By Michael StrasserJuly 31, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (July 31, 2018) -- Seven Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets recently completed a three-week internship at Fort Drum where they were introduced to cultural property protection and its importance during military operations.
The program was created several years ago with the intent of providing ROTC cadets with the skills to recognize the types of property that needs to be respected on the battlefield and during the course of military operations. It makes them aware of the adverse civil-military impact that results from the destruction or damage of historical or sacred sites.
Five of the cadets interned with the Fort Drum Cultural Resources Branch, supervised by Dr. Laurie Rush, cultural resources manager, and two interned at the 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum Museum, under Sepp Scanlin, museum director.
The group visited the LeRay Mansion district and some prehistoric sites to learn issues such as requisitioning, occupying and protecting historic structures and identifying unmarked features of importance in the landscape.
Cadet Jack Parvin, a Western Kentucky University student who is studying anthropology with a concentration in archaeology, said that he learned how cultural property protection can be used as a force multiplier.
"When you're out in the field you have limited resources, so any knowledge that you can acquire outside of what is given to you is an advantage," he said. "Anything we can use to make our mission more effective is going to be a helpful skill. This will definitely help us down range."
Cadet Jared Johnson is studying historical and political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He wants to commission into the Judge Advocate General's Corps, and said that cultural property protection is a subject he is sure many JAG officers encounter several times in their careers.
"As a cadet, though, cultural property protection is not something we are really familiarized with at all in our training," he said. "It's not presented as a real-world scenario as it should be, so this internship has given me and education and experience with something that no other cadet in my program will have."
Cadet Martin Ryan is an economics major from Sienna College and wants to branch aviation.
"I just feel the biggest takeaway from this, for me, was finding out just how multifaceted the battlefield environment can be, especially when you start factoring in culture and how important it is to bring in counsel," he said. "It's having the ability to go to a subject matter expert and figure out a better plan that's more comprehensive and not just target-focused."
Cadets also assisted Cultural Resources staff in field survey work within the post's training area.
"I've been on a few digs before at a few places but never on an active military installation," said Parvin. "These sites have become invaluable training assets, and using all the assets available to you is one of the best skills you can possibly gain. Especially from an archaeological perspective, this is important land, but it is also needed land. It was interesting to see how they add to the history of the land while respecting how it is used."
The group also conducted a staff ride to Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site in Oneida County. The site marks the Battle of Oriskany, considered to be a crucial turning point in the Revolutionary War. The British were attacking Fort Stanwix when Brig. Gen. Nicholas Herkimer assembled 800 militamen and 60 allied Oneida warriors to fight the siege on Aug. 6, 1777.
Ron Patterson, director of the Oneida Indian Nation Heritage Center provided the site tour.
"Being on the actual ground and walking through the entire battle while being told it from the perspective that has often been disregarded was especially appreciated," said Reed Hennessy, a political science student at the University of Georgia.
The War for Independence caused the Six Nations to end the neutrality they maintained during the French and Indian War. While the majority continued to support England, the Oneida Nation chose to support the Americans.
"That part of history is often left out, that the Oneida people were fighting against tribes from other nations and even 200 years later that is something that they still take to heart," said Katie Tenefrancia, who is majoring in political science at Hamilton College and attends ROTC out of Syracuse University.
Scanlin supplemented the battlefield tour with additional information about the historical context and tactical use of the terrain. The military staff ride can serve as an educational and inspirational tool for officers to gain insight into the profession of arms. Air Force Cadet Madison Wells, from Tiffin University, said it goes beyond book learning.
"You can read history, but being on an actual battlefield - seeing the hill and learning the tactical side of it - brought that history to a whole other level," she said. "Even when he was telling us the history I was able to compare that to other things that happened in recent history, which also brings a whole new perspective to it."
Scanlin said that the museum experience is tailored around instructing future junior officers how they can leverage military history as a training tool.
"For example, we conducted a historic firearms inventory to train them on museum inventories while also discussing how the change of technology has impacted the force they are going to lead," he said. "The staff ride highlighted that you don't need to travel far to find history, and the study of the past informs the events of today."
Johnson, who interned at the museum, said that having this experience will help inform what he can do as an officer in regards to sharing unit history wherever he may be stationed.
"It seems, just from what I learned, that this isn't happening enough among units in the Army," he said. "I would take what I've learned back to my future units and get them more involved in passing down that history, especially in remembrance of those who have passed before us so that we can continue to honor them."
Cadets also attended meetings and ceremonies on post, and met with officers from the branches they want to commission into, to include military intelligence, civil affairs and adjutant general. Tenefrancia, who wants to branch armor, said that she was surprised by how many people were genuinely interested in talking with them about their futures as Army officers and their professional development.
"We had a lot of experiences where we met with people and had Q&As and stayed longer than the time allotted, because they were interested in talking with us and were ready to field all of our questions," she said. "I got more of an experience here about what my career can look like - even on things like living on post - than I had ever expected from an internship."
Two sisters from a neighboring community visited the Cultural Resource Branch with a collection of artifacts that their grandfather had recovered while plowing. He had farmed the land just outside Fort Drum, and their family had lost it during the expansion of Pine Camp in 1940.
Rush said that they had projectile points dating back more than 5,000 years, some Haudenosaunee pottery and a stone tool for polishing aboriginal pottery.
"I had so much fun meeting them," said Wells. "They had these arrowheads with them, and we went through all these books trying to identify what kind they were and from what era. The ladies were so happy that we were able to help them, and I thought that was amazing."
The large-scale destruction of cultural heritage during World War II resulted in the adoption of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. It was the first international treaty that responded to the damage and looting of cultural property.
Rush said that there is much work to be done to insure that U.S. forces are in full compliance with the commitments made after this treaty was ratified.
"However, the more leaders we can reach early in their careers, the greater the chance that they will affect change as senior leaders, like some of the visionary officers who have played leading roles in the 10th Mountain Division," she said.
Scanlin also sees the internship program as an investment in the future.
"The senior leaders who leverage history today were once lieutenants, as well," he said. "If we show them early how the Army can use history to make itself better, then they will have that tool in their leadership arsenal as they advance through the ranks."