What is a Staff Ride?

The Staff Ride has an overall objective of using the past to prepare its students for the future, and in this sense, staff rides vary considerably from conventional battlefield tours and pilgrimages where the primary objective is to commemorate the past in some way or another. Staff rides link historical events, preliminary study, and walking the actual terrain to produce a comprehensive battle analysis in three dimensions.

Their main purpose is to further the professional development of military leaders, but Battlefield Studies and Staff Rides can achieve many other objectives depending on circumstances, including:
•    Exposing students to the dynamics of battle, especially those factors that interact to produce victory or defeat.
•    Allowing some insight into the ‘face of battle’ – the timeless human dimensions of battle.
•    Providing case studies in application of the principles of war.
•    Illustrating the operational art.
•    Emphasising combined arms operations or highlighting the operations of a single arm or branch.
•    Suggesting the relationship between technology and doctrine.
•    Interpreting leadership at all levels.
•    Understanding the importance of unit cohesion.
•    Teaching how logistical considerations affect operations.
•    Showing the effects of terrain upon plans and their implementation.
•    Assembling a framework for the study of campaigns and battles.
•    The encouragement of Officers and NCOs to study their profession through the use of military history.

In the 21st Century staff rides are more relevant than ever before. A well planned staff ride offers a unique opportunity for headquarters and units to study joint (tri-service), multi-national (coalition) and multi-agency (comprehensive) operations.

It is not always the case that BS organised within the “system” are the best value for money or indeed the cheapest. As part of the business case, organisers may choose to explore the benefits of engaging a tour company to undertake much of the travel, accommodation and feeding arrangements. They regularly employ ex-military staff who will instinctively know what is required and will be able to pitch the Study at the relevant level. They also have access to linguists to assist with translation, and will relieve the organiser of much of the administration burden during the Study – fixing minor glitches along the way, rather than the necessity for an admin officer with bespoke transport. Such companies will also be able to supply guides and advice on preparatory materiel and may well negate the need for an expensive reconnaissance. There are both good and indifferent companies, so it will pay to do some research and to adhere to the normal rules of competition. The engagement of a civilian company should in no way reduce the investment made by the participants in their Preliminary Study. 

Annexe C to AGAI Vol one - Chapter 23 - Paragraph 2 - Dated June 14