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Plotting history to help the future

By Capt. Luis Barber
First published in
SFOR Informer #98, October 11, 2000

Sarajevo - Dr. James Orzech leads the Historical Office at HQ SFOR. This office, part of CJ7, serves SFOR by keeping as large an archive as possible.
Orzech graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and has a doctorate in Oceanography from the University of California. Also, as a reservist, he is qualified as a Naval Historian. First, he served as a naval historian with the USS America Battle Group deployed in the Adriatic Sea in January through February 1996 at the start of IFOR. Then, he came to Bosnia to be the SFOR historian as a Navy captain from October 1997 through May 1998. He returned to SFOR as a civilian historian in June 1998 and has been here ever since.
With the help of his clerk assistant, Spc. Donald Duty of the US Army, he is responsible for providing a comprehensive archive of data for the lessons-learned process for the official record and for future historical research. This archive contains key documents, reports, messages, decision papers, logbooks, diaries, etc. Also a representative collection of associated material such as maps, posters and artifacts can be added.
One of best known reasons for keeping archives is to avoid making the same mistakes twice. But if people who have to decide do not know where the historical documents are, it is possible for them to make the same errors. One of their most important challenges is to reconstruct all of their electronic records and scan all the paper records. They will be stored on a large drive to be known as the "Operational Archive."
In the future, every record will be accessible for SFOR users.
"We started to scan, but it will take many months," explained Orzech. This drive does not yet exist, but has been funded.
According to Orzech, it is very important that "an organisation as complex as SFOR with so much turnover of personnel must maintain good historical records or lose continuity. In any military operation, the routine things we do today will soon become part of history in a very short time."
Since IFOR and SFOR had a historian from the start, it is possible to ensure that most of historical documents are safe, which is very useful for any SFOR operation. Dr. Orzech now has been asked to help set up an historical office for the new KFOR Historian.
"Whenever the staff needs any historical information on past SFOR operations such as, for example, support for elections, the historian must find them in the archive. The historian ensures that electronic and paper records are always put into the archive after, for example, an election cycle for later use," explained Orzech.
But these are not the only tasks for these men. They are carrying out all the tasks entrusted to the Historical Office such as maintaining a photographic and video archive, by taking theirs own photographs and videos if it is necessary, or by receiving material from donors like Combat Camera Group, PIO and open-source web sites. To conduct historic interviews and record events of historical significance - especially if they suspect that no source will provided them with the material - they also stay in touch with the MND HQs so not to lose any historical material.
Moreover, they have to carry out historical research. Orzech's advice for those interested in becoming an historian is, "You must have good analytical skills and be willing to spend the time to do thorough research and careful evaluation."

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