Updated: 22-Nov-2012
News > 2012  

Battle of Arapiles Staff Ride

Written by Maj Pasquale DI BISCEGLIE
Pictures by OR-5 Francisco BLANCO

From 19 to 20 November 2012, about 30 representatives from FCMD participated in the HQ FC Madrid visit to the site of the Battle of Arapiles, to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of one of the most important events in the Spanish Independence War.

To commemorate this historic battle, the Commander of Force Command Madrid, LTG Alfredo CARDONA TORRES, decided to organize a Staff Ride. Among those taking part were Major General Joel RIVAULT, COS of Deployable Joint Staff Element 1 (DJSE), Colonel Gianni SELLITTO, acting COS DJSE 2, and Colonel Jose ROMERO, Executive Officer to Commander FCMD, who planned the activity as primary instructor.

Staff Rides such as this are a unique and effective method of conveying the lessons of the past to present-day Army leadership for current applications. Properly conducted, these exercises on the very terrain where historic encounters actually took place bring to life lessons, applicable today as in the past, in leadership, tactics and strategy, communications, use of terrain and, above all, the psychology of men in battle.

This historical study offers valuable opportunities for developing professional leadership and the capacity for effective use of combined arms on the battlefield.

The War of Independence as it is called in Spain, or the Peninsular War according to the British, was a military conflict in which the Allied Powers of Spain, the UK and Portugal fought against France. The Anglo-Portuguese-Spanish Army, under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington, defeated Marshal Auguste MARMONT’s French Forces in the hills around Arapiles south of Salamanca.

This activity began on November 15th in FCMD Multipurpose Conference Centre (MCC) where participants in the Staff Ride received information on the schedule of events, a summary of the campaign, maps and orbat. Moreover, participants were divided into syndicates whose members were tasked to study and discuss the documentation provided and consequently bring their own conclusions after the visit to the battlefield.

On 19 November, the entire group travelled from Madrid to Salamanca, where the Battle of Arapiles took place. During the “march” to Salamanca, the primary instructor, Colonel Jose ROMERO, provided further information about the structure of the two Armies, focusing on the personality of the two Generals commanding the two opposing Armies.

The first day’s activity continued with a guided visit to Salamanca with special reference to the location of the initial hostilities between the French and the Allied Army. After that, everyone enjoyed a visit through the wonderful centre of Salamanca declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

The second day’s activity started with a bus transfer to the Arapiles battle site. FCMD Staff Ride “students” visited the Arapiles Interpretation Centre, which offers two sources of information. In one room, a static model is on display showing all the positions of the opposing forces, the nature of the terrain and the number and type of units that fought during the battle. The secondary instructor, Captain German SEGURA GARCIA, provided a short explanation of the battle. In an adjacent room, a documentary video is shown explaining all the phases of the battle.

The activity of course did not stop here, but continued immediately with a walk to the real battlefield to visit the most important battle positions, such as the Arapil Chico (Lesser Arapil), the dominant position of the Allied Army, the Arapil Grande (Greater Arapil), occupied by the French, and several other important hills, namely: Teso de San Miguel, Pico de Miranda and sanctuary of Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Peña.

On the way to the Arapil Grande, LTG Alfredo CARDONA TORRES, Commander FCMD, joined the group and shared with them his precious experience: ”After 44 years in the Army, I would like to share with you my opinion that to read military history in this way, is very good for us. Later on, if you are able to take the experience from this battle, it can help you in a real situation” he said.

Once on the top of the Arapil Grande, all the syndicate leaders gave their impressions on the battle: Colonel SELLITTO stressed three factors: Commanders’ understanding of each other, chance and C2. Colonel NIZAMIS pointed out that those who risk the most are liable to suffer the greatest losses. Colonel TEJEDA underlined the importance of a good centre of gravity.

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The FCMD Staff Ride finished with a touching one-minute silence before the memorial on top of the Greater Arapil, called by Colonel Jose ROMERO in remembrance of all the fallen soldiers from both Armies.

The study day ended with lunch at a local restaurant. Everyone continued to share their impressions from the experience, and enjoyed the spirit of camaraderie that arose among the FCMD Staff Ride 2012 members.

Force Command Madrid always…Plus Ultra!