointed as the OCS Commandant, in 1999, and became the 4th Battalion Commander at the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute from 2007 to 2009.
“As a graduate of OCS at Fort Benning, I feel a professional responsibility to contribute to the leadership development of our Soldiers who want to serve as commissioned officers,” Morgan explained.
Morgan’s interest in military weaponry and marksmanship predates his entry into the military and was fostered early by his father.
“My father and I began metal detecting when I was 12 years old and competed in marksmanship competitions using Civil War era black powder weapons when I was 15,” Morgan said of his early familiarization with marksmanship. Morgan also stated that most of his father’s collection was acquired before they started teaching the candidates military history.
“Military history is important because it teaches the candidates the lessons of the past,” Fair said. “By analyzing those lessons, candidates gain a deeper understanding of tactics, strategy and military concepts. Military history also analyzes and discusses historical military leaders and how their personalities and beliefs shaped their decisions.”
The Virginia Guard’s OCS program started in 1958 at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach and currently is based out of Fort Pickett at the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute.