FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 28, 2021) -- Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum Cultural Resources manager, was among 15 civilian employees across the Army who were honored with a U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) Stalwart Award during a virtual ceremony Jan. 28.
“Dr. Laurie Rush is an asset to IMCOM and an asset to the military,” said Brenda McCullough, IMCOM-Readiness director. “Her processes and programming are sought after by commanders going downrange because she helps Soldiers understand the importance of cultural resources, not only here but overseas.”
This is the highest IMCOM award presented to civilian employees, and Rush was one of three recipients from an IMCOM-Readiness installation.
“The award is presented annually to an elite few individuals who have contributed positive change within IMCOM, who have developed exceptional relationships with their peers and superiors, and who have been motivational and inspirational to other IMCOM employees,” said Jim Miller, Environmental Division chief. “Given this criteria, you can see why it is no surprise that Dr. Rush was selected. She is one of the most inspiring and talented employees who I have had the pleasure to work with in nearly 30 years as a supervisor.”
Rush has been at the Environmental Division’s Cultural Resources Branch since 1998, where she and her team are responsible for identifying and protecting all of the important archaeological sites at Fort Drum, as well as managing the LeRay Mansion Historic District.
She is internationally recognized as an advocate for military education and operations planning in regards to cultural property protection in crisis areas. Rush was a military liaison for the return of the Mesopotamian city of Ur to the Iraqi people in 2009 and represented U.S. Central Command at environmental shuras in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2010. She has participated in key leader engagements across the Middle East and analyzed cultural property protection lessons learned from the Iraq and Afghan conflicts.
In addition to authoring numerous articles and book chapters, Rush has co-directed an international panel on developing cultural property protection policy, doctrine and best practices for NATO, and she has served as a faculty member for UNESCO cultural property education programs.
The Cultural Resources team partners with the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum staff to provide professional leader development programming for Soldiers, as well as summer ROTC internships that focus on history, military museums and cultural property protection.
In 2019, this program provided role-playing support for the 401st Civil Affairs Battalion field training exercise when Fort Drum’s LeRay Mansion Historic District became a training asset for key leader engagement. Rush role-played as the Atropian minister of culture and applied her expertise as an anthropologist to engage with Soldiers on issues pertaining to preserving cultural heritage.
In March 2019, Rush supported 10th Mountain Division exercises at Fort Polk, Louisiana, providing cultural property protection scenarios to the training.
Miller said that Rush’s contribution to integrating cultural property protection concepts into military training will have a long-lasting impact on Soldiers throughout their careers.
“Dr. Rush has been a pioneer when it comes to educating Soldiers on the need to protect archaeological sites and historic structures across the installation through her involvement in on post military training exercises,” Miller said. “These exercises not only help improve protection of the installation’s archaeological treasures, but help ensure the same stewardship philosophy protects cultural resources in the foreign countries where they serve.”
Since September 2018, the Cultural Resources team has been the caretakers of the LeRay Mansion Historic District. They have organized and hosted numerous events such as Beautify LeRay Day, the Haunted LeRay Tour and other open houses. The mansion has become a popular locale for gatherings and ceremonies ranging from promotions and command changes to weddings and concerts.
Rush is also an instrumental part of the garrison team that developed public history tours on post, which include stops to various archaeological sites and districts in the training areas.
“Dr. Rush has developed a cultural resource outreach program that is second to none,” Miller said. “Through widely attended outreach events, Dr. Rush and her team are sharing Fort Drum's most significant cultural treasures with Soldiers, civilians and members of the local communities that surround the installation. Attendance at these events help instill a cultural resource stewardship ethic across the entire Fort Drum community, both on and off post.”
The award presentation is normally conducted in November during the IMCOM Commander’s Conference, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The livestream on Microsoft Teams allowed every installation with an award recipient to still participate in the ceremony from their respective locations.
Miller said that the entire Environmental Division team was notified of the virtual ceremony and they were invited to watch from their work stations.
“Due to COVID-19, we will not be gathering to celebrate, but we will be cheering Dr. Rush from our computer screens remotely,” he said.
According to IMCOM, 15 people – out of roughly 60,000 employees across nearly 100 locations worldwide – were selected for this award because they distinguished themselves among their peers and leaders as outstanding IMCOM personnel. The award recognizes those who exhibited strength and vigor in mind, body and spirit in promoting the IMCOM mission and vision.
Rush joined members of the garrison command team to attend the virtual award presentation.
“First of all, working for the Army has provided me with career and personal opportunities that I could never have dreamed of in a million years,” she said. “The opportunity to work with some of our 10th Mountain Division and garrison leaders has given me a chance to meet and be mentored by individuals who personify the Army values. I actually now know what it is like to meet someone and think, ‘I would follow this person into battle.’”
Rush said that it has been professionally rewarding to have the opportunity to work with Soldiers during field training and it has offered the Cultural Resources team an entirely new dimension for understanding their potential when it comes to mission support.
She also cherishes her role as the 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum liaison for Native American affairs.
“This has given me the opportunity to work with our Indian Nation partners at Onondaga, Oneida and Akwesasne,” Rush said. “They have been so generous in giving their time to review our reports and findings, but even more important in talking with us, sharing wisdom and stories, and modeling resilience.”
She said that she is constantly amazed by the teamwork involved in planning, coordinating and executing history tours for the public and that the program continues to evolve and get better.
“We have great installation support – it starts with Sepp Scanlin at the 10th Mountain Division Museum, and Jason Wagner and his Natural Resources team, and continues with Tom Lent and Ian Warden at ITAM (Integrated Training Area Management) and everyone at Public Affairs,” Rush said. “All of the amazing coordination involved in one of these events that they make happen – from making sure an eroded road is repaired at 6 in the morning to seeing that every senior citizen gets safely on the bus.”
Rush said that there is a long list of people who have contributed to the success of the Cultural Resources Program, and she appreciates their continual support.
“Fort Drum Public Works and the Environmental Division leadership have given me the latitude and encouragement to try my ideas all along the way,” she said. “And, in my opinion, the Fort Drum Cultural Resources team is the best in the Department of Defense. I am beyond fortunate to count them as friends and colleagues. They have brilliant ideas that they bring to life in amazing ways, and they are always good sports – no matter what I come up with or ask them to do.”
Rush said that she is honored to be named an IMCOM Stalwart Award recipient, but she also feels she has been rewarded already.
“There is no question … I have the very best job in the Army,” she said.