I've been getting a lot of requests lately asking to clarify who we at NHS are and what we do. There is some confusion - are we reenactors? are we not reenactors? are we just goofs in t-shirts playing with old boats. I'll try to sum all of that up and expand upon what's available on our web site.
First, the what and why.
The Naval Heritage Society is all about using historical tools, equipment and skills to explore the origins of the Navy and Marine Corps Core Values of honor, courage and commitment. Sounds like fluff, but let me elaborate.
Put ten people into a boat. Train them how to propel and navigate it - at least the basics. Send them out and put them in a situation that requires use of those skills under trying conditions, artificial or real. Let everyone learn, first hand, WHY it is that things were done that way, WHY honor, courage and commitment are so important. Learn to rely on your fellow crew members, and show them they can rely on you. Leaders realize the very real responsibilities of their posts, making complicated decisions and mitigating risks on the fly. Such situations, properly executed, allow participants to also learn the value of learning peripheral skills such as being able to make proper knots, as well as preparation and planning. Basically, put a crew in a situation that is somehow real or artificially hazardous, and the learning curve goes WAY up.
The marine side of things is no different. One would think that getting dressed up, grabbing your gear, learning to use your weapon and take what you need with you is complex enough. Add to that embarking a boat, filled with sailors who hate your guts for dirtying up their boat and being ready to basically pile out and assemble, ready to 'fight' when disembarked. Again, the learning curve goes up. This isn't your average romp in a field.
In these situations people learn more not only because they want to - but because they perceive that they have to - they've been challenged and continue to be challenged. The relentless drive goes on, carefully managed and monitored by skilled leadership - who, by the way, are totally and completely accountable for their participants' performance and well being. Training then occurs from the bottom up AND the top down.
HONOR - in building the skills and abilities, we are proud of what we can accomplish.
COURAGE - it takes guts to face the difficult situations, and meet the challenge.
COMMITMENT - don't back down, don't give up, your fellow participants are relying on you.
These are real world situations that call upon participants to find these values in themselves. This translates directly into improving who we are, as inheritors of the American Naval Heritage.
A quick note on uniforms, costumes and clothing. The period clothing aspect of things can be fun, but it isn't always necessary to accomplish what we're doing. For that reason, most events where our sailors are employed do not use historical costumes - they just aren't necessary. We do wear them when situations call for them, depending on the venue.
Next, the how.
NHS owns several dozen complete sets of historical uniforms, equipment and historical weaponry, all of which is issued to participants on an as-needed basis - completely free of charge. At the end of an event, the participants give back the issued gear. Lose something or damage it unnecessarily and of your own accord and you'll be paying NHS for the replacement cost - and of course we know what reasonable wear and tear is, so don't fret over losing a button, a strap or getting something dirty.
Our Commissioner of Provisions and Clothing maintains all of the uniforms and arranges our meals in the field. Sometimes there is a small cost (always less than $25) to cover the expense of ammunition and food, but this is increasingly rare these days. Most events are totally free.
On the other side, my side of the monster, the Commissioner of Construction, Equipment and Repairs (yours truly) is responsible to maintain all of the equipment we use. This includes (at least in theory) all non-personal equipment such as boats, tents, cooking gear etc, as well as weapons. Right now I will gladly tell you that I don't maintain the firelocks, just guns - of which we only have one 3 pounder. I also lead all of our construction and major repair efforts, which takes up a significant portion of my time.
Both I and my counterpart are responsible to ensure all of the gear is ready for use when needed. There are several sub-set positions, but I won't go into those now for sake of clarity.
So that's it. For those who didn't understand I hope its a little clearer now. Anyone who still has questions should feel free to contact me directly.