BAGRAM, Afghanistan — The 126th Military History Detachment, Massachusetts Army National Guard arrived at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Dec. 10, 2011 to conduct military history operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Regional Command – East. The 126th’s mission is to collect and preserve the U.S. Army’s kinetic and stability operations from Kabul to the Pakistan border in RC-E, which is commanded by the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters.
In recent years, the 126th MHD has become one of the most mobilized units in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. The 126th deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo prior to 9/11. When the terrorist attacks occurred in New York City, the 126th received one of the first calls from the U.S. Army Center of Military History to cover the efforts of the military and the first responders to Ground Zero.
In 2002, the 126th was the first MHD deployed to the Afghanistan Theater after the initial phase of Operation Enduring Freedom. The unit worked for U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) with Civil Affairs (CA), Special Operations and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) units.
When the invasion of Iraq was still in its planning phase, USASOC wanted the 126th MHD to deploy with the first U.S. Army units into Iraq with U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC). The 126th redeployed to Fort Bragg, N.C. to prepare for Operation Iraqi Freedom and quickly turned around and deployed to Kuwait. In March 2003, the 126th crossed the berm from Kuwait into Iraq with CA units.
October 2005 the 126th MHD was again called to action. From November 2005 to November 2006, the detachment was assigned to cover the entire Iraq Theater, where it worked with Infantry, Cavalry, PSYOPS and CA units.
Military History Detachments are unique units in the force structure of the U.S. Army. There are twenty-seven MHDs in the Army, almost exclusively assigned to the National Guard or Army Reserve. Presently, there is only one Active Duty MHD. Detachments consist of three soldiers, one field grade officer and two noncommissioned officers.
Members of MHDs are called combat historians and when MHDs are fully staffed, there are eighty-one combat historians in the U.S. Army. On behalf of U.S. Army historians, MHDs collect and archive copies of historical documents, photographs, museum artifacts and conduct oral history interviews.
Photographs taken by MHDs are particularly important to Army historians. They can show the specific terrain in which a unit operates, how soldiers wear their equipment and what special weapons systems and vehicles they utilize. Future historians will use the photographs and oral history interviews to enhance our knowledge of how specific units operated in theater.
Military History Detachments work throughout the theater of operations. The MHD develops a collection plan based on units in their area, specific kinetic operations and the time and resources available. Once the collection plan is complete, combat historians travel to combat units to execute the collection plan. Combat historians typically accompany soldiers on combat patrols, cordon and searches, raids and other missions in order to capture history as it is occurs. MHD soldiers must be fully proficient in all of the soldier’s skills whom they study and interview since they are often in the field with them.
After missions, combat historians interview soldiers to obtain first-hand accounts from soldiers’ perspective. These oral interviews, in addition to photographs, official operations orders, storyboards, intelligence data, after action reviews and other relevant historical documentation are collected by the MHD. With this information at hand, historians who write the official U.S. Army history will have a complete and accurate account of important military operations and events.
The 126th MHD continues to uphold the traditions of its predecessors and ensures the accomplishments and sacrifices of our soldiers are accurately preserved for generations to come.
In the Massachusetts Army National Guard structure, the 126th MHD is assigned to the 151st Regional Support Group in Framingham, Massachusetts.