U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden staff leadership took a step back in time to get a better understanding of the military history in the area and how that knowledge can help them serve their community today.
Directors toured the reconstructed Roman fort of Saalburg, about 33 miles northeast of Wiesbaden, March 21, learning from the guide, and each other, about a military stronghold in the ancient empire, and how although there are obvious differences between the troops’ lives and security strategies from then versus now, there are a surprising number of similarities.
The Romans built fences, walls and ditches, to provide an obstacle for would-be attackers, but also to be able to keep tabs on what went in and out of their territory (think today’s ACPs, fencing, customs). As far as force protection, physical security and installation access, technology is really the biggest change, said Lt. Col. Michael Zink, Director of Emergency Services.
“They had to rely on torches, hand signals and flags to relay messages,” he said. “The way we do physical security and force protection has really just changed with electronics.”
Without electronics, they used other things such as animals, which can be much less reliable.
They brought in and stored provisions, which could be compared to our exchange and commissary, although without the selection we enjoy today. Grain was an essential part of the soldiers’ rations.
The barracks of the time, contuberniums, or 8-man tents, didn’t afford much personal space to Roman soldiers, who were not allowed to marry until they retired. There was room for sleeping, storage of weapons and equipment and a handmill, used to grind their daily rations for breadmaking.
The Romans were more advanced than one might expect for years in the double and triple digits. Evidence can be seen on the grounds of underfloor heating, a system by which an outside furnace produces heat, which passes through channels underneath the floor tiles and up the wall.
The empire was very multicultural, Sgt. 1st Class Brittney Pechie learned. It was not just a place where people had different beliefs and came from different backgrounds, things that our army is accustomed to, but it welcomed soldiers who spoke different languages and came from different parts of the world. They appeared to be very accepting of diversity.
“That is something that we could probably learn from [the Romans]” she said.
Garrison Commander Col. Mary L. Martin highlighted the importance of looking at the similarities between our garrison and the Roman garrisons to help streamline the way we do things.
“How do we get back to simplistic?” she said. “The Romans may have some lessons to teach us on how to be simple versus being so broad and bring things back down to normal so we can do what we do with the right amount of people.”