The New ‘Monuments Officers’ Prepare to Protect Art Amid War

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — The Army Reserve officers worked with brisk efficiency.

For much of the afternoon, they had meticulously documented and carefully packed cultural treasures from the Smithsonia museum in Pinelandia — a country that could soon be under siege. Their mission — to evacuate important items from the museum — was going well.

But then an aloof, lunch-preoccupied security guard accidentally put his foot through a precious painting propped against a table.

The room went silent. Then the museum’s collection manager had a conniption. The officers had a problem.

“A failure of our forces to secure the artifacts while we were handling them,” Capt. Blake Ruehrwein, 40, of Rehoboth, Mass., said afterward.

Thankfully for the officers, it was all only a training exercise set in a fictional museum and country. The mishap, which appeared at least somewhat intentional, would help them learn to deal with crisis and keep their heads on a swivel, instructors later said.


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This article was written by Matt Stevens and originally published on