Commander brings ancient culture alive
Students in Susan Hoffman’s sixth-grade class at Jacks Valley Elementary School were treated to a presentation from a man who lived what they were learning about, ancient Mesopotamia.
Lt. Col. Chris Ultsch, who was on a 60-day leave from the Nevada Air National Guard, showed the students what it’s like to live in the ancient city of Ur, near the famous Great Ziggurat and the city of the patriarch Abraham.
During their six-week lesson, Hoffman’s students learned about how the ancient Mesopotamians created cuneiform, the first writing. They did projects about the government, arts, archeology, social structure and religion of the area.
The lesson about ziggurats and nomadic tribes became more alive with the appearance of Ultsch.
“I’m so thrilled he’s here,” said Hoffman. “He saw the ziggurat. It makes history become real for the students.”
Ultsch is the navigator of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. He and his squadron are stationed at the Ali Iraqi Air Force Base in Ur, one mile away from the Great Ziggurat. The U.S. is part of the multi-national coalition forces that are guests of the Iraqis and provide protection in the area.
“My squadron and I are there to support troops on the ground – the Army and Marines – with intelligence and surveillance missions,” said Ultsch. “Our main job is to make sure that the ground guys don’t get hurt.”
Another job that the coalition forces have is to watch over the ancient sites that have archaeological significance as the cradle of civilization.
“We’re afraid that someone will bomb the ziggurat to make a statement so we as the military protect the area,” he said.
Ultsch’s wife, Rebecca Ultsch, is a speech teacher at Jacks Valley and mentioned her husband’s job to Hoffman.
“Since I was in Iraq – Mesopotamia, Rebecca had mentioned that I was there next to the famous ziggurat in the city of Ur and the birthplace of Judaism,” said Ultsch.
“I support educational efforts in the community,” he said. “I’m fortunate that I get to go to famous places.”
Ultsch’s show was a geography lesson that included satellite images of the region.
“I’ve flown over every inch of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. I’ve seen a lot of Mesopotamia but I didn’t learn it at your age,” Ultsch told the students. “You guys know more than I know.”
One of the most impressive parts of the presentation was of a sand storm as it slowly moved towards the tent city where the troops lived.
Student Raenna Ramos, 11, said, “The sand storm was awesome.”
Asked by the students about what impressed him most about his mission in Iraq, Ultsch said that it was the people who lived there and knew about the ancient site.
“I really liked meeting the curator,” Ultsch said. “There were three or four generations of his family living the lives of ancient Mesopotamians. Before we showed up, he lived the way they did in 2000 B.C.”
“The Iraqis are the friendliest people and are very interested in what we do. We don’t understand their culture,” he said. “They had a civilization while we were still cavemen. We don’t realize that.”
Chelsea Wilson, 12, enjoyed Ultsch’s presentation. “I liked that he knew about ancient Mesopotamia and how he could tell us about it,” she said. “My project was about what happened if the gods were happy or not. I would like to visit the sites in Iraq.”
Ultsch commands the 192nd Airlift Squadro.