7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

While the Pentagon’s new strategy is being released in 2018, it feels more like the year 2000 on Capitol Hill with members itching for the maverick spirit of then-presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express.


7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

The substance of the document is classified at the request of Capitol Hill, but there is a growing consensus about how to grade its success or failure. It is past time for a new National Defense Strategy that seeks to break the mold in honesty, clarity, conciseness, and fresh thinking. As an official articulation of Pentagon doctrine, this is an opportunity to mend the broken dialogue between the military and the government and people they serve.

To be relevant beyond a few news cycles, the Pentagon’s new defense strategy must:

7. Connect the strategy with geopolitical reality.

The most recent generation of strategies has repeatedly watered down the Pentagon’s force-sizing construct with each iteration — from the aspirational objective of fighting two wars at once to the declinist “defeat-and-deny” approach. Since a 2014 defense strategy was published, the dangers of a lack of credibility in American military power and political willpower have become evident in Ukraine, Iraq, and North Korea — just to name a few.

The newest defense strategy should emphasize three theaters of importance. As it is getting harder for planners to differentiate between war and peace, the need for a strong American presence in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East cannot be wished away as politically inconvenient. Planners should size forces to maintain robust conventional and strategic deterrents forward in all three of these theaters while equipping a force for decision in the event deterrence fails.

To effect this change, the strategy must clearly differentiate between forces and capabilities required to prevent a war versus those needed to win one. Unfortunately, the panoply of threats spanning from North Korean ICBMs to ISIS demands the American military maintain a broad array of capabilities.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back
A North Korean ICBM (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Tie means with ends.

Even with declining force-sizing constructs, U.S. forces have largely continued to do all that they have done under previous super-sized strategies. The armed forces have been asked to do more with less, resulting in various missions being shortchanged, ignored, or dropped altogether as the supply of American military power is consistently outstripped by demand.

Consequentially, there is now a general dismissal of strategy because the reductions in force structure proposed in each iteration have not resulted in substantive changes in operations of the force. Nowhere is this more tragically clear than in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command. It is time to stop putting the cart before the horse by constructing budgets and then diving strategies, as the budget caps have encouraged but unrealistic strategies have exacerbated.

5. Identify what missions the military can stop doing.

Effective strategy is about choices and tradeoffs. In the last year, cargo shipments to Afghanistan were delayed due to hurricane relief, a private contractor evacuated U.S. troops after the fatal ISIS ambush in Niger, and the Air Force outsourced “red air” adversary training to non-military pilots. Instead of papering over these realities, the new strategy should identify what needs to be restored and which ancillary assignments may actually be more efficiently conducted outside the military.

Combat missions should not be exempt, either. For example, the sustained use of naval aviation to provide fire support to counterterror fights in the Middle East that could be resourced with light attack aircraft or artillery is expensive and ties up increasingly scarce aircraft carriers better employed elsewhere, particularly in Asia.

4. Prioritize among threats.

Claiming the five challenges of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and persistent counterterrorism operations are all equally important is not a strategy — it is the absence of one.

Policymakers must clearly rank the relative severity of these threats to help planners prioritize and make tradeoffs. Given the limited supply of American defense resources, not all of these threats can receive the same amount of attention or bandwidth — nor should they.

Also Read: Iranian protests have ebbed, but the anger remains

3. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough.

The military needs more extant force structure and capabilities rather than an obsessive hunt for technological silver bullets. Putting too much stock in the wonder weapons of the future could be the military’s ruin — not its salvation — if it comes at the expense of immediate and medium-term needs.

If enemies know we are weak today but will be strong tomorrow, they have every incentive to strike sooner rather than later. Leaders should balance the acquisition risks introduced by speculative technological gambles with tried-and-true systems suited for immediate use to diminish any window of opportunity for aggression.

2. Recognize the Pentagon is a more than a Department of War — it is a Department of Defense.

As the largest federal agency, the Pentagon engages in a bewildering variety of deterrence and presence missions every day, in addition to fighting. It also supports part-time forces, families and children all over the world.

It is called the Department of Defense for a reason, and the strategy should reflect these large organizational, financial, educational, and bureaucratic demands. For example, while achieving reforms and efficiencies are noble goals, the belief that ongoing organizational changes will result in tens of billions in potential savings that can be reinvested elsewhere within the defense budget has yet to be proven.

1. Finally, stop scapegoating Congress and tackle problems head-on.

While sequestration has degraded the military’s capacity and capability gaps and encouraged the self-destructive practice of constructing budgets before inventing strategies to justify them, budget caps must cease to be the blame for all the military’s woes.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back
The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

An over-emphasis on budgetary neglect creates the false expectation that a higher topline alone will solve the Pentagon’s problems overnight. The National Defense Strategy will need to address not just America’s declining fiscal ability to support all instruments of national power, but also the deteriorating international situation. Higher spending can alleviate the former, but new investments will need to be tied to clear strategic goals to address the latter.

It took years for the Pentagon to realize its current predicament, and it will likewise be years before it overcomes its contemporary challenges. To get there will require a redoubled commitment to the military by Congress through stable, sustained, and sufficient defense funding. But the Pentagon must also do its part to ensure that when fiscal relief arrives, there is a thoughtful strategy in place commensurate with the multitude of threats assailing the United States today. Now is the time to go big and bold.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russian military is fighting a blizzard in Moscow

Moscow authorities have struggled to clear the streets and told children they could skip school after the Russian capital was hit by massive snowfall.


The national meteorological service said on Feb. 5 2018 that more than the monthly average of snow fell on Moscow over the weekend, with the height of snow reaching up to 55 centimeters in some parts of the capital.

“That’s an anomaly of course,” Nadezhda Tochenova, the deputy head of the Hydrometeorological Center, told AFP news agency.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back
Blizzard hits Moscow. (YouTube)

However, she denied claims that the snowfall was an all-time record.

Calling the event “the snowfall of the century,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin hailed utility workers and other municipal employees he said had kept the city “functioning normally.”

“There is no collapse, no catastrophe,” Sobyanin told journalists.

The mayor said on Feb. 4 2018 that one person had been killed when a tree brought down electricity lines, and that 2,000 trees collapsed due to the massive snowfall.

Also read: The Russian military is flexing its missile muscles in massive war exercise

The city authorities said more than 100 of those trees fell on vehicles.

Thousands of city workers have been working to keep Moscow’s roads and the subway system open, while the Russian military said it had sent soldiers to help clear snowdrifts on the streets.

Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov said snowplows had cleared 1.2 million cubic meters of snow from the streets.

Meanwhile, the emergency services urged drivers to use public transport unless there was “extreme need,” and Moscow authorities announced that children need not come to school, although they would remain open.

Related: 17 beautiful photos of troops training in the snow

The heavy snowfall triggered the cancellation or delay of dozens of flights at Moscow’s airports, as well as power failures in hundreds of smaller towns around the city.

Officials at the Emergency Situations Ministry said that heavy snowfall also affected the regions of Leningrad, Tatarstan, Saratov, Penza, Ulyanovsk, Kaluga, and Vladimir, where power cuts affected tens of thousands of people.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch an A-10 light up a Taliban vehicle in Afghanistan

Arguments about weapons systems tend to be circular and hard to win. The discussion about close air support, the retirement of the aging A-10 Thunderbolt II and the entry of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter along with the relevance of the recent Light Attack Experiment continue to swirl. But one thing that cannot be argued is the lethality and spectacle of the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger 30mm, seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon.


This video was released on Jan. 24, 2018 from the U.S. Air Force Central Command Public Affairs office. It is credited to the 94th Airlift Wing which, oddly enough, is primarily an airlift wing. The Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) gave no reason why this video was released through an airlift wing, but it is likely due to logistics.

The video, shot from an unknown camera platform, shows an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II conducting a strike on a Taliban vehicle fleeing the scene of an attack in Kandahar province on Jan. 24, 2018. The insurgents in the vehicle were armed with a DShK 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, which had been used moments earlier during the attack on Afghans.

Also Read: Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

The video is relevant to the close air support discussion for a number of reasons. Firstly, it showcases the accuracy of the GAU-8 weapons system, at least in this single instance. You can see that two 30mm rounds penetrate the hood of the vehicle, then one penetrates the roof of the driver’s compartment and a fourth round goes through the roof of the passenger area of the vehicle. Considering the speed of the vehicle and that the A-10 was, of course, moving also, this is a noteworthy degree of accuracy.

Needless to say more than rounds left the cannon, and there appears to be two separate firing passes shown in the video.

The video also suggests an interesting scenario where, if the A-10 attacked from above 5,000 feet or even much higher (especially if required to remain outside the envelope of anti-aircraft systems like MANPADS), this imagery may have been collected from another aircraft, not the A-10 conducting the strike. A likely candidate would be a remotely piloted aircraft providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and then maybe even target designation for the attacking aircraft. While we do not know if this was the case with this video, it is a common enough practice to suggest in this instance.

(tomdemerly | YouTube)

While it’s unlikely proponents on either side of the “Save the A-10” movement will be swayed by videos like this one, and these videos date back to the A-10s first operational deployment of the A-10 in 1991, they remain compelling. During its first operational deployment in the Gulf War the A-10 was credited with destroying approximately 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 non-armored military vehicles and 1,200 artillery pieces according to a 1993 report.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A Green Beret was killed fighting terrorists in Somalia

At least one US special forces soldier was killed and four US service members were wounded after an enemy attack in Jubaland, Somalia, according to a statement from US Africa Command (AFRICOM).

One US service member reportedly received sufficient medical care at the scene and three others were transported out of the area to receive treatment.

A coalition comprised of around 800 US, Somalian, and Kenyan forces came under attack by mortar and small-arms fire at around 2:45 p.m. local time, AFRICOM said. One coalition service member was wounded.


The coalition forces were conducting a “multi-day operation” to clear al-Shabaab — an Islamist militant group — from villages and establish a “permanent combat outpost” around 217 miles southwest of Mogadishu.

The role of US troops during the operation was to provide aerial surveillance and to provide other assistance to the coalition group. The US’s role in AFRICOM’s area of responsibility has come under heavy scrutiny following an October 2017 ambush in Niger that left four soldiers dead.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back
From left:u00a0Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright were killed in Niger.

According to a military source, the slain Green Beret provided intelligence during a mission to build a joint base for Somali forces, The Daily Beast reported.

President Donald Trump offered his condolences following the announcement: “My thoughts and prayers are with the families of our serviceman who was killed and his fellow servicemen who were wounded in [Somalia],” Trump said in a tweet. “They are truly all HEROES.”

On June 11, 2018, the US military said it killed 49 members of al-Shabaab in three separate airstrike over a period of 12 days. The US said no civilians were killed during the strikes.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US military bases are still using Chinese surveillance cameras

US military bases continue to use surveillance cameras manufactured by the Chinese firm Hikvision, according to the Financial Times, despite security concerns that the cameras could give the Chinese government a way to spy on sensitive US military installations. Government agencies will be banned from purchasing the equipment starting in August 2019.

The Financial Times found that Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado spent $112,000 in 2016 on cameras manufactured by Hikvision.

The headquarters of Air Force Space Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) are both located at Peterson. NORAD is charged with ensuring the sovereignty of American and Canadian airspace, and defending them from attack.


A Navy research base in Orlando, Florida purchased ,000 worth of Hikvision cameras after last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which bans the purchase of such equipment, passed.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

A C-17 Globemaster III loads with cargo on June 6, 2019, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, one of the US military bases that purchased Chinese-made surveillance cameras before a ban took effect.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew J. Bertain)

Both bases told The Financial Times that the cameras were not connected to the internet. The Florida base said that the cameras were being used as part of a training system. A spokesperson from Peterson said that the cameras were “not associated with base security or classified areas” and that the systems would be replaced.

The Chinese government owns 42% of Hikvision. Hikvision and Zhjiang Dahua Technology Co., another company banned by the NDAA, control approximately a third of the global video surveillance market, according to Bloomberg.

The 2019 NDAA cites several concerns about companies connected to the Chinese state using technology like Hikvision’s cameras to exploit vulnerabilities and access sensitive government information. Hikvision responded to the legislation at the time, saying it “was not based on any evidence, review, or investigation of potential security risks.”

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

The ban extends to Huawei products and Hytera radios, too; the US State Department recently purchased ,000 worth of Hytera replacement parts for its Guatemalan embassy, and as of 2017, Army Special Forces used Hytera radios in training, according to The Financial Times.

Other bases, including Fort Drum in New York and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, purchased Hikvision cameras in 2018, but did not disclose to the Financial Times whether they were still in use. The Defense Logistics Agency purchased nearly 0,000 worth of Hikvision cameras since 2018 for bases in Korea and Florida, but did not confirm to The Financial Times whether the cameras were still being used.

Last year, five Hikvision cameras were removed from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, although Col. Christopher Beck, a spokesperson for the base told the Wall Street Journal, “We never believed [the cameras] were a security risk. They were always on a closed network,” and that the cameras were removed to avoid “any negative perception.”

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

Articles

The infamous hacker who exposed Clinton’s email server is going to prison for 4 years

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back
NBC News screenshot


The infamous Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer” has been sentenced to 52 months in prison for a string of high-profile hacks he carried out against people including former Secretary of State Colin Powell to family and friends of former President George W. Bush.

He also exposed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, after he gained access to the email account of Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton confidant.

The hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lehel Lazar, gained unauthorized access to personal email and social media accounts of roughly 100 Americans over a two-year period, according to the Department of Justice.

Many of those hacks led to the release of financial information, embarrassing correspondence, or personal photographs. For example, an email break-in of a Bush family member led to the release of artwork created by the president, and leaked emails between Secretary of State Colin Powell and a European Parliament member led Powell to deny an affair.

Lazar was extradited from Romania after being arrested in January 2014. He pleaded guilty to charges of accessing a protected computer without authorization and aggravated identity theft.

As The New York Times has noted, Lazar was not a computer expert. He operated on a cheap laptop and a cellphone, and used tools readily available on the web. Many of his “hacks” were the result of social engineering skill and months of guessing security questions until he got in.

“He was not really a hacker but just a smart guy who was very patient and persistent,” Viorel Badea, the Romanian prosecutor who directed the case against him, told The Times.

He claimed in May that he accessed Clinton’s private email server twice — a charge the Clinton campaign has denied and that has not been verified by the FBI, which investigated the use of the server — but found the contents “not interesting” at the time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia might be preparing to invade Ukraine right now

The Russian military is massing troops at its border with Ukraine, says Ukrainian and U.S. military intelligence agencies. The buildup includes more than 300 tanks and the support troops necessary to move those tanks, all within five miles of entering Ukrainian territory. It’s the latest in a series of Russian provocations aimed at seizing Ukrainian assets.


After the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, the Russian government and military have engaged in a near-nonstop effort to provoke Ukraine while violating its sovereignty. Ever since, the Kremlin has also been funding separatists in Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, which borders Russia. It’s not known if the movement of Russian troops within sight of Ukraine’s borders has any bearing on the Luhansk insurgency.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

Russia has been holding massive war games since 2015, the year after capturing Crimea from Ukraine.

(Photo by K. Kallinkov)

In response to the mass of Russian troops, Ukraine implemented martial law and began the deployment of its Marines and airborne brigades, as well as military exercises involving air strikes and naval forces in the area. Along with the Russian buildup of armored forces, Russian military airfields along the border are being upgraded and modernized.

The buildup not only exists along the recognized Ukraine-Russia border, but Ukrainian military intelligence believes there is a significant buildup of Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula as well.

The Kremlin is further testing the strength of the global order,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Radio Free Europe.If the world agrees, the Sea of Azov and then the Black Sea will be turned into a Russian lake.
7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

A Russia-backed rebel armored fighting vehicles convoy near Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015.

(Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

In November, 2018, the Russian Navy seized three Ukrainian ships as they tried to traverse the Kerch Strait, linking the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea. Ukraine shares a coast with both the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea with Russia, but the Kerch Strait is the only waterway for Ukrainian ships to leave the Sea of Azov for the Black Sea. Six Ukrainian sailors were wounded when Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on their ships. Russia also detained 24 Ukrainians.

In recent days, Ukraine has done what it can to resist Russian interference in its affairs, including fighting the rebels in the Donbas region and separating the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Russian Orthodox Church. The country has also been building up its military and defense systems since 2014, according to NATO officials.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

A Ukrainian BTR-80 armored personnel carrier deployed to the Donbas Region of Eastern Ukraine.

(Ukraine Ministry of Defence)

“The Ukrainian military today is very different from the military that they had in 2014,” Kristjan Prikk, the top civilian in Estonia’s ministry of defense, told the Washington Examiner. “The Ukrainians have built, bought, [had] donated quite a lot of equipment. They’ve been putting heavy emphasis on mobility — anti-armor capabilities, communications … It’s definitely a credible fighting force.”

Prikk keeps a close eye on the Russians, especially after Estonia joined NATO, the Western anti-Soviet-turned-anti-Russian alliance in 2004. Ukraine has been trying to join the alliance since 1994 but public support for NATO was very low until the Russian annexation of Crimea 20 years later. Russian President Vladimir Putin is extremely opposed to Ukraine joining the alliance and threatened to annex the Eastern portion of Ukraine if it does so.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Captain warned that crew wasn’t ready before sub ran aground, investigation shows

A newly released investigation from a submarine mishap in 2015 that caused some $1 million worth of damage shows that an inexperienced crew was given the go-ahead to complete a tricky return-to-port mission in the dark, despite warnings from the commanding officer that they weren’t ready.


The Ohio-class submarine Georgia ran aground in the predawn hours of Nov. 25, 2015, the day before Thanksgiving, as it prepared to return to port at Kings Bay, Georgia, to replace a failed towed array sonar. While conducting a scheduled pick-up of a new pilot at Fort Clinch, Florida, near the entrance to St. Marys River, which approaches the base, the sub inadvertently exited the channel, then collided with a buoy amid the crew’s efforts to re-orient. The grounding occurred as the crew worked to get clear of the buoy, the investigation shows.

Ultimately, the sub was able to return to port to assess damages, which were mostly cosmetic, save for the ship’s screw propeller, an acoustic tracking device and an electromagnetic log meter that measured the sub’s speed. The Georgia was taken into dry dock in December 2015 for assessment and the costly repairs.

The investigation, which was completed in March 2016 but just released to Military.com this month through a public records request, found that the “excessive speed” of the sub as it approached the pilot pick-up made it more difficult for the crew to control the ship, and that the tugboat carrying the pilot was positioned poorly, making the maneuver more complex.

Ultimately, though, blame for running aground is laid at the feet of the commanding officer. In the wake of the incident, the commander of Georgia’s blue crew, Capt. David Adams, was relieved of his post due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command. Like all submarines in its class, Georgia has two identical crews — a blue and a gold — that alternate manning and patrols.

“His inability to effectively manage the complexity of the situation and failure to respond to the circumstances in a manner sufficient to protect the safety of the ship and crew is beneath my expectations for any CO,” an investigation endorsement by Rear Adm. Randy Crites, then-commander of Submarine Group 10, reads.

In his detailed and thorough endorsement of findings, Crites also dismisses the notion that maneuvering in the dark and with a green crew was what led to the sub’s disastrous mishap.

“Ultimately, had this crew (and the Pilot) executed the same plan in the same manner during broad daylight, there is nothing in the ship’s planning effort, demonstrated seamanship, or response to tripwires that indicates the outcome would be any different,” he said.

While coming in for the brunt of the blame, Adams was not alone in being designated for punishment. Crites indicated his intent to take administrative action against the sub’s executive officer; chief of boat; navigation/operations officer; weapons officer, who was the officer of the deck; and assistant navigator. He also said he’d issue non-punitive letters of caution to the commander of Submarine Squadron 16 and his own chief of staff and director of operations — all Navy captains — for failure to take appropriate action toward resolution regarding Adams’ concerns around the sub’s transit into port.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) exits the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, following an extended refit period. Georgia is one of two guided-missile submarines stationed at the base and is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

(Bryan Tomforde/U.S. Navy)

The 475-page investigation, which includes witness statements, logs and other supporting documentation, offers insight into what those concerns were. In a Nov. 24 email to the commodore of Squadron 16 marked “confidential,” Adams, the Georgia blue crew commander, lays out his qualms about the plan he has been ordered to execute, particularly the predawn return to port for a brief one-day stop with a crew that had spent just three weeks underway together on a new ship.

“CO/XO/NAV have not piloted into Kings Bay in the last 20 years. All of the untoward [incidents] I know of occurred between [St. Marys] and Fort Clinch,” he wrote. “My assessment is that this is not a prudent plan for [return to port] … Having just been at sea for a few weeks, I have not built enough depth. I am concerned about the fatigue level of my command element.

“Given an all day evolution and subsequent [underway], we will have spent the majority of 36 hours awake and are set to pilot out and submerge on the mid-watch at 0330.”

The two-page memo, it appears, was never received and read by Submarine Squadron 16’s commodore, Capt. John Spencer. But Adams testified he had relayed the same concerns face-to-face with Spencer days before, on Nov. 22. He also discussed the same issues, he said, in a follow-up phone call.

This much is clear: the plan wasn’t called off, and the mission was cleared to proceed. But murky communication dogged the lead-up to the operation, and later the mission itself.

Spencer and others testified that Adams had been given leeway to “slow things down a little” if he felt uncomfortable. Adams said he believed any delay would have been viewed as insubordination.

On the day of the mishap, communication was also flawed, in ways that underscore the crew’s unfamiliarity with each other, and possibly the sleep deprivation that had left some members running on just two to three hours of rest.

According to the investigation, as the Georgia approached the point at which it was to meet with the tug and pick up the pilot — the navigation expert who would drive the ship into port — it became clear that the tug was well west of its expected position. The sub, meanwhile, was approaching too fast and slowing too gradually. The investigation found it was still making 15 knots, or about 17 miles per hour, when it passed the set “all stop” point. That speed and positioning would make every maneuver that followed more risky and difficult.

Initial attempts to communicate with the tug and the pilot aboard via radio were unsuccessful, and the planned transfer happened late. Adams did not want to scrap the transfer and proceed into port without the pilot, the investigation found, because of the challenges of pulling into port without one.

When the sub exited the channel at the west end of the Fort Clinch basin, the crew’s communication skills faced a major test. The assistant navigator recommended to the navigator that the sub go to “all back emergency,” a call the navigator then passed to the bridge. The officer of the deck seemed to agree, but said nothing, the investigation found. Adams, however, overrode the order, believing it would not work, and ordered “all ahead full” instead. He started directing the officer of the deck, but did not fully take control of the sub or give direct orders to the helm, the report states.

Despite a series of maneuvers — right hard rudder, left hard rudder, all ahead full, right hard rudder — the sub collided with Buoy 23 in the channel. But the worst was still to come.

“When [Adams] asked [the lookout] if the ship hit buoy 23, [the lookout] informed the CO that he did not care about the buoy, but thought the ship was going to run aground on the beach forward of the ship,” the investigation states.

As grounding looked imminent, the Georgia asked the driver of the C-tractor tugboat if the tug could cross in front of the sub on the starboard, or right, side, and push the bow around. The tug master refused, according to the investigation, worried that the water was too shallow.

The sub ended up, as the lookout put it, “hitting Fort Clinch.”

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

In this file photo from July 12, 2018, Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), views the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. The base is home to six of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines that make up the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad and support strategic deterrence.

(Eli Buguey/U.S. Navy)

The mishap, and the misgivings that preceded it, came against the backdrop of a Navy grappling with a culture in which overworked and unready crews were regularly put underway in service of operational needs. After two separate deadly destroyer collisions in 2017, service leaders found, among other things, that a “‘can-do’ culture” had undermined safety and led to unduly high operational tempo and fatigue.

“The can-do culture becomes a barrier to success only when directed from the top down or when feedback is limited or missed,” the Navy’s comprehensive review of the destroyer mishaps, released in October 2017, found.

Whether these factors came into play with the Georgia is more difficult to say.

In a statement for the investigation, Adams emphasized that he took full responsibility for what had transpired.

“Despite my significant reservation – expressed face-to-face, on the phone, and In emails with staff and leadership … concerning the risks of proceeding Into Kings Bay In the dark with an inexperienced team, when my requests to delay [return to port] one hour later were denied, I failed in my command responsibilities by driving to achieve mission success at the expense of appropriately acting to mitigate risks to increase our margin of safety,” he said.

“In retrospect, I should have loitered at [St. Marys] until I was satisfied that the risks were commensurate with the mission gain.”

Reached for comment by Military.com, Adams, who retired in 2016, referred to a public statement he had released at the time of his relief, in which he called the actions that caused the grounding “mine alone.”

“I ask that my lapses not be used to denigrate the terrific service of the Sailors and families of GEORGIA BLUE,” he said at the time “After thirty years of serving in the world’s finest Navy, my only regret is that I will miss sailing with them again to stand against our nation’s enemies.”

But the fact that some above Adams were also warned offers insight into how the higher command viewed the incident.

Crites faulted Spencer, the Squadron 16 commodore, with “failure to provide his ship a plan with adequate margin to safety, specifically in not providing sufficient guidance and training to his staff that developed the plan in his absence and not aggressively pursuing complete resolution of the ship’s requested arriva through personal intervention with the Type Commander staff.”

The chief of staff and director of operations for Submarine Group 10, Crites said in the report, had failed to “pursue acceptable resolution to the concerns they had with the plan for the ship’s arrival.”

Holly Carey, deputy public affairs officer for Submarine Force Atlantic, declined to say whether all administrative actions recommended by the investigation were carried out.

“What I can tell you is that the Navy is confident that leadership took appropriate corrective actions against several personnel assigned to the squadron and submarine based on the findings of the investigation,” she said.

“Following the investigation, which concluded in 2016, leadership took appropriate accountability measures and has taken all necessary steps to prevent a recurrence in the future. USS Georgia, and her current crew, serve proudly today among the U.S. Submarine Force and has leadership’s full confidence to protect the interest of the United State and allies.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard starts the new fiscal year with big narco sub busts

After several years of increases, Coast Guard seizures of cocaine at sea declined slightly during fiscal year 2019, but that fiscal year ended and the 2020 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2019, and runs to Sept. 30, 2020, began with major busts.

During the 2018 fiscal year, Coast Guard personnel removed 207,907.6 kilograms, or just under 208 metric tons, of cocaine worth an estimated $6.14 billion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said in an email.

The amount of cocaine removed by the Coast Guard is the sum of all cocaine physically seized by Coast Guard personnel and all cocaine lost by smugglers due to Coast Guard actions, according to a Homeland Security Department Inspector General report for fiscal year 2018.


7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The amount of cocaine lost by smugglers is at times “an intelligence-based estimate of the quantity of cocaine onboard a given vessel that is burned, jettisoned, or scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence when Coast Guard presence is detected,” according to the report.

The 2019 total is the second year of decline, following the 209.6 metric tons seized in 2018, according to the Inspector General report. The 223.8 metric tons seized in 2017 was up from 201.3 metric tons in 2016 and 144.8 metric tons in 2015.

Narco subs

The Coast Guard has led efforts to intercept narcotics coming to the US by sea from South and Central America, working with partners in the region through Operation Martillo, which involves ships and aircraft scouring the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

High-seas busts happen regularly, yielding not only drugs and drug smugglers but also intelligence on the groups behind the shipments.

In July 2019, the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, Midgett, caught a “narco sub” carrying 2,100 pounds of cocaine and three crew in the Eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter made its first trip to its homeport in Hawaii.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine seized from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

“Narco sub” is often used as a catch-all term, sometimes describing true submarines or semi-submersibles but usually referring to low-profile vessels.

They are all typically hard to spot in the open ocean, but the Coast Guard has seen a resurgence of them.

In September 2019, Coast Guard cutter Valiant tracked down another narco sub in the eastern Pacific, pursuing the 40-foot vessel over night and into the early morning. It was stopped with 12,000 pounds of cocaine aboard, but Coast Guard personnel were only able to offload about 1,100 pounds because of concerns about its stability.

The Valiant’s seizure closed that fiscal year, and the crew of the cutter Harriet Lane opened the current one with another, stopping a semi-submersible smuggling vessel in the Eastern Pacific on October 23 and seizing about 5,000 pounds of cocaine.

Boarding teams from the Harriet Lane got to the smuggling vessel just before midnight, taking control of it before four suspected smugglers aboard could sink it using scuttling valves.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

US Coast Guard personnel aboard a “narco sub” stopped in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

‘A mission enabler’

Coast Guard officials have pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure.

The service has pursued what Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

But Schultz and other officials have cautioned that the service can see more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, the Coast Guard has “visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz told Business Insider in November 2018. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that.”

Stopping drugs, as well as the Coast Guard’s other missions, are opportunities to employ new technology, Schultz said in October 2019.

“That counter-drug mission, where you’re trying to surveil the eastern Pacific Ocean … you can take the entire United States and turn it on a 45-degree axis and drop it there, it’s the equivalent of patrolling North America with five or six police cars out of Columbus,” Schultz said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“You’ve got to bring some technologies in … We’ve fielded small unmanned systems, the Scan Eagle, on the back of our national-security cutters,” Schultz added. “We haven’t fielded them all out yet, but hopefully by the end of next year every national-security cutter will have a Scan Eagle. That’s a mission enabler.”

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

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The UN condemns chemical attack in Syria and works to ID those responsible

The death toll from a suspected chemical attack on a northern Syrian town rose to 75 on April 5 as activists and rescue workers found more terrified survivors hiding in shelters near the site of the assault, one of the deadliest in Syria’s civil war.


A Syrian opposition group said renewed airstrikes hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun a day after the attack, which the Trump administration and others have blamed on the government of President Bashar Assad, as well as his main patrons, Russia and Iran.

Damascus and Moscow have denied they were behind the attack. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, an account Britain dismissed at an emergency U.N. session called in response to the attack.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back
This is not the first chemical attack in Syria. In 2013, a sarin attack occurred in Ghouta, resulted in hundreds (or more) dead and is considered to be the worst chemical attack since the Iraq-Iran War. (Dept. of Defense photo)

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the U.K. had seen nothing that would suggest rebels “have the sort of chemical weapons that are consistent with the symptoms that we saw yesterday.”

Russia said it would submit information from its Defense Ministry to the Security Council debate.

A resolution drafted by Britain, France, and the U.S. stresses the Syrian government’s obligation to provide information about its air operations, including the names of those in command of any helicopter squadrons on the day of the attack.

Diplomats were also meeting in Brussels for a major donors’ conference on the future of Syria and the region. Representatives from 70 countries were present.

The attack on Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people on April 4, leaving residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets. Videos from the scene showed volunteer medics using fire hoses to wash the chemicals from victims’ bodies.

Haunting images of lifeless children piled in heaps reflected the magnitude of the attack, which was reminiscent of a 2013 chemical assault that left hundreds dead and was the worst in the country’s six-year conflict.

Also read: US Ambassador to the UN calls Syrian president a ‘war criminal’

The Turkish Health Ministry said three victims of the attack died while being treated in Turkey, and that 29 people wounded in the attack were still being cared for in hospitals in the country. Syrian opposition groups had previously reported 72 dead.

Turkey set up a decontamination center at a border crossing in the province of Hatay following the attack, where the victims are initially treated before being moved to hospitals.

Syrian doctors said a combination of toxic gases is suspected to have been released during the airstrikes, causing the high death toll and severe symptoms.

The World Health Organization and the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said victims of the attack appear to show symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent.

In a statement, the agency said “the likelihood of exposure to a chemical attack is amplified by an apparent lack of external injuries reported in cases showing a rapid onset of similar symptoms, including acute respiratory distress as the main cause of death.”

Pope Francis said during his general audience that he was “watching with horror at the latest events in Syria,” and that he “strongly deplored the unacceptable massacre.”

Earlier, President Donald Trump denounced the attack as a “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Russia to endorse a planned Security Councilresolution condemning the attack.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said “all the evidence” he had seen so far in the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria “suggests this was the Assad regime … (that) did it in the full knowledge that they were using illegal weapons in a barbaric attack on their own people.”

Syria’s government denied it carried out any chemical attack. But early on April 4, Russia, a major ally of the Syrian government, alleged a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, releasing the toxic agents.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement that Russian military assets registered the strike on a weapons depot and ammunition factory on the town’s eastern outskirts. Konashenkov said the factory produced chemical weapons that were used in Iraq.

Renewed airstrikes on April 5 hit near the location of the suspected chemical attack, said Ahmed al-Sheikho, of the Idlib Civil Defense team. He said the strikes did not cause any casualties because the area had been evacuated following the April 4 attack.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 children and 17 women were among those killed. Abu Hamdu, a senior member of the Syrian Civil Defense in Khan Sheikoun, said his group has recorded 70 deaths.

Related: Warplanes attacked a rebel-held town in Syria with suspected toxic gas

He said his team of rescuers was still finding survivors, including two women and a boy hiding in an underground shelter beneath their home.

Israeli defense officials said on April 4 that military intelligence officers believed government forces were behind the attack.

The officials said Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons currently in his arsenal. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on April 5 as they are not allowed to brief media. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also blamed the Syrian government for the attack.

A top Syrian rebel representative said he held U.N. mediator Staffan De Mistura “personally responsible” for the attack.

Mohammad Alloush, the rebels’ chief negotiator at U.N.-mediated talks with the Syrian government, said the envoy must begin labeling the Syrian government as responsible for killing civilians. He said the U.N.’s silence “legitimizes” the strategy.

“The true solution for Syria is to put Bashar Assad, the chemical weapons user, in court, and not at the negotiations table,” said Alloush, who is an official in the Islam Army rebel faction.

Syria’s rebels, and the Islam Army in particular, are also accused of killing civilians in Syria, but rights watchdogs attribute the overwhelming portion of civilian causalities over the course of the six-year-war to the actions of government forces and their allies.

Associated Press writers Philip Issa in Beirut, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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This Iraq War vet and congressman treated the wounded during Alexandria shooting

Moments after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the U.S. House Majority Whip, was shot in the hip during an attack on a practice for the upcoming Congressional baseball game, an Iraq War vet was treating his wound.


“You never expect a baseball field in America to feel like being back in a combat zone in Iraq, but this morning it did,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup tweeted. The Ohio Republican congressman later told an aide the only difference between the Alexandria shooting and Iraq was being “without his weapon.”

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back
Maj. Gen. Mary Link, commanding general for Army Reserve Medical Command, stands next to Congressman Bill Pascrell from New Jersey’s 9th district; Congressman Josh Gottheimer, from New Jersey’s 5th district; Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, Hackensack University Medical Center President; and Col. Brad Wenstrup (far right), commander of 7457th Medical Backfill Bn. (U.S. Army photo)

According to a report by WLWT.com, Wenstrup began to treat his wounded colleague after Scalise dragged himself off the field. Wenstrup had seen wounds like that before he had ever entered politics.

According to the official biography on his web site, that is because Rep. Wentrup is also Col. Wenstrup in the U.S. Army Reserve – and he’s has served in the Army Reserve since 1998, after his sister had a battle with leukemia. During a tour in Iraq with the 344th Combat Support Hospital, Wenstrup was a combat surgeon, which he described as “the worst thing that ever happened to me, and the best thing I ever got to do.”

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, right, a Sunset Parade guest of honor, exchanges greetings with a U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant during a parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., June 18, 2013. A Sunset Parade was held every Tuesday during the summer months. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tia Dufour/Released)

According to a profile at the University of Cincinnati’s website, Wenstrup was the chief of surgery at Abu Ghraib, the location of a scandal over prisoner treatment. He treated Iraqi civilians, detainees at the prison, and wounded troops.

“I remember one Marine we lost on the table, and the anesthesiologist saying, ‘I had breakfast with him this morning.’ Or having to tell a group of Marines their buddy didn’t make it. Those were the tough days,” he told the college’s magazine.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

He had good days, too, including helping to treat a four-month old girl who had pneumonia. Eventually, the doctors figured out the girl also needed gluten-free formula, and raised over $400 to help make arrangements for a U.S. company to send the girl’s father the right baby food.

“Those were the good days,” he said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s what US Army soldiers said in a WWII uncensored survey

In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.

That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying “the arsenal of democracy” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.

Inducting millions of civilians and turning them into effective troops — and keeping them happy, healthy, supplied, and fighting — was also a daunting challenge.


In order to find the best way to do that, the War Department mounted an opinion survey, polling nearly a half-million soldiers stationed all around the world throughout the war. Their uncensored responses, given as the war was being fought, are an unprecedented window into how those troops felt about the war, the military, and their role in both.

“Entirely too much boot-licking going on,” one soldier wrote. “Some sort of a merit system should be instituted.”

“Spam, Spam, Spam. All I dream about is Spam,” wrote another.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

(National Archives photo)

In an email interview, Edward Gitre, a history professor at Virginia Tech whose project, The American Soldier in World War II, has compiled tens of thousands of responses to those surveys, explained why the Army sought the unvarnished opinions of its soldiers and what those opinions revealed.

Christopher Woody: Why did the War Department conduct these surveys? What did it want to find out about US troops and how did it want to use that information?

Gitre: Henry Stimson, the aged Secretary of War, outright barred the polling of US troops when one of the nation’s leading pollsters, Elmo Roper, first pitched the idea in spring 1941. The War Department was not in the habit of soliciting the “opinions” of foot soldiers.

Yet an old friend of the Roosevelt family, Frederick Osborn—who had already helped to institute the country’s first peacetime draft in 1940—quietly but effectively made the case.

Chiefly, he convinced Stimson and other leery officers that surveys would be for their benefit. Surveys would provide them information for planning and policymaking purposes. Allowing and encouraging GIs to openly air their “gripes” was not part of Osborn’s original pitch.

When George C. Marshall became chief of staff in 1939, he compared the US Army to that of a third-rate power.

With the passage of the draft in 1940, the War Department would face the monumental challenge of rapidly inducting hundreds of thousands, then after Pearl Harbor millions of civilians. Most lacked prior military experience. But this new crop was also better educated than previous generations of draftees, and they came with higher expectations of the organization.

The surveys, then, would help address a host of “personnel” issues, such as placement, training, furloughs, ratings, so on and so forth.

The civilian experts the Army brought in to run this novel research program were embedded in what was known as the Morale Branch. This outfit, as the name suggests, was tasked with shoring up morale. These social and behavioral scientists had to figure out, first, how to define morale, and, second, how to measure it.

Some old Army hands insisted that morale was purely a matter of command, that it was the byproduct of discipline and leadership. But reporting indicated pretty clearly that morale correlated to what soldiers were provided during off-duty hours as well, in terms of recreation and entertainment.

To address the latter, the War Department created an educational, recreational, welfare, and entertainment operation that spanned the globe. The numbers of candy bars and packages of cigarettes shipped and sold were accounted for not in the millions but billions.

If you were coordinating the monthly global placement of, say, two million books from best-sellers’ lists, wouldn’t you want to know something about soldier and sailor preferences? A whole class of survey questions were directed at marketing research.

Woody: What topics did the questions cover, and what kind of feedback and complaints did the troops give in response?

Gitre: The surveys administered by the Army’s Research Branch cover myriads of topics, from the individual food items placed in various rations, to the specific material used in seasonal uniforms, to the educational courses offered through the Armed Forces Institute.

A soldier might be asked a hundred or more multiple-choice and short-answer questions in any one survey. They would be asked to record more their behaviors, insights, and experiences related to service directly. They were asked about their civilian lives as well, including their previous occupation, family background, regional identity, religion, and education. This information could be then correlated with other military and government records to provide a more holistic picture of the average American GI.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

One of this research outfit’s most reliable “clients” was the Army’s Office of Surgeon General. The quality and effectiveness of medical and psychiatric care had wide implications, not least in terms of combat readiness. The Surgeon General’s office was interested in more than the care it provided. Soldiers were asked about their most intimate of experiences—their sexual habits and hygiene among them.

Administered in August 1945, Survey #233 asked men stationed in Italy if they were having sex with Italian women, and, if so, how frequently; did they pay for sex, how did they pay, did they “shack” up, use a condom and if not why not, drink beforehand, and did they know how to identify the symptoms of an STI? The battle against venereal diseases knew no lines of propriety.

The Research Branch surveyed or interviewed a half-million service members during the war. The answers they received were as varied as one can imagine, though there were of course common “gripes,” which the old Army hands could have easily ticked off without the aid of a cross-sectional scientific survey.

Yet the scope WWII military operations and the influx of so many educated civilians did create innumerable challenges that were often novel.

But from the soldier’s perspective, it should not come as a shock that so many of them might have taken to heart the premise of the US’s involvement in the war, that the US was committed to defending democracy, and alone if necessary.

Respondent after survey respondent demanded, then, that the US military live up to the principles of democracy for which they were being called to sacrifice. And so, they savaged expressions of the old Regular Army’s hierarchical “caste” culture wherever they saw it, but especially when it frustrated their own hopes and ambitions.

They wanted, in the parlance of the day, “fair play” and a “square deal.” They wanted to be respected as a human being, and not treated like a “dog.”

Woody: The US military drew from a wide swath of the population during WWII. How do you think that affected troops’ perception of the war, of military and civilian leadership, and of what the troops themselves wanted out of their service?

Gitre: The WWII US Army is known as a “citizen soldier” army (as opposed to a professional or “standing” army). It was also at the time described as a “peacetime army.” Compulsory service was passed by Congress in September 1940, roughly 15 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Military conscription was from its inception a civil process.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy photo)

That year-plus gap had a deep and lasting impact on how the War Department approached the rapid expansion of US forces. Just the same, it also shaped the expectations of Americans who were called to serve—as well as of their family members and loved ones, and the wider public.

The success of the Selective Service System would depend on the state in which the Army returned soldiers back to civil life. They would need to feel that they had gained something from the military, in the form of skill training or more education.

“In a larger sense [compulsory military training] provides an opportunity to popularize the Army with our people which is essential for an efficient fighting force,” the secretary of war said. “Maintenance of a high military morale is one of the most important contributing factors to good public morale,” he continued.

This view filtered down into the ranks. Sailors and soldiers expected to receive useful training and additional education. They also believed the military would put the skills, experiences, and practical know-how they already possessed as civilians to good use.

Woody: Was there anything in the troops’ responses that surprised you?

Gitre: What has surprised me most, I think, are the many remarks not about command and leadership but race.

We know that leaders of and activists in the black community pressed the War Department and Roosevelt administration to confront the nation’s “original sin” and strike down legal segregation. How otherwise could the US claim to be a champion of democracy while systematically denying the rights of a population that was liable, as free white citizens were, to compulsory service?

Black leaders embraced the V-shaped hand signal that was flashed so often to signify allied Victory, and they made it their own, calling for “Double V” or double victory: that is, victory abroad, and victory at home.

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

Participants in the Double V campaign, 1942.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Surveys from black soldiers demonstrate in rather stark terms how pervasively this message took hold among the rank and file. African Americans were especially well attuned to and critical of the military’s caste culture and to its reinforcement of white supremacy.

It is especially jarring, then, to read commentaries from soldiers defending the continuation of white male supremacy. Not only did some of these respondents opine on the virtues of segregation and the inferiority of blacks. A whole host of them objected likewise to women in uniform.

But undoubtedly the most shocking responses are those that espouse naked anti-Semitism. These cut against the grain of our collective memory of the American GI as liberator of the German death and concentration camps. Statements of these sort are rare. Yet they exist.

Woody: What’s your biggest takeaway from these surveys about troops’ feelings about the war and their attitudes toward the military?

Gitre: When I first encountered these open-ended responses, I was almost immediately captivated by how similarly white and black soldiers wrote about equity in the military. These two populations sometimes used the same exact phrasing.

For so many black soldiers, military service presented itself as an opportunity to break the shackles of structural inequality. They pleaded for merit-based assignments, postings, and promotions. You can flip over to surveys written by white enlisted men and you can see them wrestling with the same involuntary constraints arising from their own submission. They vigorously protested being treated like a “dog,” or a “slave.”

The leveling effect of military service was profound — and not simply for the individual soldier, psychologically. The survey research Osborn’s team conducted on race, merit, and morale demonstrated that not only were black soldiers just as effective in combat, but that the proximity of black and white troops in combat situations improved race relations, instead of destroying morale, as had long been feared. This research fed the 1947 Executive Order 9981 desegregating the US armed forces.

That brings us back to that 1940 peacetime decision to make military service compulsory as a civic duty. You can’t overestimate its significance. This isn’t a plea for compulsory military service. Yet as I continue to read these troop surveys, I am confronted daily by the prospect that we are losing the hard-won insights and lessons of a generation that is passing into its final twilight.

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

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