By Army Spc. David Hodge
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 14, 2008 - Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team are safeguarding a piece of Iraqi religious history while operating from a combat outpost next to a Christian-based seminary in southern Baghdad's Rashid district. The soldiers of Troop B, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, ensure the preservation of the seminary, college and chapel that encompass the St. Peter Seminary of Chaldean Patriarchate in the predominantly Muslim community of Abu Tshir.
"Due to the proximity of the seminary to the COP, it became necessary to conduct clearance operations within the seminary and chapel to ensure it was not being used by criminals for attacks against coalition forces," Army Capt. David Lombardo, Troop B commander, said. "Also, 'Bulldog' Troop conducts scheduled patrols within the seminary grounds to lock access points and prevent vandalism."
The seminary opened in Baghdad in 1960; in 1991, the Pontifical Babel College for Philosophy and Theology was added to the compound.
"In 2006, coalition forces obtained permission from the Chaldean bishop in charge of the property to use the college as a patrol base," said Lombardo, a native of Waynesboro, Pa. That year, the seminary had relocated outside the country and the college became a combat outpost for coalition forces.
U.S. forces found, collected and salvaged numerous religious artifacts, such as books and documents dating back to the 17th century, helping to preserve a piece of Iraq's history, Lombardo said.
"We make sure all the religious valuables inside the church are safe," said Army Pfc. Shane Nerenberg, a forward observer from Riverside, Calif., assigned to Troop B.
The soldiers said it is a duty they don't take lightly.
"It's an honor to be charged with the duty of securing the church," said Army Spc. Michael Lavelle, a mortarman from Pittsburgh, assigned to Troop B.
Just as the previous four units that operated out of the combat outpost did, the Bulldog soldiers will continue to provide security in their operating environment and preserve a small piece of Iraq's renowned history, Lombardo said.
(Army Spc. David Hodge serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team.)