Monday, October 09, 2006

Army archaeologist seeks to heighten soldiers' sensitivity

Laurie Rush, the archaeologist at Fort Drum in upstate New York, is getting both press and blowback for her program to "heighten the cultural sensitivity of soldiers and pilots." The Fort Drum Integrated Training Area Management unit has built mock cemeteries and archaeological ruins and developed a field guide."We need to get them trained before the fact, not after the damage is done. This should be part of deployment training for anywhere in the world – becoming familiar with the region's cultural heritage," said Rush.

Rush, who's been at Fort Drum eight years, said she felt compelled to develop an awareness program after the British Museum last year reported the defiling of the ancient city of Babylon in 2003 by invading U.S. Marines, who damaged and contaminated artifacts dating back thousands of years. Transgressions included building a helicopter pad on the city's ruins, destroying a 2,600-year-old brick road and filling sandbags with archaeological fragments.

Soldiers don't receive any formal instruction about archaeology but they regularly train at a preserved and stabilized National Register Archaeological District, Sterlingville. A civilian crew capped part of the site with geotextiles and recycled tank treads to protect it. The ruins are marked by signs carrying the international designation for an archaeology site.

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