Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.

I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.

I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.


By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)

I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Boris Yeltsin.

Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.

‘Some snap drill’

Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.

I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.

Our conversation went something like this:

“Are you watching this?” he asked.

“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”

“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”

Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.

“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.

We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.

We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.

Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.

“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”

Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.

And then it got weird

We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.

We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Aleksandr Rutskoi.

There was lots of drinking everywhere.

The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.

We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”

“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”

That was enough for him, and he left.

So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.

I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.

The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.

“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.

A lot to digest

It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…

As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.

Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.

I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”

When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”

The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.

I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.

There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.

There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.

I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.

Snipers, tracer rounds

But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.

One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.

The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.

The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.

Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.

Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.

About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.

People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”

I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.

The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.

I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.

I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who saved North Carolina from nukes speaks out

Jack ReVelle, an Air Force munitions expert during the Cold War, recently went to a sound booth to record an interview with his daughter where the pair discussed one of the most harrowing moments of Jack’s life: That time he was called to North Carolina to defuse two hydrogen bombs that had plummeted to earth with a combined potential explosive power equivalent to 500 Hiroshima bombs.


Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

A Mark 39 nuclear bomb rests with its nose buried in the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

In 1961, a B-52 bomber was flying over the great state of North Carolina when it began to break apart. Its entire right wing failed and the plane began falling towards earth. The order was given to abandon the plane, and eight crewmembers attempted to escape. Five survived.

But two other objects joined the crew in the air with parachutes. Two Mark 39 nuclear bombs, one with a successfully deployed parachute and one with a failed chute, fell from the sky. The Air Force sent a team out relatively quietly to find and defuse the nukes. Jack ReVelle told his daughter about getting the mission:

“One night, I get a phone call from my squadron commander. And instead of using all the code words that we had rehearsed, he says, ‘Jack, I got a real one for you.’ You don’t often have two hydrogen bombs falling out of aircraft onto U.S. property.”
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Air Force technicians dig through the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

There was precious little preparation done for such an insane mission, and the airmen found themselves scrambling to get everything they needed to do the mission:

“Ten – we call them the Terrible 10. I knew all of them very well. But nobody was cracking jokes like they usually did. And the first couple of days there, they didn’t even have food for us – nothing. It was snowing. It was raining. It was frozen. That’s why we worked in shifts, sometimes on our hands and knees.”

The first bomb was quickly found hanging from a tree. The parachute had kept its descent reasonable, and it had stuck vertically in the ground, buried only partially in the dirt. The team found that three of its four safeguards had either failed or triggered. Only one safety, the actual safe/arm switch, had prevented a nuclear explosion.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians remove components of a Mark 39 nuclear bomb from the deep hole that the bomb buried itself in.

(U.S. Air Force)

But the second bomb, the one with an improperly deployed parachute, had hit the ground at 700 mph and plunged 18 feet into the ground. It was Jack and his men’s job to dig in, find as many of the 92 detonators as they could, and recover the warhead.

Most of the detonators were found and recovered, one at a time. But the team got a horrendous surprise when they found the safe/arm switch:

“And as we started digging down, trying to find the second bomb, one of my sergeants says, “hey, Lieutenant, I found the arm safe switch.” And I said, “great.” He says, “no, not great. It’s on arm.” But we all knew what we were there for and the hazards that we were facing. So, we pulled it up out of the mud and brought it up over this wooden rickety ladder that we had, to the surface of the ground, in a safe condition.”

Yeah, the switch had been the only thing that prevented the first bomb from detonating. It had failed on the second bomb. As they recovered the rest of it, they found no safeguards that had properly survived. The bomb should’ve exploded. Engineers wrote in a classified report in 1969 that a single electrical jolt could’ve triggered a weapon. The lead on the study, Parker F. Jones, recommended that Mark 39 bombs no longer be used in an airborne role since they almost gave us Goldsboro Bay.

But Jack and his team were able, through painstaking work, to recover most of the bomb, including the nuclear core. If even one of them had gone off, it could have killed approximately 28,000 people. 60,000 live there today and would, obviously, not be able to live there if the bombs had irradiated the whole area in 1961.

Jack ReVelle’s interview is available on StoryCorps and NPR.

(This article was updated on Feb. 4, 2019. The article originally stated that seven of the eight steps needed to detonate a Mark 39 bomb had been taken and cited a Stanford paper from 2018. But the Stanford paper cites a Guardian article for that claim, and the Guardian article only supports that three of the four major safeguards had failed. This post was changed to reflect this more solid information.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last horse charge of American cavalry was in World War II

While Poland is sometimes mocked for sending horse cavalry against tanks in World War II (it was actually horses against an infantry battalion, but still), the U.S. launched its own final cavalry charge two years later, breaking up a Japanese attack in the Philippines that bought time for the cavalrymen and other American troops.


Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting in them was treacherous.

(U.S. Army)

It came in April 1942 as part of the months-long effort to defend the Philippines from the Japanese invasion. The first Japanese attacks on the islands took place on the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack (though it was December 8 on the calendar because the international dateline falls between the two). Just two days later, the week of troop landings began.

The Americans on the Philippines weren’t ready for the fight, and U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had to lean hard on his elite troops to protect the rest of the force as they withdrew to one defensive line after another. And cavalry was uniquely suited for that mission since it could ride out, disrupt an attack, and then quickly ride back to where the rest of the defenders had fortified themselves.

And so MacArthur called up the 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts), a unit that had American officers and Filipino enlisted men on horses. And all of them were well-equipped and good at their jobs.

But, like the rest of the American forces there, they faced a daunting enemy. The Japanese invaders were nearly all veterans from fighting in Korea or Manchuria, but few of the American defenders had seen combat. And the Japanese forces were better armed.

So much so that, unlike Poland, the American cavalry really did once charge tanks from horseback. Oh, and it worked.

The cavalry scouts were exhausted from days of acting as the eyes and ears of the Army, but a new amphibious operation on December 22 had put Japanese forces on the road to Manila. The defenders there crumbled in the following days and completely collapsed on January 16, 1942. If the 26th couldn’t intercept them and slow the tide, Manila would be gone within hours.

The American and Filipino men scouted ahead on horseback and managed to reach the village of Morong ahead of Japanese forces. The village sat on the Batalan River, and if the cavalrymen could prevent a crossing, they could buy precious hours.

The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting them was treacherous.

(U.S. Army)

But as they were scouting the village, the Japanese vanguard suddenly appeared on the bridges. The commander had no time, no space for some well-thought-out and clever defense from cover. It was a “now-or-never” situation, and the 26th had a reputation for getting the job done.

So, the commander, Col. Clint Pierce, ordered a charge.

The men and horses surged forward, pistols blazing, at a vanguard of Japanese infantry backed up by tanks. But the American cavalry charge was so fierce that the Japanese ranks broke, and they dodged back across the river to form back up. It was so chaotic that even the tanks were forced to stop.

“Bent nearly prone across the horses’ necks, we flung ourselves at the Japanese advance, pistols firing full into their startled faces,” First Lt. Edwin Ramsey, a platoon leader, later wrote. “A few returned our fire but most fled in confusion. To them we must have seemed a vision from another century, wild-eyed horses pounding headlong; cheering, whooping men firing from the saddles.”

And so the cavalrymen held the line, dismounting after the first charge but preventing the Japanese crossing.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Thousands of men died in the Bataan Death March.

(U.S. Army)

While the Philippine Scouts would be well decorated for their endeavors on January 16, and for other heroics during the defense of the Philippines, the story turns grim for them.

They took heavy losses that day before falling back to the rest of the American force after reinforcements arrived. And then they were isolated on the Bataan Peninsula. As the American forces began to starve, they butchered the horses and ate the meat. But even that wouldn’t be enough.

On April 9, 1942, the U.S. forces on the Bataan Peninsula surrendered to the Japanese. At least 600 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos were killed in the death march that followed.

That same month, the last U.S. Army horse cavalry unit turned in its animals in Nebraska.

Humor

10 MP memes that will make you laugh all day

These young men and women are the first troops you’ll see in the morning as you drive onto base and they’re the last people you’ll see as you exit at night. The military police protect us from the various threats trying to sneak onto secured territory and they carefully watch the convicted criminals that are locked up — and this thankless job isn’t freakin’ easy.

The brave souls who serve as military police also take a lot of sh*t from their brothers- and sisters-in-arms — but it’s all in good fun… just like these memes.


Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

(The Salty Soldier)

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Military Life

7 of the worst phrases to hear from your leadership

There’re certain things that come down the chain of command that hurt your very soul when you, the lowest “link,” hear about them. Of course, “deployment extended” and “Dear John” have firmly secured their place on the podium of most-hated phrases, but these ones burn the ears, regardless of circumstance.


Nothing good ever comes from these 7 phrases.

7. “Make it happen.”

Every now and then, an impossible task becomes an imperative in someone’s eyes. This leads to the phrase that shuts down all conversation.

Doesn’t matter. You’ll have to beg, borrow, or steal whatever you need to, well, “make it happen.”

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

6. “We’re expecting little-to-no resistance.”

While you’re deployed, this one sentence seems to jinx everything.

The platoon could just be out doing ‘atmosphericals’ (basically, you roll around an area of operations and just poke around to see if anyone wants to come play) for months and nothing will happen. The moment your platoon leader says this phrase, every enemy decides to make an appearance.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

5. “Why didn’t you square away your battle buddy?”

This is always uttered when your squadmate does something stupid, unsafe, criminal, or a combination of the three.

And yet, blame gets shifted from the one who’s actually at fault or the NCO in charge on to the battle buddy who was probably in their barracks playing video games.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Because yeah, military regulations are what troops talk about in the ‘Bs’ (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian Morales)

4. “It’s time to embrace the suck.”

Things are about to get real and the sh*t is about to hit the fan.

Oddly enough, and not to pass judgment or anything, but the staff officer who jokes about the imminent sh*tstorm usually seems to make it out squeaky clean.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Don’t worry though. That staff officer will at least hand out water at the end of the ruck march! (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

3. “This shouldn’t take that long.”

This has two different meanings depending on when it’s said.

If it’s used when you’re told to go empty a shipping container (connex), that means they don’t understand shipping containers. If it’s while you’re sweating your ass off while emptying that Connex and they come out of nowhere to say it, they’re as**oles.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

2. “Weapons draw at zero too-f*cking early hundred.”

This always comes down the moment before the range, field op, or something similar.

Sure, weapons draw may be at 0400, but the armorer won’t show until 0635, you won’t get to the Motor Pool until 0830, and, just to put a bit more salt on that wound, the command team already planned on SPing out at 1030. All the while, you probably didn’t roll into bed around midnight and didn’t get a lick of sleep.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

1. Anything involving “100% accountability” when off-duty.

This means that something terrible happened or that someone did something terribly stupid.

It comes in all shapes and sizes — “Ladi dadi, everybody” and “All-hands on deck.” This always sucks because your leadership probably aren’t heartless machines. They enjoy weekends and time off, too.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Even your First Sergeant wants to spend the weekend NOT at their desk yelling at idiots. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Dana Beesley)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy’s restored 2nd Fleet unveils its crest and motto

Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet (C2F) revealed a new crest and motto, designed to represent the fleet’s new mission, Aug. 22, 2018, prior to the establishment ceremony on Aug. 24, 2018, in Norfolk, Virginia.

The symbolism is rich and reflective of the purpose of C2F. The logo’s centerpiece is a shield divided into two points. The top of the shield, the chief, is blue and signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice, while the bottom of the shield, the base, is divided into red and white pales. The red signifies military strength and courage, while white signifies integrity and peace.


The field is charged with the number “2,” indicating the numbered fleet, as well as unification in achieving the Navy’s mission in addressing changes in the security environment. Atop the shield is perched a bald eagle, the ultimate symbol of freedom, with its fierce, dominant talons representing the lethal maritime capabilities of the command. The shield is supported by a trident, an ancient symbol of the sea representing power and control over the ocean.

Furthermore, the crest is emblazoned in full color on a geographical map centered on the North Atlantic Ocean, adjoining land masses signifying our enduring relationships with partners and allies. The three stars signify the rank of a vice admiral, who will command C2F.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

The official crest for the re-establishment of Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, which will report to Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

The motto, “Ready to Fight,” personifies the spirit and dedication of the command, which maintains and equips maritime assets enhancing interoperability and lethality against foreign and domestic enemies who threaten regional or national security.

“Our new crest signifies our dedication and renewed focus on naval operations on the East Coast and North Atlantic,” said Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet. “Building from our rich legacy, we wanted to pay homage to the old 2nd Fleet by including some aspects of the original crest – the eagle, the trident, the shield, and the map in the background – but the new crest signifies our mission going forward, which addresses a new security environment and the modern warfighter.”

U.S. 2nd Fleet, to be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and the North Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, it will plan and conduct maritime, joint and combined operations and will train and recommend certification of combat-ready naval forces for maritime employment and operations around the globe. C2F will report to USFF.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This entire room made of amber was stolen by Nazis before it disappeared forever

Witnesses reported seeing the 24 crates containing what has been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” at a railroad station at Königsberg, Prussia in 1943. They had earlier been seen in the courtyard of Königsberg Castle.


They were never seen again.

Inside the crates, was an all-amber room that was built by Prussia’s Frederick I between 1701-1706 and later given by Frederick’s son, Frederick William I, to Peter the Great of Russia. The chamber, when assembled, was completely enclosed with amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors and garnished with mosaics, nymphs, cupids and angels, inlays, landscapes, and miniatures — all in amber.

Its construction nearly broke the Prussian economy when it was built, and its worth today, if it were ever found, is estimated to be near $200 million.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Can’t imagine why it was stolen…

Peter accepted Frederick Wilhelm’s gift, something, he said in a letter, he had “dreamed of for a long time.” The Amber Room was disassembled and moved to Russia, but nothing was done about reassembling it there — largely because no one was able to figure out how the badly-marked pieces went together — until the woman who would become Catherine the Great ascended the Russian throne in 1767.

Catherine, who originally came from the amber-mining region near the Black Sea, added another 900 pounds of amber to the room and implemented the work done by an Italian sculptor who had worked on the reassembly problem.  She also added large windows to the room and had it assembled at her Tsarskoye Selo palace.

The completed room was said to come alive in candlelight.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
An early photo of the original Amber Room.

The room languished in the St. Petersburg — later Leningrad — Palace until June 1941, when Germany invaded Russia. Ten weeks after the invasion, Germany laid siege to Leningrad. As the siege continued, Russians in the city struggled to save what historic treasure they could, including the Amber Room. Because of the fragility of the amber and the resulting difficulty in removing and storing it, a false room was built inside the Amber Room that hid it from view. But when the Nazis took the palace in September, they discovered the room, disassembled it, and stored it in crates. Those crates were then moved to Königsberg, again reassembled, and displayed in the town’s castle, the former home of the Teutonic Knights.

As the war wound down, Königsberg became the target of frequent Allied bombing raids and the room was again disassembled, loaded in crates, and stored in the castle’s cellar. The crates containing the Amber Room were seen in the castle’s courtyard in January 1945 and later at the railroad depot in Königsberg.

From there, they disappeared.

Since the war, searches have all been unsuccessful in locating any trace of the missing crates and their contents. Numerous theories as to what happened to the famous Amber Room have also been broadcast — all unsubstantiated.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
A colorized photo of the original Amber Room.

As recently as 2008, radar scans detected a large amount of metal believed to be too dense to be copper in an abandoned copper mine in Deutschneudorf, Saxony that some people, including Hans-Peter Haustein, mayor of Deutschneudorf, claim is the burial site of the Amber Room.  Others believe the Amber Room was hidden 2,000 feet down in a salt mine near Gottingen, Germany that has since been flooded. Still other researchers have speculated that the Amber Room was loaded aboard the German liner Wilhelm Gustoloff, which was being used to move refugees across the Baltic Sea, and went down with the ship when it was sunk in January 1945.

Or — perhaps the most likely of all — it was simply destroyed during the Royal Air Force bombing raids in early 1945.

Fortunately, the curious can still get a glimpse of the room’s splendor.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
A Black and White photo of the Amber Room, taken before the war.

A copy of the room has been created based on black and white photos that were taken of it. Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated the room at a celebration of the 300-year anniversary of the city of Saint Petersburg in 2003. That copy is currently on display at the Tsarskoye Selo Palace.

MIGHTY TRENDING

More recruits will see longer training in expanded program

The commander of the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence said Sept. 5, 2018, that basic training programs for combat arms specialties such as armor and engineers will soon start a pilot program similar to the one that is extending Infantry one station unit training to 22 weeks.

About 400 recruits are now in their seventh week of the pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia that is adding eight weeks to the traditional 14-week infantry OSUT.


Once that pilot program is complete, Army officials will begin extending other combat arms OSUT programs, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the commander of MCOE at Benning, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Sept. 5, 2018 Aviation Hot Topic event.

“It started with infantry; now we will begin a pilot with armor one station unit training at the beginning of next calendar year,” Brito said. “We also have some guidance from [Training and Doctrine Command] to do the same thing with the engineers at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri].

“This could expand, and it most likely will, to some of the other combat MOSs over the next couple of years, to transform out to 22 weeks for all.”

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jonathan Christal, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, marches Basic Combat Training Soldiers in for classroom training.

(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. James Brabenec)

Recruits in infantry OSUT traditionally go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about four-and-a-half weeks of infantry advanced individual training. The pilot adds eight weeks of training time to hone marksmanship, land navigation and other key combat skills.

“The guidance to the team is … you have 22 weeks now to build and do the best land navigation you can do; you have 22 weeks now to have the best marksmanship training that you can do,” Brito said.

The pilot follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training in early 2018 that focuses on emphasizing more discipline in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic.

“I am very proud of the 200 that started, per company, and no one has dropped out; we have no injuries, and we have no one that has wanted to quit,” Brito said, adding that the pilot is scheduled to end on Dec. 7, 2018.

“That is a long time in training.”

The Army plans to track the two companies once they are out in the force to assess the differences the extended training has made on their performance, Brito said.

But before the 22-week infantry OSUT can become a permanent program, Benning will have to build up its training base with more instructors, Brito said. “This will demand a very big growth in drill sergeants … so that we can continue the 22 weeks.”

The goal is for a private to show up to a unit and “he or she is combat ready, physically fit, mentally fit to deploy right away,” Brito said.

“I really do think this is going to help combat readiness and deployability for the Army.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52s flew over disputed areas in a challenge to the Chinese military

The US has reportedly made a bold move in countering Beijing’s growing dominance in the South China Sea by flying B-52 nuclear-capable bombers over disputed islands — and it shows how the US and China may rapidly be approaching a showdown.

The flight of the B-52s, reported by CNN but denied by the Pentagon, follows China landing nuclear-capable bombers of its own on the islands and years of Beijing ignoring international law to bully its neighbors and seize control of the waterway that sees trillions in annual shipping and holds untold billions in natural resources.


It also follows Defense Secretary Jim Mattis calling out China at a conference in Singapore, according to CNN.

“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island,” Mattis said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping swore at the White House with former President Barack Obama in 2015 that he would not militarize the islands, and continues to claim the islands have not been militarized despite the obvious presence of military equipment.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
Chinese President Xi Jinping

China now calls claims that the islands are militarized “ridiculous,” but Mattis wasn’t having that.

“The placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” said Mattis.

The B-52s reportedly flew within 20 miles of the Spratly Islands, which China claims for itself and has built military facilities on. But Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan also claim the islands, and China has repeatedly made a show of refusing to let international courts settle the matter.

The US has a lot of experience taking down small islands

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
A WWII-era US battleship fires its deck guns.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Earlier in June 2018, a top US general asserted the US military’s power to act against threats to international order, saying “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”

In another rhetorical shift, the US military renamed its Pacific command “Indo-Pacific command” to emphasize India and advance a vision of the Pacific not dominated by China.

But China shows no sign of stopping its march to domination of the valuable waterway, recently using its navy to block out the Philippine navy from feeding its own troops on one of its holdings in the South China Sea.

China’s dominance meets US resolve

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in an exercise scenario.u00a0The aircraft, aircrew and maintainers are deployed from Barksdale AFB, La., as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

In meetings with Vietnam and the Philippines, China has been understood to threaten force against the smaller countries if they undertake activity in their own, legally claimed waters.

When the US challenges Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, or any country’s excessive maritime claims (the US challenged 22 nations in 2016), it usually does so with a US Navy destroyer.

If the US flew nuclear bombers across the island, that would mark a clear escalation and perhaps the beginning of US military actions matching its rhetoric.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia could have a loaded gun pointed at Poland’s head

Russia could be storing nuclear weapons at a recently renovated underground bunker in the Kaliningrad region roughly 30 miles from the Polish border, according to a report released by a nuclear watchdog on June 18, 2018.

Satellite images showed the site being excavated beginning back in 2016, renovated, and then covered in 2018, which suggests it could be returning to operational status, according to the report from the Federation of American Scientists.


“The latest upgrade obviously raises questions about what the operational status of the site is,” Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said in the report.

“The features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces. But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region,” the reported added.

Kristensen told The Guardian that the bunker “has all the fingerprints” of Russia’s standard nuclear storage sites, and while there have been upgrades at the site in the past, none have been as “dramatic” as this one.

“There is a heavy-duty external perimeter of multilayered fencing,” he added. “The bunkers themselves have triple fencing around them as well. These are typical features from all the other nuclear weapons storage sites that we know about in Russia.”

In short, it’s not clear whether Russia is currently storing nuclear warheads at the facility or is planning to, but this shows the bunker is now an active site.

Moreover, these developments will likely increase concerns about Moscow’s nuclear activities in the region at a time of heightened tensions between NATO and the Kremlin, Kristensen told Business Insider.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis
The Kremlin in Russia.

“The upgrade has been known to NATO for some time,” Kristensen said. “But it would appear to reaffirm Russia’s nuclear posturing in Kaliningrad and is likely to deepen eastern European concerns that Russia is increasing the role of nuclear weapons in the Baltic region.”

Back in March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had developed and was testing an array of new strategic nuclear-capable weapons he claimed could outmaneuver American defenses.

“I would like to tell those who have been trying to escalate the arms race for the past 15 years, to gain unilateral advantages over Russia, and to impose restrictions and sanctions… the attempt at curbing Russia has failed,” Putin said at the time.

Kaliningrad also happens to be a base for Russia’s Baltic fleet and is one of the venues for the 2018 World Cup.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 people general officers should have in their entourage

All senior officers, but especially generals and admirals, have entourages that exist solely to ensure that the general is as effective and safe as possible. They do everything from managing the general’s calendar to grabbing his dry cleaning. But in addition to their stated duties, the entourage can grease the wheels of command.

Here are 6 people generals should always have in their entourage, whether they want them or not:


Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

“A colonel lifting iron” is the closest thing I could find to an iron colonel, so here you go.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Warren)

Iron colonel

An “iron colonel” is a colonel with little hope or ambition to advance to a general officer. They’re key to military innovation and all general officers should be connected at the hip to one.

There are two major things you’ll need the iron colonel to do: First, they’re there to intercept all sorts of traffic that’s addressed to the general but not really worth their time. More importantly, they’re needed to shoot down all sorts of “good ideas” originating from the general and the staff that would hamper brigade commanders and below.

See, iron colonels are no slouches. They may not be destined to wear stars, but they’ve nearly always commanded brigades in the past and they did well. They have decades of military experience, but they don’t have much reason to fear pissing people off. So, if the general proposes something insane, like pushing machine guns to all the squads — even the human admin office, it’s this colonel who calls the general on his crap.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

An Army specialist who is definitely practicing land nav and not just waiting for the photographer to leave so he can trade points data with his buddy.

(U.S. Army)

E-4 Mafia/Lance Corporal Underground liaison

Officers don’t love the junior-enlisted networks for obvious reasons. They’re often known for helping members dodge work and dodge official punishment.

But they can also be super useful for the general or admiral who inspires the junior service members. A member of the underground can explain any weirdness from headquarters directly to the other junior guys in billeting. They can also create shortcuts through the bureaucracy and, best of all, do drug deals on behalf of the staff.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

An Army specialist reaches for a training grenade in a competition. These aren’t nearly as valuable as a rare ink cartridge.

(U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Alan Royalty)

Drug dealers

Not literal drug dealers, of course. The personnel who conduct off-the-books exchanges in order to get needed resources while giving up the unit’s surplus are known as “drug dealers.” This can be the exchange of anything from ink cartridges to range time to borrowing another units’ NCOs.

These types of troops can be amazingly useful for a headquarters. Rare resources, like the ink or replacement parts for plotters (the massive printers that produce maps), are hard to come by and harder to stockpile. So, if you suddenly need resources like that, you need a drug deal — and that means a drug dealer.

(Note: The Navy sometimes call this “comshaw.” Same thing, older term.)

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Filling out forms accurately and honestly is important, but sometimes you have to help someone out with a little Skillcraft assist.

(U.S. Navy)

Gun decker

“Gun decking” is a Navy term for filling out forms with made-up information, usually to fulfill a mandatory but arbitrary requirement. This is similar to the Army saying that someone “Skillcrafted” the test — that they used a standard-issue pen to make it look like something was done.

This is obviously dishonest — and, on some occasions, it’s technically a crime — but it’s sometimes essential in the bureaucracy. Need to get a soldier to school before deployment, but they haven’t been able to get to the range in the last few weeks? Well, someone has to gun deck or Skillcraft the paperwork (assuming that you’re sure they could actually succeed at the range given a chance; don’t use this to get bad troops into good schools).

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Soldiers share a meal and, likely, gossip. Having a couple of lower enlisted people advocating for you in the rumor mills can be essential.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

PNN Reporter/Scuttlebutt master

One of the best soldiers a general officer can have working on their behalf is a credible Private News Network reporter. This reporter can be anybody known around the rumor mill for having accurate info. Like the E-4 Mafia or Lance Corporal Underground rep, this troop can relay what is happening in the headquarters accurately to people who usually only get the information a few degrees removed.

But, more importantly, they can intercept and counter incorrect rumors flowing through the scuttlebutt or PNN. Generals often have to deal with rumors about their decision making flying around their unit. Having someone in their entourage who rubs shoulders with the rest of the junior enlisted and accurately relays what’s going on can keep everyone marching on the same foot.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

(Editor’s note: There’s no evidence that this guy is a FNG. It’s just an illustrative photo. But he was the FNG at one point, so screw ‘im)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

FNG

Finally, every general officer should include a f*cking new guy somewhere in their entourage and check in with them from time to time. Obviously, this guy will typically be somewhere on the periphery instead of in a key position — maybe a comms guy who helps with the radio or a security guy.

But having someone who hasn’t yet consumed too much of the unit’s Kool-Aid allows the general or, more likely, the iron colonel to get an idea of how the headquarter’s decision making seems to an outsider — a needed perspective in a headquarters that might otherwise trip into a cult of personality around a charismatic or talented general.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to defend your coast without sailors or guns

An engineer at the respected RAND Corporation has a suggestion for small countries that want to keep their enemies at bay but can’t afford a proper navy: use loads of sea mines and drones. It seems obvious, but the advice could prevent America getting dragged into a world war.


Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians simulate the destruction of a submerged mine.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Charles White)

Engineer Scott Savitz names a few countries in his RAND post, such as Bahrain, Taiwan, and the Republic of Georgia, two American allies and a potential future member of NATO. While all of them spend significant portions of their GDP on defense, they are all also potential targets of larger neighbors with much larger navies.

So, it’s in the best interest of these countries (and the U.S.) if those countries can find a way to stave off potential invasions. RAND’s suggestion is to spend money on mines and drones, which require much more money to defeat than they cost to create. This could cripple an invading fleet or deter it entirely.

While mines are a tried and true — but frowned upon — platform dating back centuries, modern naval tactics give them short shrift. Unmanned drones in water, air, and on land, however, are reaching maturity.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

A Royal Norwegian Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Commando collects information during a mine-countermeasure dive during exercise Arctic Specialist 2018.

(U.S. Navy)

The idea is for the smaller nations to build up mine-laying fleets that go on regular training missions, laying fake mines in potentially vulnerable waters. This would create two major problems for invading nations: An enemy force capable of quickly saturating the water with mines as well as thousands of decoys that would hamper mine-clearing vessels.

And, mine clearance requires warships to sail relatively predictable patterns, allowing the defending nation to better predict where invading forces will have vulnerable ships.

The drones, meanwhile, could be used for laying mines, directly attacking enemy ships, conducting electronic surveillance, or even slipping into enemy ports to attack them in their “safe spaces” — a sort of Doolittle Raid for the robot age. They could even be used to target troop transports.

While the Russian, Iranian, and Chinese Navies are much larger than their Georgian, Bahrain, and Taiwanese counterparts, they don’t have much sea-lift capability, meaning that the loss of even a couple of troop ships could doom a potential invasion.

All of these factors could combine to convince invading forces to keep their ships at home, or at least slow the attacking force, meaning that reinforcements from the U.S. or other allied forces could arrive before an amphibious landing is achieved.

It’s easier to contest a landing than it is to throwback an already-fortified foothold.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

A underwater drone used to measure salinity, temperature, and depth information is recovered by the U.S. Navy during normal operations.

(U.S. Navy)

For Bahrain and Taiwan, both island nations, ensuring that an enemy can’t land on their coast nearly protects them from invasion. As long as their air forces and air defenses remain robust, they’re safe.

The Republic of Georgia, on the other hand, has already suffered a four-day land invasion from Russia. While securing their coastline from naval attack would make the country more secure, it would still need to fortify its land borders to prevent further incursion.

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

A Navy drone, the Fire Scout, lazes a target for the MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter that accompanies it.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Trenton J. Kotlarz)

For America, allies that are more secure need less assistance and are less likely to collapse during invasion without large numbers of American reinforcements.

But, of course, mines remain a controversial defense measure. They’re hard and expensive to clear, even after the war is over. And while sea mines are less likely to hurt playing children or families than leftover landmines, they can still pose a hazard to peacetime shipping operations, especially for the country that had to lay them in the first place.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army wants more soldiers, and it’s using esports to put a ‘finger on the pulse’ of potential recruits

After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.


The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.

Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, “build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth.”

By January 2019, more than 6,500 soldiers had applied for a team that was expected to have about 30 members. In September 2019, the Army credited the esports team, one of two new outreach teams set up that year, as having “initiated some of the highest lead-generating events in the history of the all-volunteer force.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5c9bb3f5dc67670a5124f08a%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=15&h=47927b7e7b54a83740065fb68b1412252e6db4073e1b350f21cfc4e552f996db&size=980x&c=3152663958 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5c9bb3f5dc67670a5124f08a%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D15%26h%3D47927b7e7b54a83740065fb68b1412252e6db4073e1b350f21cfc4e552f996db%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3152663958%22%7D” expand=1]

Staff Sgt. Michael Showes, far right, with fellow Army Esports Team members and a game enthusiast at an exhibition in San Antonio, January 19, 2019.

US Army/Terrance Bell

“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of the team, said in January 2019.

Team members who were competing would train for up to six hours a day, Jones said at the time, and they received instruction on Army enlistment programs so they could answer questions from potential recruits.

“They will have the ability to start a dialogue about what it is like to serve in our Army and see if those contacts are interested in joining,” Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, said in early 2019.

Thousands of soldiers play esports, Muth said, and the audience for it has grown into the hundreds of millions — West Point even recognized its own official esports club in January — but the appeal wasn’t obvious at first to Army leaders, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Friday.

“This was one [idea] that when the first time Gen. Frank Muth briefed … Army senior leadership, we’re like, ‘What are you talking about, Frank?'” McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“We’re about 18 months into it,” McCarthy said, and with that team, Army recruiters were “getting their finger on the pulse with 17- to 24-year-old Americans. What are they into? How do they communicate? And [finding] those right venues and shaping our messaging to talk about here’s the 150 different things you can do in the Army and the access to education and the kinds of people that you can meet and being a part of something as special as this institution.”

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The Army Esports Team trailer at ArmyCon 2019, October 12, 2019.

Army Esports Team/Facebook

In 2019, the Army rolled out an esports trailer with four gaming stations inside, as well as a semi-trailer with eight seats that could be adjusted so all eight players played the same game or their own on a gaming PC, an Xbox 1S, a PS4 Pro, and a Nintendo Switch, Jones, the NCO-in-charge, told Task Purpose in October.

One of the senior leaders dispatched to an esports event was Gen. Mark Milley, who was Army chief of staff at the time and is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is the president’s top uniformed military adviser.

“He said, ‘You’re going to make me do what?'” McCarthy said Friday. “Then when he went, he learned a lot, and he got to engage with young men and women, and what we found is we’re getting millions of leads of 17- to 24-year-olds to feed into Army Recruiting Command to engage young men and women to see if they’d be interested in a life of service.”

The esports team is part of a change in recruiting strategy, McCarthy said, that has focused on 22 cities in traditional recruiting grounds in the South and Midwest but also on the West Coast and the Northeast with the goal of informing potential recruits about what life in the Army is actually like as well as about the benefits of serving, such as money for college or soft skills that appeal to employers.

The service has also shifted almost all its advertising spending to digital and put more uniformed personnel into the Army Marketing Research Group to take more control of its messaging.

McCarthy on Friday called it “a comprehensive approach” to “improve our performance in a variety of demographics, whether that’s male-to-female ratios or ethnicities.” That geographic focus yielded “a double-digit lift” among women and minorities, McCarthy said last year.

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Army Gen. Frank Muth, back row, third from right, with members of the Army Esports Team in front of USAE gaming truck, in Washington, DC, October 14, 2019.

US Army Esports Team/Facebook

The outreach hasn’t been universally welcomed.

After the 2018 recruiting shortfall, service chiefs, including then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, said schools were not letting uniformed service members in to recruit. Anti-war activists attempted to disprove that claim by offering ,000 to schools that admitted to barring recruiters.

Suggestions the Army start recruiting children in their early teens also received criticism for both its impracticality and the harm it could do to the military as an institution.

But recruiting has improved year-over-year, hitting the goal set last year and being ahead of pace now, McCarthy said.

“This has been a major turnaround, because I think we just got a little lazy and we started losing touch with young men and women … but you have to sustain this,” McCarthy added. “We’re in a war for talent in this country — 3.5% unemployment, they have a lot of opportunities.”

“We travel to a lot of American cities, and we meet with mayors and superintendents of schools and other civic leaders to try to educate those influencers, to try to help us in recruiting, and it’s yielded tremendous benefit.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.