SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Wounded warriors seeking job training as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan; state-of-the-art forensic and archaeological technology; and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers archaeologist with a heart that's grateful to the American soldier - these three elements intersect in the Corps' Veterans Curation Project.

The Veterans Curation Project provides wounded veterans with a six-month paid educational program that can lead graduates toward law enforcement forensics, museum curation or other associated career fields. Each six-month class accepts eight to 10 students at each of the three Corps curation centers - Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the Corps' Savannah and St. Louis districts. The project began in 2009 with an award of $3.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

Those are the numbers and facts. The real seed of the project was gratitude.

From 2004 to 2007, Corps archaeologist Michael "Sonny" Trimble worked in Iraq for the U.S. Department of Justice, part of the team uncovering and recording the grisly evidence of genocide committed under the regime of Saddam Hussein. The soldiers who protected the team of 30 scientists during that mission made a lasting impression on the affable scientist who is now home in St. Louis.

Today, Trimble is director of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mandatory Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections. He's been with the Corps over 20 years and began working primarily with Native American Graves and Repatriation Act projects. That specialty role within the Corps expanded further when the Army called upon these same forensic experts to help identify skeletal remains of soldiers recovered from Southeast Asia and Korea.

Then came the mission in Iraq.

Huge trenches full of fully-clothed skeletons - average age 12 years - killed by machine gun fire and covered over. The Corps forensic team worked from an Army base near Baghdad during a time of heavy fighting. Trimble testified for hours in front of the Iraqi High Tribunal regarding the results of Hussein's Anfal Campaign of mass executions.

The memory of American soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect them led Trimble and the other Corps archaeologists to seek a way to help wounded veterans returning home - and from that sprang the Veterans Curation Project. Trimble says the program succeeds because it is technical training offered by a community of anthropologists - quite literally 'people people'.

Veterans Curation Project has graduated 77 veterans in the past two years and 20 of those students have gone on to seek college degrees. Many of the students are only six or seven years out of high school and have never had a job outside the armed forces. Along with technical skills, the project helps with job search skills including resume and portfolio building and mock job interviews.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16