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Soldiers will have an opportunity to hear a combat historian when Patrick ODonnell, author and war correspondent, visits Derby Auditorium at 1 p.m. Jan. 17 as part of the Combat Leader Speaker Program.
ODonnell has written eight books, all recounting the stories behind some of the Soldiers who fought in American conflicts.
His latest book, Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, tells the story of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, D Company, a group of Soldiers who scaled cliffs during the D-Day operation to destroy German guns and later marched across Europe to fight in numerous battles.
His work Beyond Valor, which told the story of World War II Ranger and Airborne veterans, won the William E. Colby Award for Outstanding Military History.
1st Lt. Jeremy Milstead, of the Maneuver Center of Excellence command group, has helped to promote ODonnells upcoming appearance, and said Soldiers could learn from ODonnells research into past conflicts.
Theres a lot to be learned from history, and he really has dug into the historical backgrounds of a lot of these organizations, from the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc all the way through the invasion of Fallujah, Milstead said. I think he has a lot of insight to offer anybody thats interested in those battles. I think he does a good job of making things understandable.
Frank Miranda, training specialist with the Directorate of Training, said the speaker program is a good opportunity for Soldiers to supplement their formal training with an informal discussion.
The Combat Leader Speaker Program provides the attendees an opportunity to enhance their professional development and learn valuable lessons based on first-hand experiences of the guest speakers, Miranda said.
Guest speakers are not just current or prior military service members, but also civilian representatives of various organizations. These CLSP events are informal and very interactive discussions. This format allows both the attendees and the speaker the opportunity to gain insights of the topic from one another in a true, shared-learning experience.
While ODonnell has written about combat extensively, hes also experienced it firsthand. During the Iraq War, ODonnell was embedded with military units as the only civilian combat historian to volunteer and spend three months in Iraq observing and documenting the events that troops experienced.
During the Battle of Fallujah, he fought with a Marine rifle platoon, and carried a mortally wounded Marine out of a firefight with insurgents.
After his first tour in Iraq, he returned for a second tour, during which time he served as a war correspondent for Mens Journal and Fox News.
Milstead said ODonnells willingness to volunteer during active conflict sets him apart from other historians.
It just shows his support of the armed forces, and his desire to notarize and publish the accomplishments of a lot of Soldiers that wouldnt have been noted otherwise, Milstead said. As a recognized expert on WWII espionage and special operations, ODonnell has helped to produce and write historical television documentaries for networks such as the BBC and the History Channel.
He has also appeared as a guest on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and The History Channel. His skills were also noticed by DARPA, as he worked on modern weapon systems for urban warfare, researched and analyzed counter-insurgency strategies and assessed German technology from WWII to ascertain its application to the modern battlefield.
ODonnells expertise also led to his involvement in the entertainment industry, where he served as a historical consultant for both the award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers and the blockbuster video game franchise Medal of Honor.
In addition to his appearance at Derby Auditorium, ODonnell will also speak at the National Infantry Museum Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Hughston Leadership Lecture Series. He will conduct a book signing before that lecture from 4-5 p.m. at the museum.