Thursday, February 22, 2018

Soldiers fire revolvers during instruction on military tactics by Msg. Keith Herrin. The firearms were built using nineteenth century techniques that were in place when Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer lost in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Military unit travels to Garryowen to learn from Custer’s mistakes

Every year, active duty military units travel to Garryowen to learn what not to do in a large-scale battle, as well as engage in team-building exercises. As it turns out, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s final fight against the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes offers material for instruction in tactical errors.
The group that arrived on June 8 was led by Msg. Keith Herrin, from Ft. Harrison in Helena.
The soldiers were a combination of veterinarian corps students and first-year army veterinarians from Ft. Carson in Colorado, Ft. Hood in Texas and Ft. Lewis-McChord in Washington.
Herrin is an active-duty soldier in the Montana National Guard and also works with the U.S. Cavalry School, helping them perform the annual Little Bighorn Battle reenactment. He has trained military personnel since 2004.
“We spend our time taking military units that are working on team building and history,” he said. “[We] compare the battle to the conflict[s] we’re in now.”
In addition to a brief tour of Garryowen’s Custer Battlefield Museum, learning the history of the battle and the errors that were made, Herrin and the soldiers fired period Springfield 45-70 rifles. These rifles are the type used by Custer’s men in the battle.
In the backyard behind the museum, they learned how to shoot the rifles as Custer’s 7th Cavalry did. To fire the weapons, they hold bullets in between their fingers to maximize firing speed, as the 45-70 rifles have to be reloaded every time they are shot. 
According to Custer Battlefield Museum Director Chris Kortlander, the museum has received military groups and classes for about 20 years, and has had Navy Seals, and even generals visit.
“Even some [military] groups from our allies from different countries have come to the museum,” he said. “A lot of the military personnel want to learn about [the battle], so we don’t make the same mistakes Custer did.”
For more information on the U.S. Cavalry School, go to