Atomic cloud over Nagasaki from Koyagi-jima by Hiromichi Matsuda. (Wikimedia Commons).
On September 2, 1945, World War II was officially over. Many celebrated August 15th as the end of the war when Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced Imperial Japan’s surrender, but it took two more weeks before the surrender was formally signed. This is long enough for younger generations to have no memory of the catastrophic war, but there are still people alive today who experienced it firsthand.
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Just three days later, a second detonated over Nagasaki. In total, more than 200,000 people were killed by the explosions, with thousands more experiencing long-term effects. Those who survived will never forget the experience. So what is it really like to be hit by a nuclear weapon and live? Let’s find out.
It starts out with a flash.
When an atomic bomb detonates, it goes through predictable stages. Nuclear bombs work by setting off a rapid chain reaction. Uranium undergoes the process of fission, which releases an almost incomprehensible amount of energy. About 35% of this energy is released as thermal radiation. Because thermal radiation travels at roughly the speed of light, a bright flash is the first thing one experiences after a nuclear bomb is dropped. We’re talking blinding. The initial flash is so bright, it can cause temporary blindness. Even closing your eyes isn’t complete protection. Larger nuclear weapons, which do exist in present-day, could cause flash blindness in people over 50 miles away.
The blinding light is accompanied by intense heat.
It’s not called thermal radiation for nothing. After the blinding flash, there’s a blast of intense heat. At the direct site of the explosion, the temperature can hit over 300K degrees C, visible as a massive fireball. At this temperature, which is about 300 times hotter than the temperature used for cremation, humans are instantaneously turned from people into basic elements. Just about everything within a 1-mile radius of the city of Hiroshima was completely flattened. The farther you are from the blast, the more likely you are to survive, but you’re unlikely to escape completely unscathed. First-degree burns can occur up to 6.8 miles away. Get just 2 miles closer and you’re at risk for life-threatening third-degree burns.
Wearing white might reduce effects.
Donning a wedding dress won’t save you if you’re in the middle of the blast, but it might help if you’re a few miles away. White clothing reflects some of the thermal energy while dark clothes absorb it, so you may be a little better off if you’re wearing light-colored clothing than if charcoal is your favorite color.
If you’re further away, pressure waves can still get you.
When a nuclear bomb explodes, it releases light and heat energy, but it also pushes air away from the initial explosion site with a tremendous amount of force. This creates a change in air pressure so intense that the wind can collapse buildings and crush most objects in its path. Within a half-mile of the blast, wind speeds can get as high as 470 mph. While you could potentially survive the force itself, the buildings around you most likely would not.
The world around you will resemble a scene from a horror film.
Shockingly, survival close to ground zero is possible. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dropped, some people were sheltered by the sturdy walls of banks or basements. The reports of those who did survive paint a very dark picture. Your hair is likely to be literally fried, and your clothes charred to rags. The people who were outside at the time of the blast are either severely burned or dead- with some of the deceased catching fire in the streets. Farther from the explosion, more people will lie injured or dead from glass and other projectiles. Human shadows are marked permanently on the ground and any walls left standing.
If you survive, you may feel the side-effects for the rest of your life.
Radiation poisoning caused a significant number of deaths in the weeks following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects of radiation are varied, ranging from milder symptoms like gastrointestinal distress, fever, headaches, and hair loss to death. Because radiation can cause a drop in the number of blood cells produced, wounds heal more slowly than normal. Even after you recover, your risk of cancer and other illnesses usually associated with age will be heightened.
A terrifying image, but an important lesson.
While the end of a war is always a reason to rejoice, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost at the hands of fellow mankind was an atrocity. The survivors have memories darker than most of us can imagine. Disturbingly, we now have the power to create an explosion larger than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The largest bomb ever tested was the 50 megaton Tsar bomb, which released the equivalent energy of over 3,300 Hiroshima bombs.
Fortunately, our international agreements should prevent such catastrophic warfare from ever taking place. To learn more about what it was really like to experience a nuclear explosion, Time interviewed survivors who can tell you the real story.
The Marine Corps has punished two aviators who flew their aircraft deliberately to draw a giant penis in the skies over California’s Salton Sea.
The Oct. 23, 2018 incident resulted in the West Coast Marine Corps training squadron launching an investigation into the flight pattern of a T-34C aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101.
“Two Marine Corps aviators were administratively disciplined following the completion of an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding an Oct. 23, 2018 irregular flight pattern that resulted in an obscene image,” said Maj. Josef Patterson, a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Patterson did not reveal details of the disciplinary action taken against the Marines. “The aviators retained their wings and will continue service to their country as valued members of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing,” he said.
The flight pattern was originally spotted about 120 miles outside San Diego by @AircraftSpots, which monitors military air movements on Twitter.
Drawing phallic images seem to be a pattern in military aviation.
During the 69th’s deployment to Al Udeid Air Force Base, Qatar, between September 2017 and April 2018, penis drawings were repeatedly created by members of the unit and were captured as screengrabs for a compact disc montage that was played at the end of the deployment.
An investigation was launched after the CD was turned into Air Force officials.
The details of their punishment were not released, but the two were allowed to keep their aviator status.
The aviators were assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 130 and flew an EA-18G Growler aircraft to draw an image of male genitalia in the sky. Witnesses captured the image on cellphone cameras and posted it on social media.
— Military.com’s Gina Harkins, Oriana Pawlyk and Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this report.
Often lost in the discussion of Russian military hardware are the anti-tank missiles. While Russia has long been known for having a large force of tanks (almost 22,000, according to GlobalSecurity.org), they also deployed capable anti-tank missiles.
In the Cold War, major systems used by the Soviet Union were the AT-4 Spigot, the AT-5 Spandrel, and the AT-7 Saxhorn. These were all wire-guided systems. The AT-4 and AT-7 were generally man-portable systems while the AT-5 was used from vehicles like the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle. The AT-4 had a range of roughly one and a half miles, comparable to the FGM-148 Javelin. The AT-5 had a range of about two and a half miles, while the AT-7 had a range of 1,00 yards.
The Soviets hadn’t stopped there. With the development and deployment of new NATO tanks like the M1 Abrams, the British Challenger, and the German Leopard 2, the Soviets developed the AT-13 Saxhorn 2 and the AT-14 Spriggan. The former, an improved version of the AT-7, increases that system’s range to about 2,000 yards. The latter system can reach out to just over six miles, depending on the version.
Russia has widely exported its missile systems. Ironically, the modern AT-13 has been acquire by South Korea, while the AT-14 was acquired in large numbers by Greece and Turkey, NATO members who would be bound by the North Atlantic Treaty to defend Poland or the Baltic states in the event of Russian aggression.
Russian troops with the AT-14 Spriggan anti-tank missile. (Wikimedia Commons)
These missiles are somewhat slower than the fire-and-forget Javelin, but they can be guided by troops up to the moment of impact. Russia not only has anti-tank warheads, but also thermobaric systems that can do some serious damage to infantry and light vehicles. To learn more about these missiles, check out the video below.
The United States and Russia have agreed on a time and place for nuclear arms negotiations this month and invited China, President Donald Trump’s arms negotiator says.
“Today agreed with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister [Sergei] Ryabkov on time and place for nuclear arms negotiations in June,” U.S. Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea wrote on Twitter on June 8.
“China also invited. Will China show and negotiate in good faith?” he added, without providing further details.
There were no immediate comments from Russian officials.
Earlier, Bloomberg quoted an unidentified U.S. State Department official as saying that Ryabkov and Billingslea would meet in Vienna on June 22.
The official didn’t rule out that the United States may be willing to extend the New Start nuclear-weapons treaty, if Russia “commits to three-way arms control with China and helps to bring a resistant Beijing to the table,” according to Bloomberg.
New START, the last major arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in February 2021.
The accord caps the number of nuclear warheads and so-called delivery systems held by the two countries.
While Moscow has pushed for a five-year extension, Washington has balked, saying it wants the deal to be broadened to include China.
China, whose nuclear arsenal is a fraction of the size of Moscow’s and Washington’s, has said it was not interested in participating in such talks.
The Trump administration has pulled out of major international treaties, prompting warnings of an increased possibility of an arms race or accidental military confrontations.
Last month, Washington gave notice on withdrawing from the 35-nation Open Skies accord, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, due to what U.S. officials said were Russia’s violations.
The United States also cited Russian violations when it exited from of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.
Moscow has denied the U.S. accusations and said the United States was seeking to undermine international security.
Imagine you had some of the world’s best spymasters, espionage rings, and analysts in the world, that intellectuals around the world were enamored with you and wanted to feed you information, and that all of that intelligence was needed to protect your massive military as it faced off against an existential threat to your people, your government, and your nation.
Then imagine you ignored all of that information because, like, can you ever really trust a spy?
Richard Sorge, one of the most successful (and dead) spies of World War II.
That was the reality for many of the spies in World War II, especially Richard “Ika” Sorge, whose spy reports gave a detailed breakdown of the Nazi blitz preparing to smash into the Soviet Union. He watched his nation fail to marshal its troops to face the threat.
Sorge born in 1895 to a German engineer working in Baku, Azerbajin, then a part of the Russian Empire and a major oil-producing region. He served in World War I with the German military but fell in love with communist ideology. After the war, he began teaching Marxism and got a PhD in political theory.
As the conflicts that would flare up into World War II grew, Sorge was a member of the Soviet intelligence as well as the Nazi party and was respected in China and Japan. Better, he had intelligence assets available in all four countries. He was also a famous womanizer. In all four of these countries, he had women who fed him intelligence information that they wouldn’t dare tell anyone else.
He used the intelligence he gathered in Tokyo to ingratiate himself with the Germans who wanted to keep an eye on their Pacific ally. The trust he built up through feeding Berlin information allowed him to gather a lot of intelligence about the Nazis that he could feed to his true masters in Moscow.
In 1938, Sorge got in even deeper with the Nazis when his German handler got sick and his old friend Ott, who had helped him join the Nazi party in the first place, asked him to take on the task of drafting the German Embassy’s dispatches to Berlin, filled with all sorts of great information to pass on to his Moscow superiors.
In 1940 and 1941, Sorge was able to tap into his networks in China and Germany to paint a detailed picture of one of the most important points in the war: The German blitz against the Soviet Union.
A Soviet T-34 burns in the field during Operation Barbarossa.
Sorge, reporting from Tokyo, achieved a shocking level of precision, detailing the size of the force and pinpointing the week that the Nazis would invade. He reported that the attack would take place sometime between June 20 and 25. Operation Barbarossa, as it was named, launched on June 22.
Germany penetrated the Soviet Union 200 miles deep along a nearly 1,800-mile front in only seven days.
Of course, the Soviets were able to push the German forces back, largely thanks to delusional planning on the German side. Germany had expected to conquer Moscow before true winter set in and failed to properly equip its troops for fighting in the frozen wasteland that Russia quickly became. Commanders, chasing the operation’s impossible timetable, failed to secure their gains and left their own lengthening supply lines too lightly guarded.
The harsh winter and Soviet counterattacks hit hard. Russia, with its superior resources and manpower, was able to bleed Germany for its treachery and bloodshed.
But all of this came too late for the thousands unnecessarily lost in those opening days, as well as for Richard Sorge. Sorge continued to send information back to Moscow, including one important report that was actually read and believed. He was able to determine with a high degree of certainty that Tokyo would not enter the European Theater unless it was clear that Russia had lost, preferably if Moscow fell.
The Red Army moved massive numbers of troops from their Easter Front to the west, hastening their success against Hitler.
But Sorge’s luck ran out. On Oct. 10, 1941, security police arrested two members of Sorge’s espionage ring, and one of them spilled all the beans. Sorge was arrested and eventually cracked, admitting to being a communist spy. He was executed on Nov. 7, 1944, refused even his dying cigarette.
The Royal Australian Navy has long been a small force that’s able to punch above its weight. Now, they’re taking on another advanced vessel, one that could very well see service with the United State Navy in the next decade.
The vessel in question is the Hobart-class air warfare destroyer. This vessel is based on the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class guided missile frigate. If that Spanish vessel sounds familiar, that’s because it’s one of the contenders in the United States Navy’s FFG(X) program — a strong one, given its use of the Aegis combat system and the SPY-1 radar.
Australia’s Navy has added some Spanish flavor — their Canberra-class amphibious assault ships are based on the Spanish Navy’s sole amphibious assault vessel, the Juan Carlos I.
Modified Adelaide-class guided missile frigates, like HMAS Darwin (forward), held the line until HMAS Hobart (rear) was ready to enter service.
(Photo by Nick-D)
The Hobart-class destroyer is basically half of an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. Its armament suite consists of a single five-inch gun, one 48-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system, two quad Mk 141 mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, a Mk 15 Phalanx, two 25mm Bushmaster chain guns, and two twin 324mm torpedo tube mounts. The vessels can also operate a MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopter. The Mk 41 can fire RIM-66 SM-2 Standard missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC, and BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Australians have been waiting for these vessels for a while. They retired their Perth-class guided-missile destroyers in 2001. These modified Charles F. Adams-class vessels were also quite formidable. They packed two five-inch guns, a Mk 13 launcher that fired RIM-66 SM-1 Standard missiles and RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two Ikara launchers, and 324mm torpedo tubes.
Between the retiring of the Perth-class and the introduction of the Hobart-class, four of Australia’s Adelaide-class frigates (modified versions of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class) held the line. To do so, they were upgraded with Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and the SM-2.
HMAS Hobart, shortly after her commissioning in 2017.
(Photo by Nick-D)
The Australian Navy has operated closely with the United States for decades. All three Perth-class vessels saw service in Vietnam (one of which was on the receiving end of a friendly-fire incident). A Perth-class destroyer also took part in Operation Desert Storm.
The first of the Hobart-class vessels, HMAS Hobart, has been commissioned, with the second vessel, HMAS Brisbane, due this year and a third, HMAS Sydney, coming in 2019. The performance of HMAS Hobart could very well determine how the United States Navy decides to fulfill its current frigate needs.
When World War I ended and the smoke settled, the United States military was left with an overabundance of men, vehicles, ships, supplies and horses. The demobilization of the effort needed to fight in Europe and elsewhere was chaotic and abrupt.
President Woodrow Wilson quickly set to work getting the U.S. military and the government bureaucracy that managed it back to its prewar size and role. In hindsight, the quick movement was a huge mistake.
During the war, Britain experienced a shortage of horses early on, which led to the U.S. sending 1.1 million horses overseas. By the end of the war, the U.S. forces had some 60,000 horses at its disposal. Back home, horses were plentiful, but no longer in demand.
Four million soldiers and sailors were suddenly discharged from the military, and were subsequently unemployed. Those who were working found themselves in the middle of labor strikes amid an economic crisis. Critical industries were not as productive as they were during wartime and farm prices dropped.
This included the meatpacking industry, which also saw production shortfalls. The prices of meat rose sharply as Americans abandoned some of their wartime practices, which included swapping out beef for horse meat so the beef could be sent to the front lines.
Horse meat gained a reputation for being inferior, even the cause of illness, and fell out of favor, leading to surplus of horses in the United States.
Ken-L-Ration, get it? Because soldiers eat rations. It’s a colorful play on words at a time when most Americans were familiar with many aspects of military life. As for the horses, the animal was still as beloved as they are today, but Americans had been raising horses as food animals for years, even before World War II.
They also made the same dietary changes during World War I and the interwar years. It was never as popular as other meat animals, but Americans did what they had to support the country’s war efforts.
Horses were being used less and less with the rise of the automobile, and Americans still found the idea of eating a useful animal unsettling, so the dog food didn’t take off right away, but it eventually found its niche.
While USDA-inspected, Grade A horse meat appeared unfit for the family dining room, some clever marketing made Ken-L-Ration’s “lean, red meat” a premium meal for Fido. Ken-L-Ration first debuted in 1922 and was a dog food staple for decades.
Ken-L-Ration’s marketing was so good that the reason Americans refer to dogs as “Fido” is because the company’s trademark yellow mascot was named “Fido.” The brand became the biggest dog food brand in the United States and was eventually sold to the Quaker Oats Company in 1942.
Many readers will still be able to remember the company’s jingle from the 1960s, called “My Dog’s Bigger Than Your Dog.”
Before canned dog food, people commonly fed their dogs whatever they had laying around. The first specially made dog food available to consumers was a dog biscuit made by James Spratt, which consisted of a mixture of vegetables, wheat, and beef blood.
Spratt’s creation sparked an entire market, which eventually led to today’s industry devoted to canine nutrition.
Mark Rasnake outside the hospital in October 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)
Maj. Mark Rasnake was exhausted. The 32-year-old Air Force infectious disease specialist had worked through the night treating some of the worst trauma he’d seen in his life — seven soldiers who’d been brought in after sustaining catastrophic burns when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device near Daliaya, Iraq, and erupted in flames. But back at his bunk at Balad Air Force Base, north of Baghdad, he couldn’t sleep.
He opened his laptop and began to type a letter home. “I met a hero last night,” he wrote. “I did not realize it at the time … This is a place where the word “hero” is tossed around day in and day out, so much so that you sometimes lose sight of its true meaning. His story reminded me of it.”
As a medical professional, Rasnake never identified his patient, even in a letter only intended for family members. As it happened, though, his words would travel further than he imagined. His local newspaper in Eastern Tennessee took it as a submission and reprinted it; and eventually, Air Force officials reached out to the paper so the service could publish it too.
Rasnake’s letter survives on the Air Force’s official website as the first public account of the bravery of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who sacrificed his life running again and again into the fiery vehicle, ignoring his own burning uniform. It has been 15 years to the day since Cashe hauled his teammates out of the Bradley on Oct. 17, 2005; but Rasnake, now the residency program director for the University of Tennessee’s Division of Infectious Diseases, says he’s never stopped thinking about him.
“I kind of think about the guy all the time,” Rasnake told Military.com in an interview earlier this month. “I’ve got a helmet bag that I use to carry stuff to and from work, and I put a 3rd Infantry Division patch on that thing, just to always have the visual thing to remember what he did. That’s just always been important to me, to at least carry that memory.”
Rasnake said he didn’t learn Cashe’s story until a few hours after he and more than a dozen other military medical professionals had finished treating the soldiers and loaded them on an air evacuation flight bound for Germany. He can’t remember who shared the account of what happened in the aftermath of the Bradley explosion. But as word spread among his colleagues and across the base, it provoked a common feeling of awe.
“The discussions we had is, you know, if his actions don’t deserve the Medal of Honor, we had trouble imagining anything that did that would,” Rasnake said.
Cashe was initially nominated for a lesser award, the Silver Star, by his battalion commander, Gary Brito, now a major general. Brito, by his own account, pushed for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor as soon as he learned of the severity of Cashe’s injuries. But as the years passed, no medal upgrade came.
At issue, according to various reports, was difficulty ascertaining accurate witness statements of what took place. While initial accounts led the Army to determine Cashe’s heroism did not take place in active combat, current descriptions — championed by lawmakers — say he dodged enemy fire while hauling body after body out of the vehicle: six soldiers plus an interpreter, who died on the scene. Cashe refused medevac until the others were taken away, according to his Silver Star citation.
Mark Rasnake (right) along with doctors Col. Ty Putnam and Maj. James Pollock, Oct 17, 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)
What Rasnake saw is in none of those accounts, but speaks to the pain and trauma Cashe’s body endured because of his choice not to leave his brothers-in-arms behind.
“The surgeons worked for hours on his wounds and we worked for hours in the intensive care unit to stabilize him for transport. In the end, damage to his lungs made him too sick to be safely transported by plane to our hospital in Germany and then on to a burn center in San Antonio,” Rasnake wrote in his later-published letter home. ” … Our air evac team loaded him into the plane for the six-hour flight to Germany. They had to deliver every breath to him during that flight by squeezing a small bag by hand.”
Rasnake still has clear memories of that night, although the conditions and treatment of specific soldiers is a blur. Off-duty medical staff were called back up before the casualties arrived. A field intensive care unit was heated to treat those suffering from the hypothermia sometimes brought on by severe burns. Doctors had to intubate to keep the badly burned soldiers’ blood oxygenated, and some required surgical incisions to allow burn-traumatized limbs to swell.
Six of the men needed ICU treatment; ultimately, three would succumb to their injuries.
Rasnake had arrived in Iraq earlier that fall, and it wasn’t common for doctors at Balad to keep track of the wounded troops they’d treated once they moved on for additional care. But this case was different.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “For the next two weeks … Some of them didn’t make it, including Sgt. Cashe ultimately, and he was the last one to expire of the ones that ultimately died. And it was just heart-wrenching for us to hear what was happening back home … he had the entire [Air Force] 33nd Medical Group following daily what was happening.”
As Rasnake sat typing that first night in his sleeping quarters, not knowing the fate of Cashe or the other men he’d treated, he thought of a hero from his hometown of Greeneville, Tenn.: Marine Sgt. Elbert Kinser, who threw himself on a Japanese grenade in 1945, saving his men and earning the Medal of Honor. A bridge in the city of Tusculum, Tenn., bears his name.
“How many of his friends are still alive to remember the story? How many grew old and had grandchildren because of his sacrifice?” Rasnake wrote. “Did they thank him every day of their lives? The next time I cross that bridge I will stop for just a few minutes of my life to read about a man that gave all of his.”
Now 47, and 13 years out of the Air Force, Rasnake said he never lost hope that Cashe would receive the Medal of Honor that he never doubted the soldier deserved.
“The fact that he’s up for the MOH, reliving this and kind of seeing some closure for him and his family is just amazing,” Rasnake said. “I’m so glad; it’s probably the first piece of good news I’ve gotten in 2020.”
There are a number of highly polluted sites where the United States once built the worst weapons of war. On six of those sites, where the weapons were once built were some of the most lethal ever conceived by man, new inhabitants are beginning to thrive: animals like bears, ferrets, and endangered salmon. All find safe haven where humankind once threatened itself with extinction.
Mule Deer graze where the US once tested plutonium triggers, outside of Denver, Colo.
Amchitka Island, Alaska is now cut off from the rest of the world, now a part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. This island saw a number of nuclear explosions underground – where a large amount of radioactive material is still trapped. In Indiana, Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge was once Jefferson Proving Ground, where the Army fired off artillery for more than 50 years, including tons of depleted uranium rounds. In Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, the Army once built chemical weapons in the areas where the bald eagle built its nests.
Some of the places that are now protected areas may still be heavily polluted, however. Experts say they’re not all entirely safe for humans. This means some experts believe that 30 or so of the National Fish and Wildlife Service’s more than 560 wildlife refuges have some history with nuclear and/or chemical weapons and haven’t been entirely cleaned up.
It may take centuries for these areas to heal.
Animals used to just warn humans about sarin gas.
Government and private industry have spent around billion on cleanup efforts for the top six most polluted areas, but there is still more to come – much more. Washington state’s Hanford site was once the area where the United States produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. Cleaning up this mess could run the Department of Energy more than 0 billion for this one site alone.
Like Hanford’s contaminated soil and water, there are more sites to be cleaned and protected. Johnson Atoll’s coral reefs suffered under multiple atmospheric nuclear tests. What was once Rocky Flats, Colo. is now home to rare prairie grasses, endangered mice, and other species that once roamed freely across America. Cleaning up and protecting these site will ensure they may get another chance one day.
Each year, like clockwork, hurricane season strikes America’s southeastern states. Right now, another hurricane is knocking on the East Coast’s door and, coincidentally, many installations of the Armed Forces stand in the way of the storm’s projected path. While most people are busy either evacuating or hunkering down, the troops from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and everywhere between aren’t simply waiting out the storm — they’re rushing into it.
And the action isn’t reserved exclusively for each state’s National Guard. Natural disasters, like Hurricane Florence, make for some of the few times when active duty troops from every branch directly help their community. They’re springing into action now, helping locals prepare, and they’ll be around afterward, helping the affected recover.
A simple meal and a smile goes a long way for people afraid of what’s coming.
(National Guard photo by Spc. Hamiel Irizarry)
It all begins with making proper preparations. Troops begin by stockpiling whatever resources may be useful for civilians, including blankets, MREs, and gasoline, to name a few. Then, they get out there and provide the locals with the essentials.
It may seem like a simple gesture, but being wrapped in a warm, dry military blanket and receiving a hot meal helps repair morale and lets those affected by the disaster know that everything is going to be okay.
If there’s one thing soldiers know how to do, it’s fill sandbags…
(Georgia Army National Guard photo by Capt. William Carraway)
Next, manpower is put towards barricading specific locations that either serve as excellent shelters or hold significance to the community. This process often involves having troops fill countless sandbags to keep flood waters from reaching the people behind them.
But the Air Force and NOAA are responsible for one of the most important — and dangerous — tasks. They’re called “Hurricane Hunters.” Their mission is to fly directly into the hurricane to monitor weather patterns and determine the storm’s course from the inside.
Meanwhile, the Navy and Coast Guard use their vessels to have hospitals and emergency centers on standby for the moment the hurricane makes landfall.
It’s one of the most beautiful and selfless things most troops will do stateside. BZ, guys. You’re making this country proud.
(Louisiana National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Rebekah Malone)
As much as lower enlisted troops may bemoan the process, they’re typically evacuated at the last possible moment. This ensures everything is in proper order and it gives civilians a head-start, allowing them to get out of town without being blocked in by clutter created by large military vehicles.
The troops who haven’t evacuated will shelter in place until the storm passes. Then, the rebuilding process begins…
Amphibious warfare is the cornerstone of how the Marine Corps trains and fights. For Assault Amphibious Vehicle crewmen or Amtrackers as they are often identified, the role is critical and contributes immensely to the Marine Corps warfighting capability. “AAV crewman are the tip of the spear when it comes to amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command.
At AAS the curriculum is focused on training Marines in the military occupational field of an AAV crewmen, which entails learning the base knowledge of how to operate, fix and tactically employ an AAV.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Sarah Brewster, left, student, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, instructs the operator of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 with hand-and-arm signals during ground guidance drills at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
The AAV crewmen course is 55 training days long. In the first phase of the course, Marines are taught how to drive an AAV on land. The second phase teaches the basics for water driving and the third phase teaches employment of the vehicle’s two weapon systems; the MK19 40 mm grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. In the final portion of the course, students learn how the AAV compliments non-motorized infantry forces, and advanced amphibious assault tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, (center) platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, calls his students into a school circle at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
“We teach the students everything from starting the vehicle to all the components on the vehicle and what they are called,” said Storman. “We also teach them how to drive the AAV on land and on in the water. Finally, how to shoot the vehicle weapons and how to employ them tactically.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Carstensen, amphibious assault vehicle instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, inspects an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 prior to a ground guidance drill at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
Amphibious assault school’s instructors are hand-picked for being the best in their community, and because they possess increased levels of experience. The greatest advantage of this selection process is that it ensures their knowledge and expertise is passed to new students, and that the probability of continued success on the battlefield improves.
“Amtraking isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about what you can come up with on the fly,” said Storman. “As an amtraker you have to be able to think on your feet. Come up with the best solution for the situation that is going to help you to complete the overall mission.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, teaches a class on the basic operations of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 to pipeline student attending AAS at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
AAVs transport Marines from ship to shore and can move inland up to 200 miles supporting the infantry along the way with fire power and supply.
“The amtrak community is very prideful in what we do,” said Storman. “We are what makes the Marine Corps amphibious, and we believe that to the core of our soul. We take what we do very seriously and we are some of the hardest working Marines you will find.”
Storman said it is important to continue to pass AAV skills down to new Marines to keep the Marine Corps alive and fighting hard. Adding that the “ball needs to keep rolling,” and AAV crewman must keep applying their knowledge and skills now and with future amphibious vehicle technologies.
There comes a time in every Marine’s life when they must join the varsity team known as The Fleet. The first few weeks are an exciting time of formations, picking up cigarette buds, and hazing training. The fleet is a Machiavellian jungle of NJPs, promotions, and broken promises that will make you want to deploy at a moment’s notice.
A healthy dose of pessimism is key to survival in your first unit because you’re not in a movie; this is a war machine, and you’re an essential cog. You’re where the metal meets the meat. Keep that motivation, though, you’re going to need it.
Here’s what you should not do when you arrive at your first infantry unit.
The easiest way to annoy everyone around you is to make jokes using a drill instructor’s voice. Do not assume that it will inspire some sense of brotherhood because all Marines go to boot camp. Wrong. Everyone has their own stories, and they will let you know how much easier you had it. The more experienced Marines have been in some serious combat, and, by comparison, you’re just a baby.
No one likes a B.O.O.T. (barely out of training) Marine, and you’re just going to have to accept that. It’s part of the culture; it’s part of maturing into a warfighter, it’s what you signed up for. When you’re alone with your peers, it’s fine to talk about what you went through, but knowing your audience will save you an untold amount of stress in an already stressful work environment.
Marines are proud — it’s on the recruitment poster — that doesn’t mean you should exclusively buy Eagle, Globe, and Anchor t-shirts. Diversify your wardrobe because it’s one of the few things that will allow you to hold onto what some psychologists describe as a “personality.”
Everyone around you can potentiality be in combat with you, and it’s a lot easier to risk life and limb for someone you like. If the man to your left or your right is doing something wrong, fix them, but do not ever snitch. You will be ostracized, given the worst assignments, and when they’re done with your disloyal carcass, you’ll be pushing papers at headquarters. HQ will also know that you’re a stool pigeon and will continue to treat you accordingly. The stigma has been known to last for years, Marine. One of the Infantry’s cardinal rules is to re-calibrate a misguided Marine’s moral compass through intense physical training but do not ruin their career.
It’s called taking care of your own.
It’s free real estate
Do not get in trouble before your first deployment
Keep your nose just as clean as your inspection uniforms. Every three years, an enlisted Marine will receive a Good Conduct Medal to add to their stack. While it is not necessarily easy to obtain due to barracks parties or dares gone wrong, it is not so taxing that it’s insurmountable. Getting in trouble will hold you back from promotions in a highly competitive MOS. If you don’t want to call that window-licking-moron that came with you from the school of infantry corporal, do not get drunk and embarrass yourself.
The Marine Corps Institute is a self-learning platform that adds points to the Marine promotion system known as a cutting score. It offers courses that teach about combat procedures and tactical knowledge of weapon systems. Some are easier than others, and there’s no reason for a fresh Marine to not do them. It will set you apart from your peers in the eyes of the leadership, and it makes the platoon look better on paper.
Every quarter, battalion HQ evaluates the progress each line company is making towards promoting their Marines. A Marine working on his or her MCIs will be spared working parties by their seniors because it is in their best interest as well. Although junior Marines will not witness Staff NCOs and officers brag or trash talk about each other’s platoons, this is another point they can bring up in Command and Staff meetings stating that their platoon should have the honor of leading the assault in training and in combat.
After a chaotic week of unforced errors courtesy of President Donald Trump, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats calmly explained that Russia’s efforts “to undermine our basic values,” “divide us from our allies,” and “wreak havoc with our election process” are “undeniable,” grimly concluding: “We’re under attack.” Noting that “the very pillar…of democracy is the ability to have confidence in your elected officials—that they were elected legitimately,” Coats added, “We have to take every effort to ensure that happens in this upcoming election and future elections.”
Before discussing some of the efforts the U.S. might take in response to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, it’s worth recapping what Moscow has been doing.
Using cyber-technologies, social media, and false-front organizations, Russia has carried out strategic-influence operations targeting political-electoral systems in 27 countries, including the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and several other NATO allies.
Freedom House reports that Russia has “deepened its interference in elections in established democracies through…theft and publication of the internal documents of mainstream parties and candidates, and the aggressive dissemination of fake news and propaganda.” Kristofer Harrison, who worked in the State Department and Defense Department during the administration of President George W. Bush, points to examples at Bloomberg, Reuters, the New York Times and other reputable news organizations.
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Fountain Hills, Arizona, before the March 22, 2016 primary.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Moscow’s goal in these actions, according to a U.S. intelligence report, is to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.” Moscow may be succeeding.
A plurality of Americans (45 percent) believe Russia leaked hacked material to impact the 2016 election, and 68 percent of Americans express concern that Russia will interfere in future elections. Beyond the U.S., just glance at recent headlines: “Russian hackers are targeting Macron,” blares a France24 report. “Russia used Twitter bots and trolls ‘to disrupt’ Brexit vote,” reads a headline from The Times of London. “Merkel warns of Russian cyberattacks in German elections,” Deutsche Welle adds.
Add it all up, and both the evidence of Russian interference and the worry regarding future interference serves to undermine democratic institutions all across the West.
In this light, NSC-68, the pivotal national-security document penned in 1950 that provided a roadmap for waging the Cold War, seems strangely relevant. NSC-68 noted that Moscow’s “preferred technique is to subvert by infiltration and intimidation,” that “every institution of our society is an instrument which it is sought to stultify and turn against our purposes,” that institutions “that touch most closely our material and moral strength are obviously the prime targets,” that Moscow’s objective is to prevent those institutions “from serving our ends and thus to make them sources of confusion in our economy, our culture and our body politic.”
Yes, NSC-68 was a response to the communist Soviet Union. However, it pays to recall that post-Soviet, post-communist Russia is led by a former KGB intelligence officer who was trained in the dark arts of disinformation and influence manipulation. His intelligence agencies and cyber-soldiers have triggered a cascade of scandals that are paralyzing our government, sowing confusion and undermining public confidence in our institutions.
Consider: Russia’s hacking into U.S. political campaigns, manipulation of social media and use of weaponized leaks first eroded support for the Clinton campaign; then undermined the legitimacy of the Trump administration; and finally, as former CIA official Mark Kelton concludes, helped “advance Putin’s over-arching goals of degrading American power, denigrating American ideals, and driving a wedge between President Trump and the U.S. intelligence community.”
President Barack Obama’s too little, too late and toothless “cut it out” warning to Putin as well as Trump’s obsequious echo of Putin’s promise that “it’s not Russia…I don’t see any reason why it would be” have failed to address this threat. Both leaders have overlooked a basic truth in dealing with dictators: All that matters when interacting with Putin, and his kind are actions — theirs and ours. What Churchill said of his Russian counterparts remains true of Putin and his puppets. “There is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness.”
Barack Obama meets with Vladimir Putin outside Moscow, Russia on July 7, 2009.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Here are some pathways policymakers could take to change Putin’s calculus and raise the costs of his malign actions.
1. Defend the Homefront against Foreign Intrigue
In his farewell address, Washington warned about the “insidious wiles of foreign influence” and the “mischiefs of foreign intrigue,” urging his countrymen “to be constantly awake” to such dangers.
The good news amidst all the troubling news is that key institutions—Congress, federal and state agencies, and the press—have been awakened to the dangers posed by Russia’s strategic-influence operations. Day by day, these institutions are exploring and exposing Russian intrusion into the U.S. political system.
Several Senate and House committees are investigating Russia’s reach, which is altogether appropriate. But to restore and preserve the integrity of America’s institutions, Congress should create a joint committee of seasoned members—with fact-finding and legislative authority—dedicated to a) monitoring, investigating and exposing attempts by Russia and other foreign entities to interfere in the U.S. political-electoral system; b) identifying individuals and entities in the U.S. that collaborate with or work on behalf of hostile governments like Russia; and c) securing necessary, sustained funding to help state and county election agencies shield themselves from foreign intrusion.
That last point highlights the genius of America’s decentralized election system. Its highly diffuse nature—with the electoral process governed not by some national agency, but rather by 50 states and 3,141 counties—makes it difficult for a foreign power to manipulate outcomes. Even so, evidence of Russian efforts to penetratelocal election systems and acquire firms that handle voter-registration data are raising flags. Federal resources can help expose these efforts and harden these targets.
2. Take the Fight to Russia
Even as they stand up their new committee—call it the Joint Select Committee on Election Integrity—congressional leaders should reopen the U.S. Information Agency, which was shut down in 1999, after decades of countering Moscow’s Cold War propaganda. Former DNI James Clapper proposes “a USIA on steroids to fight this information war a lot more aggressively than we’re doing right now.”
Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper.
Likewise, NATO commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti urges Washington to “bring the information aspects of our national power more fully to bear on Russia.” He recommends strengthening and unleashing the Russian Information Group (a joint effort of U.S European Command and the State Department) and the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (a project charged with countering foreign disinformation).
Further up the ladder, the United States could respond in kind to Putin’s assault on the West’s political systems. It’s not difficult to imagine the U.S. executing a cyber-operation that turns Putin’s stage-managed elections into a full-blown farce: returns showing Leonid Brezhnev finishing second or Czar Nicholas II winning a few oblasts or no one at all winning. Putin would get the message.
3. Shore up the Infrastructure
Arguing that democracy “needs cultivating,” President Ronald Reagan helped create the National Endowment for Democracy “to foster the infrastructure of democracy.”
Similarly, perhaps it’s time for the world’s foremost groupings of democratic nations—the G-7, European Union, NATO and its partners in Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia—to create a pool of resources to reinforce and rebuild the infrastructure of liberal democracy, monitor and expose Moscow’s cyber-siege of the West, and help those countries under information-warfare assault preserve the integrity of their democratic institutions.
4. Deploy Additional Instruments of National Power
Finally, the United States should offer moral support to democracy inside Russia and along Russia’s periphery. “A little less détente,” as Reagan argued, “and more encouragement to the dissenters might be worth a lot of armored divisions.”
Toward that end, Washington should provide a sturdy platform to human-rights activists, journalists and political dissidents from Russia; use high-profile settings to highlight Russia’s democracy deficit; and draw attention—relentlessly and repeatedly—to Putin’s assaults on human rights, civil society, religious liberty and political pluralism.
To his credit, Trump took this very tack vis-à-vis North Korea during his 2018 State of the Union address. It’s time to use the bully pulpit in the same way against Putin. If the president is unable or unwilling to do so, leaders in Congress and at relevant agencies must fill the vacuum, as Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray recently have.
Hard-power tools can serve as an exclamation point to these words: More defensive weaponry could flow to Ukraine to protect Ukraine’s fragile democracy; rotational deployments in the Baltics and Poland could be made permanent to reassure NATO’s easternmost members; NATO could stand up an Allied Command-Arctic to checkmate Putin’s next landgrab; the U.S. could deploy its vast energy reserves, in Gen. Martin Dempsey’s words, “as an instrument of national power” to make Russia’s oligarchs feel the consequences of Putin’s actions.
Revelations of Russian interference are troubling. But they are also clarifying. In light of its actions, there should be no question as to whether Putin’s Russia is a friend, no illusions that Putin can be mollified by promises of “resets” or post-election “flexibility,” no doubts about Moscow’s motives, no debate over the threat posed by a revisionist Russia.
The task ahead is to fully expose Russia’s reach into our political system, strengthen our institutions to harden them against another wave of foreign influence, and defend liberal democracy at home and abroad.