Fort Riley, Kansas



Captain’s love for history on display

By Suet Lee-Growney | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | September 15, 2017

     History aficionado Capt. Robert Cogan, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, spends most of his time volunteering at the Fort Riley Museums.

     Robert became actively involved in the Army museum system such as National Armor and Cavalry Heritage Foundation museum at Fort Benning, Georgia long before moving to Fort Riley.

     Before that, he received a degree in history from Virginia Tech in 2008. When he arrived at Fort Riley in 2014, he continued his interest by getting involved with the museum on post.

     “I just walked in,” he said. “I introduced myself to the staff and I pretty much talked about my previous experiences working with the museum at Fort Benning. They started assigning me with a few simple projects to help them with, really it was just inventory and artifacts. And as time went on, I started helping them with researching and then, eventually, I kind of took on my own research projects with them.”

     Debbie Clark, Fort Riley Museums specialist, gained respect for Robert’s competence when he offered to help out with an unplanned museum tour.

     “I kind of threw him to the wolves one day when we had an unexpected tour,” Clark said. “They went over to the 1st Infantry Division Museum and he started giv­ing a tour there — and it was great.”

     Robert met his wife, Chel­sea Cogan, online in 2014 through their common inter­est in history, a passion they still share today in all the time and work they dedicate to the museums on post.

     “We’re history buffs,” Chelsea said. “We both love history and ended up being together.”

     While Robert gives tours, Chelsea helps maintain ar­ticles within the museums inventory.

     “Chelsea helps with sew­ing and repairing a lot of the reproduction flags and uniforms in our inventory,” Robert added.

     Robert’s love for history has led him to sharing him­self and his own collection with the museums too.

     “He has literally donated some of his own stuff,” Clark said. “He has made things look very good. He actually gives a lot of himself to this museum — his wife, too.”

     It wasn’t until after his de­ployment to Kuwait in 2015 that began involving himself more in museum activities with the 1st Inf. Div. 100th anniversary approaching.

     “In late 2016, the muse­um was pulling me more,” he said. “The factor that caused that was as we got closer to the World War I and, of course, the division centen­nial, the Division’s 100th birthday, I helped out more.”

       But there was another reason why Robert had the availability to spend more time at the museum. He was diagnosed with Ménière’s dis­ease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodic im­balance.

      “When my medical sepa­ration board began, in be­tween medical appointments, since I don’t have many duties to do because I’m kind of left alone for my appointments, I began helping out more and more,” he said.

      Although Robert’s condi­tion is currently stable, he still experiences vertigo at­tacks every few hours. How­ever, his medical issue does not deter him from pursuing his love for history. Instead, he dives deeper into his pas­sion and plans on making a career being a curator with the Army museum system af­ter he leaves the service.

      “I actually received a cou­ple of offers and I will apply when I get out,” Robert said. “I would take care of the Ar­my’s artifacts wherever I’m at. I would be in charge of telling the story of America’s Army with the focus on whichever museum I work with.”

      Some of Robert’s contribu­tions to the museums at Fort Riley are doing write-ups for displays, managing inventory, giving tours and restoring rep­lica artifacts. He also did some of the write ups for the “Duty First: 100 Years of the Big Red One” exhibition at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, Kansas.

      However, he said the most exciting project he took on was being a part of the 100th anniversary of the 1st Inf. Div. events, particularly the centennial ceremony of United States’ entry into WWI at the National World War I Mu­seum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Robert and Chelsea helped with dressing the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard in pe­riod uniforms.

      “Chelsea made the patches and we love being behind the scenes in creat­ing these things.,” Robert said. “The event itself was great because it was reliving history with other history experts. It was a very cool thing afterward when every­thing was on the national media, being able to know we were able to make it hap­pen.”

      As a person, Clark said Robert is easy to get along with and his military his­tory knowledge is immense. He is very committed to giving his all when it comes to sharing his love for his­tory.

     “He has a great deal of knowledge, especially about tanks,” she said. “He owns his own WWI uniform, he outfits it and he can either wear it as an officer, which he is, or he’ll even wear it as an enlisted person. He’s gone to even the dining facility one time during Thanksgiving and set up his own display of his own stuff.”

      Clark said the museums on post will feel the loss when the Robert finally leaves the military.

      “He’s just a tremendous help here and we will sorely miss him the day he has to leave,” she said.


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