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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Marines, sailors visit National Infantry Museum, Soldier Center at Fort Benning

By 2nd Lt. Joe Thomas | | February 11, 2010

Although military technology has changed drastically since the American Revolution, the hardships and experiences of the American soldier have changed little throughout the course of history.

Marines and sailors of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany learned this lesson, among others, as a part of a professional military education tour of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Fort Benning, Ga., Feb 4.

“It is easy for Marines and sailors to get tunnel vision in their everyday tasks,” said Sgt. Maj. Scott C. Mykoo, sergeant major, MCLB Albany. “For this reason, the PMEs (professional military education) not only educate base personnel, but also provide a means for the participants to socialize and learn from each other while getting away from their normal every day activities.”

It is also important to learn about the other branches of service. “It’s not like it was 30 or 40 years ago, we are all participating in a joint environment now. It’s one team, one fight,” Mykoo said.

The Marines have a history of working with their sister services and the Army is no exception. Whether it’s the Civil War, World War I and II or The Vietnam War, Marines and soldiers have shared the ground war against this nation’s enemies for more than two centuries.

The museum is crucial to understanding the Army’s portion of this shared effort.

The various exhibits portray the experience of the American soldier in a realistic and thought-provoking manner.

Depiction of bayonet charges, complete with life-sized figures and authentic equipment, as well as battle-damaged vehicles, did more than paint the picture of what it is like to be a “grunt” in a forward area.

The Last 100 Yards, one of the museum’s main attractions, is key to understanding the overall concept of the museum: the importance of America’s infantry.

Its name is derived from the fact that, regardless of what supporting arms are used or who is involved, the last 100 yards of any conflict is fought by the American infantryman, said Cas Michael Criscillis, director of the National Infantry Museum.

This portion of the museum also shows dramatic depiction of key points in the history of the Army infantry from the American Revolution to America’s current overseas operations in the Middle East.

The Marines and sailors also attended a showing of “Michael Jordan to the Max” at the IMAX Theater within the facility. The film’s theme was heroism and what it takes to achieve that heroism, a message that correlates with the rest of the exhibit.

The tour also consists of exhibits dedicated to the Cold War, both World Wars, Korea, The Vietnam War and other conflicts.

Video clips, art, sound bites and dioramas also serve to flesh out the museum and add a degree of depth that provides an excellent learning experience.

The museum, both privately and federally funded, was partly influenced by the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va.

However, the main inspiration came from retired Army Maj. Gen. Jerry White, former commander of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga. The retired general is noted by those who knew him as an individual who had a passion for his comrades in the Army infantry, Criscillis said.

“He wanted a state-of-the-art facility for his soldiers,” said Jean McKee, one of the volunteer employees working for the museum.

More than 257,000 visitors have visited the museum since it opened in June.

Criscillis said the old museum at a different location, saw much less than this at an average of 64,000 visitors annually.

“The infantry has always been left the dirty and undesirable job, and throughout history, without question, marched forward and often times achieved extraordinary objectives with very little resources. What we want people to go away with is the fact that these soldiers, historically and currently, are making these incredible sacrifices and we wish to honor them for an otherwise thankless job,” said Jeff C. Reed, arms curator at the National Infantry Museum. Reed, a former active infantryman, also deployed to Iraq as a government civilian worker.

“The highlight of my career was to have the opportunity to walk and to collect items off of Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith’s battle site, who was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was an extraordinary experience to be there and document this man’s heroic actions,” he said.

The PME included staff and officers from Marine Corps Logistics Command, Marine Corps Systems Command, Inspector Instructor Staff of the reserve detachment, Naval Branch Health Clinic and Albany base personnel.