By Spc. Justin Naylor,2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public AffairsNovember 20, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq- Historical sites are an important ingredient in any nation's culture and identity.
For a group of Soldiers in Kirkuk an opportunity arose, Nov. 16, to get a glimpse into Iraq's past and to see some of the sites that make Kirkuk unique.
The Soldiers' first stop was the Kirkuk Museum.
The museum was stripped of many of its artifacts in 1991, because it was not considered a safe place; now, with the help of the Government of Iraq, artifacts will soon be returned.
Although all the artifacts have not been returned yet to the museum, the people there were very proud of what they did have, said Spc. Kristie Ford, a Clovis, N.M., native and a chaplain's assistant with 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "I would love to see it again once filled with historical artifacts."
Soldiers with 2nd BCT have been working with the Iraqi and Turkish governments to help establish a project that will renovate the museum and install a safety alarm system. The project will also provide for the renovation of an old Turkish barracks that is on the museum's grounds.
"This is one of the most important archeological spots in the city," said Ayad Tariq Hussein, the director of the museum. "The renovations are really important. Once we are renovated, the government will send us artifacts again."
Kirkuk has a long history, and the museum is a physical way to remind people of the heritage this city has and the people in this province have, said Lt. Col. Hugh McNeely, the deputy commander of 2nd BCT, who led the group of Soldiers on the trip.
During their visit, the Soldiers were treated to a tour by Ayad, who showed them the artifacts gave the Soldiers the history to accompany them.
After the tour came to a close, the Soldiers went to a far more recognizable spot in the city: the Citadel of Kirkuk.
The Citadel has a history extending back thousands of years, and was the seat of various empires and cultures. The Citadel is now largely empty except for some historical buildings, mosques, churches and what is believed by residents here to be the burial spot of the biblical figure Daniel.
The Soldiers started their tour of the Citadel with Daniel's Tomb.
Spc. Ford said the visit to Daniel's Tomb was the best part about today's trip.
"To show the Soldiers the heritage of this province, this is a very focal point to do that," said Lt. Col. McNeely.
Spc. Ford agreed by saying, "It's not every day you get to stand in front of Daniel's final resting place".
The Soldiers were able to take photos of the tomb and listen to stories from some of the Kirkuk residents.
After the Soldiers departed from Daniel's Tomb, they were treated to a tour of the rest of the Citadel, where they saw a nearly 1,000 year-old church-turned-mosque, an ancient marketplace, historic homes, and numerous other historical spots.
The brigade commander, Lt. Col. McNeely, who had visited the site a few times, said that there is so much there that he has learned a little more each time. He also said the Soldiers visiting this site can benefit from it, because it helps them to have more respect for Iraq and its long history.
"We may never know if our ancestors may have stood in that spot where the marble columns were, or if they built those columns," Spc. Ford said about the historical spots she visited. "History is just an awesome sight to behold, and there is so much to learn from it."