GERMANTOWN, N.Y. – Thirty New York Army National Guard leaders learned about the demise of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the Middle East from 1299 to 1919, to prepare for deployment to the region in 2020.
The officers and senior non-commissioned officers of the 42nd Infantry Division's headquarters heard from Sean McMeekin, a professor at Bard College in Annadale-on-Hudson, N.Y., during a professional development session Dec. 13.
McMeekin wrote the book, "The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East."
The Ottoman Empire once controlled the region that now includes the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Syria, Israel and Iraq. The breakup of that empire following World War I shaped the Middle East today, McMeekin explained.
"It is important to know the history of the region," said McMeekin. "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."
The division staff members and leaders attended the lecture to learn more about the history of the Middle East and its impact on the current political and military environment.
The division headquarters will mobilize in January to deploy to Kuwait and other locations throughout the region. The deployment is expected to last 10 months.
The program was developed through the efforts of New York Army National Guard Maj. John McBride, a staff officer preparing for mobilization in January with the headquarters.
McBride had read McMeekin's book and was impressed. He found out the professor taught at Bard, less than 60 miles from the 42nd Infantry Division's headquarters in Troy.
So he reached out to McMeekin to ask if he would be willing to speak to division staff, McBride said.
"One of the main themes of the book is how shifts in allegiance have had long-lasting impacts in the region," McBride explained.
"These themes have resurfaced in the present day. As Russia tries to replace the U.S. as a patron of Turkey, other regional actors have had to adapt to the changing dynamics. The lasting impacts of these changes will begin to emerge during our deployment, with many of these changes having roots in the treaties that ended World War I," McBride added.
McMeekin also wrote "July 1914: Countdown to War, The Russian Origins of the First World War," which won the Norman B. Tomlinson Jr. Book Prize and was nominated for the Lionel Gelber Prize; and "The Berlin to Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, 1898–1918," which won the Barbara Jelavich Book Prize.
"The information we received today is just the tip of the iceberg," said Col. Sean Flynn, the 42nd Infantry Division's chief of staff. "It informs us how much more study is needed."
This studying will be carried out by the officers of the division staff, who assist the chief of staff in planning and carrying out the division's mission in the Middle East, Flynn said.
"I couldn't be more confident in our staff," said Flynn. "The staff are experts in their fields and experts in the Middle East."
Lt. Col. Gurpreet Singh, the commander of the 42nd Infantry Division's headquarters battalion, said it was important to learn about what happened in the region as the division headquarters prepares to deploy.
"Just like I tell my kids," Singh said. "It's about not making the same mistake twice."
The 42nd Infantry Division headquarters last deployed in 2004-2005. The division served as the headquarters for the 23,000 Soldiers of Task Force Liberty, consisting of two active Army brigades, two National Guard brigades and supporting elements operating north of Baghdad in 2005.