Teaching the basics of Cultural Property Protection (CPP) was a significant challenge for the U.S. military during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The CCHAG Archaeology Awareness Playing Cards were designed to educate U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan and Iraq about the importance of respecting ancient sites and monuments and preserving host nation cultural heritage during military operations and post-conflict reconstruction.
Each playing card conveys a specific message, and the top of every card states “ROE first!” to remind soldiers that the military’s Rules of Engagement – strict operational rules for engaging the enemy and protecting one’s safety and health – precede all other considerations.
Each suit in the deck has a theme for its messages: diamonds for artifacts and treasures, spades for historic sites and archaeological digs, hearts for “winning hearts and minds” and clubs for heritage preservation.
The goal of the publication of the cards, according to CCHAG director and Fort Drum archaeologist Dr. Laurie Rush, is to foster CPP awareness, prevent damage to ancient sites and monuments during military operations and post-conflict reconstruction, and stem the illegal trade of Afghan artifacts.
The military has long recognized that educational playing cards are a good way to capitalize on the time soldiers spend waiting for orders.
Part of the “In-Theater Heritage Training for Deploying Personnel” program, the playing cards were developed by the Fort Drum Cultural Resources Program and the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML) at Colorado State University with support provided by the DoD Legacy Resource Management Program, which falls within the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment.
On November 7, 2007, the “In-Theater Heritage Training for Deploying Personnel” program received the Chairman’s Award from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of historic resources in the United States and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.
As Wall Street Journal reporter Malik Kaylan observed in 2008: “the cards get on with the business at hand: to alert card-playing GIs to the sacred terrain around them and their responsibility to it.” The CCHAG playing cards were also featured in “Army Project Teaches Cultural Awareness to Deployed Troops,” by Toni Eugene in the March 2008 issue of Armymagazine and in “Cards Protect Combat Zone Historic Sites,” by Nancy Greenleese in VOA News, July 27, 2012.