When we arrived at Nimrud, the Assyrian city that holds the finest ancient gold ever found, the 101st Airborne was already there. Museum officials accompanied us into locked areas containing huge, beautiful reliefs of Assyrian kings. When we came out, some of the soldiers asked if we'd seen the "big pictures of the bearded guys." They had no idea of the site's importance and, in general, weren't happy with their peacekeeping roles.
Before coming to the museum, these soldiers were surrounded by Apache helicopters flying overhead and lobbing missiles into Iraqi bunkers. Now they were the equivalent of antiquity rent-a-cops. Since they had no idea of the value of the place they were protecting, they felt useless. So I asked Tony Wilkinson, an archaeologist on the team, to give them a brief history lesson. That helped cheer them up and gave them more pride in their duty. But allowing each of them two minutes on my satellite phone really boosted their spirits. I remember teasing one soldier when he wiped away a tear after talking to his mom. Some of them hadn't talked to their families in months.