American troops also helped to survey and map the West. In the most famous expedition, from 1804 to 1806, Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Second Lt. William Clark led a party of nearly 30 men, including three sergeants and 22 enlisted soldiers, to the Pacific Ocean. The United States Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, or “topogs,” became a major locus of American science, collecting flora, fauna and geological specimens, and publishing their findings in prestigious journals.
This is interesting stuff, but there's a huge difference between the Army of 1804 and the Army of 2010: Today's Army does most of its work abroad. Without getting into the injustices done to American Indians, the job of the Army of 1804 wasn't nation-building as a general task: It was building our nation, tasked with leading and defending white settlers in the long westward expansion across the American continent. The Army of today isn't really tasked with nation-building, either, when you think about it: It's charged with nation re-building. Some of the skills involved may be virtually identical, despite the passage of time, but the strategic purposes are different enough as to make the comparison an uneasy fit.
And of course, I say all that while attempting to get Tierney on the podcast. Hope it works!