How Army engineers maintain the US's northernmost military base in the world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Not too long ago at Thule Air Base, Greenland located in the Arctic, a change of command ceremony was taking place.

Outgoing 821st Air Base Group US Air Force Commander — Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila — passed the flag to her successor Col. Timothy J. Bos.

In her outgoing speech, Kuvibidila thanked everyone in the audience for supporting her during her command. This included members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.


These ceremonies happen every few years, but what’s been consistent at the base is the Army Corps’ presence. For over half a century, the Army Corps has performed construction for the base. Presently, it’s consolidating the base by 40% to save energy, tax-payer money and to sustain its readiness.

Kuvibidila, who managed the base for the past year, understands the importance of consolidation.

She said, “For Thule it’s a matter of looking at the best way to use the infrastructure currently on base, and what is needed to support it to maximize resources.”

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Thule Air Base in Greenland.

(US Army Corps of Engineers)

Thule, Air Base Mission

Thule pronounced “Two Lee” is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule Air Base is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles south of the North Pole.

The base is the United States’ northern most military installation that has the responsibility of monitoring the skies for missiles in defense of the United States and its allies.

For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote Arctic environment to perform National security.

Throughout this time, the Army Corps under extreme weather conditions and less daylight hours, has helped the base fulfill its mission by constructing many structures including several dormitories, an aircraft runway and surrounding apron and taxiways, and a medical facility.

Now the Army Corps is helping once again, by consolidating and modernizing the base’s infrastructure.

In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 personnel, US military troops, as well as a support staff comprised of Danish and Greenlandic national people.

During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed and it is now home to less personnel that are mainly performing early missile warnings and space surveillance for the United States.

The base has many buildings spread out over the entire base. Many of these buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn and energy and fuel is being wasted to heat them. They are also a distance from the base’s central power plant that requires maintaining long pipes to transport heat to them.

Many of these old buildings are being demolished and new buildings are being constructed closer together to make them easier to reach and to save energy.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

A contingency dorm that will provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors at Thule Air Base, June 2019.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Base Consolidation

The US Military has been on a mission to save energy and costs. Because of this, the U.S. Air Force tapped into the expertise of the Army Corps to consolidate the base. “This includes demolishing old facilities and constructing new ones that will be situated or consolidated more centrally near the hub of the base where the airfield, hangars, dining facility, hospital and runway are located,” said Stella Marco, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps is performing this work in partnership with two Army Corps agencies that have expertise in performing construction in an Arctic environment — the Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research Development Center.

Kuvibidila recalls the consolidation work that she witnessed during her command. “There were multiple projects being worked on during my time at Thule from a new dorm, to finalizing new consolidated facilities for vehicle maintenance and supplies, along with various power projects,” she said.

The main structures that are being constructed are dormitories for non-commissioned officers who are on temporary duty and contingency lodging for the overflow of visitors, scientists, re-fueling operation crews, contractors, maintenance operations specialists and temporary duty personnel.

Recently, the Army Corps completed the construction of three, multi-story high rise dormitories for non-commissioned officers. Currently, construction is ongoing on the upgrade and renovation of two additional dormitories and 636 existing dorm rooms.

Marco said that the older dorms were the “gang-latrine” types, where a person staying at Thule would be assigned an individual room that contained the amenities of a bed, television, desk and a closet, however, all showers and toilet areas were located down a hall, in one area, that would require the guest to walk down through a public hallway to use.

She said the new dorms were constructed more into suites or modular units and are more conducive to privacy and to providing proper rest, relaxation and personal well-being.

A module consists of two or four individual bedrooms that lead into a centralized living area along with a partially shared bathroom. Modules provide some degree of privacy for the officers. Additionally, each floor has a common kitchen and dining area for residents to gather in.

Also contingency lodging is also being renovated to provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors.

This involves renovating some of the existing old fashioned, trailer-like living quarters named “flat-tops” currently occupied by Danish and Greenlandic support staff and contractors that work on the installation.

In addition to new living quarters being constructed and renovated, the aircraft runway was just reconstructed and repaved in asphalt as were the surrounding aprons and taxiways.

“The runway is the lifeline to Thule Air Base since the waterways are only passable by sealift from July to mid-September,” said Marco.

“By using lessons learned of Arctic construction, the latest knowledge of constructing in permanently frozen ground called permafrost, along with the latest construction and paving practices, has allowed the Army Corps to build the best new runway possible,” said Marco.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Thule Air Base from the top of a nearby mountain, June 2019.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Working on the runway was challenging due to the extreme weather conditions.

Paving the 10,000 foot long runway was performed in three phases — one each year — because the construction season was limited from June through mid-September. Half the runway was paved one year and the other half was paved a second year.

“Since only half the runway was available each year for pilots to use, they had to be able to land and stop their aircraft on 4,000 feet of paved area. During this time, mainly C-130 Aircraft were used because of its ability to stop in such a short span,” said Marco.

Another challenge was to lay the asphalt during the warmest temperatures possible. Asphalt cannot be paved in cold temperature because it will not adhere properly and will fail. To read more about constructing in the Arctic, please see the sidebar “Construction Challenges in the Arctic.”

Other facilities constructed to consolidate the base include a consolidated base supply and civil engineering facility to house the maintenance shops, including sheet metal, painting and carpentry, and a new vehicle maintenance equipment storage facility.

These new and renovated buildings are going to be heated with an upgraded heating system.

Thule’s central power plant provides the base’s electricity and heating. Over the last few years, the Army Corps has provided the plant new energy-efficient exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.

With this new equipment, the Army Corps is creating a new steam distribution system that will provide heat to most of the base.

These new engines create substantial surplus heat. This excess heat is going to be turned into steam that will be piped — by new pipes — to other buildings on the base. When the steam reaches the other buildings, it will be converted into hot water to be used for heat.

All of this consolidation work is needed to maintain readiness on the base. Kuvibidila said it is more important than ever before to improve base readiness. She said, “The current primary focus of the base is to support space, science, and allied operations and being able to continue that support will be critical.”

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

A window view from one of the dormitories at Thule Air Force Base, June 2019. Mount Dundas is in the distance.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Side Bar: Construction challenges in the Arctic

Arctic construction can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.

Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground — ranging from 6 feet to 1,600 feet in depth.

This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off of the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.

Buildings are elevated 3 feet from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.

Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a “balmy” 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is also during the summer and autumn months that there is sufficient daylight.

Because of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24 hours of sunlight from May through August and 24 hours of darkness from November through February.

The less cold temperatures make it possible to break up the iced shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port supplied with fuel and construction materials.

Building materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls, roof panels and prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly.

When the winter season begins, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How DARPA wants to make your next vehicle safer, more lethal

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is known for its baller tech, from helping to invent the internet and Google Maps to developing artificial intelligence and drone swarms. For the last few years, they’ve been looking into how to make vehicles safer in combat without strapping ever-increasing amounts of armor to it.


Demonstrations of DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies

www.youtube.com

The Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) Program is largely complete, and it’s archived on DARPA’s website. Most of the tech has proven itself in the lab and testing, but now some will—and some won’t—get deployed to units over the next few years.

One of the more exciting and groundbreaking technologies is the Multi-mode Extreme Travel Suspension. This equips vehicles with a suspension that can raise wheels 30 inches or drop them 42 inches, and each tire is controlled separately. That means that a vehicle can drive with an even cab, even when the slope is so great that the wheels are separate in height by six feet. It also means that the vehicles can get to hard-to-reach places quickly.

Other tech breakthroughs looking to increase off-road mobility included the Electric In-Hub Motor—which crams an entire electric motor with a three-speed gearbox and cooling into a standard 20-inch rim—and the Reconfigurable Wheel-Track which can roll like a normal tire or turn into a triangular track that works like a mini-tank tread.

But there are also breakthroughs focused on getting rid of windows and making crews able to move faster and more safely. The Virtual Perspective Augmenting Natural Experience program allowed vehicle crew members to drive a windowless RV with better visibility than a normal driver. Not only can they see what would be visible from the vehicle thanks to LIDAR, but they could also “see” the environment from a remote perspective.

Basically, they could be their own ground guide.

The Off-Road Crew Augmentation program, meanwhile, draws an estimated safest path for drivers moving off-road, and it can do so with no windows facing out. That means vehicle designers can create a next-gen vehicle with no windows, historically a weak spot in the armor. Ultraviolet light from the sun slowly breaks down ballistic glass, so “bulletproof” windows aren’t really bulletproof and will eventually expire.

All of the major breakthroughs were part of research partnerships or contracts with different manufacturers, and it remains to be seen whether the military branches will request prototype vehicles that use the tech. But there’s a chance that your next ride, after the current iteration of the JLTV, will be something a little more exotic.

Lists

6 crazy things actually found in boot camp amnesty boxes

If you’ve never shipped out to boot camp, then you’ve probably never encountered the “last chance” moment all recruits experience before their training kicks off.


Within hours of arriving, the staff gives every newbie a chance to come clean about something they may have lied about to their recruiter or throw an item or two away they weren’t supposed to bring with them into what’s known as the “amnesty box.”

If a boot does toss something away in the box, it’s confidential and they won’t be penalized. But don’t think for a second that the boxes don’t get opened by the staff for a good laugh.

Related: 6 reasons why you need a sense of humor in the infantry

So, we asked a few boot camp instructors from across the branches, “what’s the craziest things you’ve found in the legendary amnesty boxes?” What they found might surprise you.

6. Commerical aircraft sized bottles of liquor — mostly empty.

We guess some recruits just want to catch a quick buzz before they walk in the fiery pit of hell known as boot camp. We can’t blame them.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
Who wants shots before our haircuts?

5. Various genres of porn.

You’re not going to get a visual on this one — you’ll just have to use your creative imagination.

4. Live and spent ammo

We’re not sure why someone would bring ammo along with them — there’s a good chance they’ll shoot a weapon soon enough.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
Leave your ammo at home, people.

3. Small drug baggies

FYI, you take a urinalysis test in boot camp, so be clean when you show up or your ass could get kicked out.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
We’re curious — who uses DC comic drug baggies?

2. Various adult toys

Again, use your freakin’ imagination.

Also Read: 7 female TV detectives who’d make badass drill instructors

1. Prepaid cell phones

Boot camp is a good place for young adults to turn their life around. Amnesty boxes are a clever way of getting rid of old, burner cell phones.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
Burner cell phones, now with unlimited data plans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Air Force ‘hub’ looks for threats from within

“If you make a mistake, it is better to acknowledge that one small mistake than let it snowball into something more significant.” This, according to Jason Barron, Air Force Insider Threat Hub deputy director for operations, is the key to safeguarding important information and resources.

As the Air Force’s defense against insider threats, identifying indicators of potential risk is the hub’s primary mission, but not all indicators they detect are symptoms of espionage or intentional wrongdoing. According to Barron, most indicators are unintended exposures, or the result of policy and training gaps.


“If someone is issued a speeding ticket, it does not necessarily mean they did something to indicate they are an insider threat; it all depends on the severity and quantity of unique indicators,” Barron said. “We may look for other indicators that, when put together, could mean something more substantial – even then, the team does not act individually against indicators discovered.”

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Air Force Insider Threat Hub deputy director for operations Jason Barron.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lori A. Bultman)

According to Barron, personnel in the insider threat hub identify, aggregate, analyze and refer potential risk indicators. The teams relay their findings to other agencies for review and possible action. Additionally, the hub has a lawyer on staff to ensure any referrals are in accordance with established policies and laws.

“We provide information we find to authorities within the Air Force. When we identify something on an individual within the Air Force who might be a risk, whether intentional or otherwise, we provide that information to a decision maker in higher authority who is in place to determine whether an action needs to result,” Barron said.

Hub personnel also receive threat information from other sources.

“We might have a point of contact in the field who relays risk concerns to us,” Barron said. “The team in the hub can look into a reported concern and determine whether there is enough to consider it a viable threat.”

Workplace violence is another insider threat concern for the team.

“If someone commits a security violation but is cleared of espionage, that does not mean there is not a policy issue we could address,” said J.T. Mendoza, Air Force Insider Threat Hub deputy director for strategy and integration. “While it is difficult to quantify the damage someone caused when documents or classified items are taken, an act of violence is often more damaging due to human life being involved.

When Barron and his team established the 25th Air Force Insider Threat Program in 2014, their goal was to stop technical related insider threats before they grew into major breaches for the Air Force intelligence community.

Within the program, a myriad of staff members from varying backgrounds sifted through data in an attempt to locate indicators of threats and vulnerabilities. In April 2017, Air Force officials had enough confidence in the program capabilities that it became the services interim hub until a permanent Air Force hub could be established.

“During the year we were the interim hub, we put a lot of processes into place. We built a solid foundation from internal analysis, data integration, increases in manpower and capabilities and the implementation of reporting procedures,” Barron said.

The Air Force made a decision in October 2018 to transition the organization from being the interim hub to the permanent insider threat epicenter, while the team continued to prepare for the transition and acquire more space and personnel. Significant support and coordination from local 25th Air Force and Air Staff leadership was required to achieve this milestone.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

(Flickr photo by Blogtrepreneur)

“Preparations for the transition also included establishing the policies and documentation required to run a cooperative matrix organization,” Barron said. “We more than tripled the hub staff and added coordinating representatives within each major command.”

“One of the challenges we face is finding the right people and being able to train and develop them into what we believe is the right skill set,” he said. “There is no specialty code within the Air Force or department at large for what we do; we are creating most of our procedures as we go. We are where cyber was 10 to 15 years ago.”

Another challenge for hub personnel is figuring out how to share data between multiple agencies who might help connect indicators.

“Sharing information between organizations that have different authorities or conduct different missions is difficult,” Barron said. “The root of this mission is sharing risk information, just like commanders share information on the battlefield. It is a challenge across any mission set; how do I share the right information, at the right time, at the right level to make a decision?

“What we have done is partner within our matrix organization to put people from different agencies in the same place to allow ease and speed of sharing critical information,” he said. “Having that proximity to each other really helps speed up processes. If information is not documented and shared in an appropriate manner, you are going to have a hard time piecing dots together to look at information over time and mitigating threats.”

Since its inception, the Air Force Insider Threat Program has experienced many successes, ranging from notifying organizations of security shortfalls and identifying indicators of suicide, to de-conflicting individuals’ identities in reporting. Its next milestone will be reaching full operational capability status, expected in the next 12 months according to Barron.

The Air Force Insider Threat team encourages all Airmen, military, civilian and contractor, to contact their security office or appropriate chain of command to report potential insider threat incidents, including accidental or unintentional indicators; it could resolve potential incidents before they become legitimate threats.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

So, President Ronald Reagan managed to make it into the news about 15 years after his death due to some leaked audio with inflammatory, racist remarks. But, oddly enough, 20 years before his death, Reagan accidentally sent Soviet forces in Vladivostok into high alert thanks to another bit of leaked audio. Specifically, he told an ill-advised joke about outlawing Russia.


The joke came on Aug. 11, 1984. Reagan was in the middle of a re-election campaign, and so he had a big announcement planned for his weekly radio address to America. He was going to be at his ranch in California, and so he asked National Public Radio engineers to do the address from there. They agreed.

So, the engineers came out and set up. As they were going through the mic checks, they asked him to say a few words to make sure they had all the levels right. Reagan agreed and went off on a quick riff:

My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.
How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Ronald Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July 1981.

(White House Photo)

The engineers in the room got that it was a joke, and they were part of a deal not to release informal or off-the-record audio. So they chuckled, got the levels right, and let the president give his actual, scheduled address.

But they weren’t the only ones who had heard the remarks. The audio was already being sent to some of the radio stations that would broadcast the remarks, and those stations were recording the feed in case they missed the start of the presidential address.

And not all of them were part of the agreement to hold recordings not meant for broadcast. Someone leaked the audio.

Most of the world got that it was a joke and the punditry class took on its typical role of either condemning or praising the remarks. Most condemned, especially in those countries in Europe that Russia’s missiles could reach. The Soviet Union was also predictably, not a fan.

But one group of Soviet soldiers weren’t entirely sure that it was a joke. There were reports of a low-level Soviet commander putting his troops in Vladivostok on a wartime footing on August 13, in the belief that America really was going to war with the Soviet Union.

The story is disputed, but it says the troops were told to stand down about 30 minutes later as the Soviet officer wasn’t actually allowed to issue that level of alert. Also, obviously, if the August 11 remarks about bombing the Soviet Union in five minutes were real, there wouldn’t be an undamaged Soviet Union on August 13.

Reagan was overwhelmingly re-elected despite the blowback from the joke, and he actually established a productive relationship with Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev in the late ’80s.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what National Guard units across the country will be doing on Election Day

From New Jersey to Washington state, National Guard members across the country are gearing up for election-related missions — ranging from cybersecurity support to responding to civil unrest — in an already record-breaking year for state activations.

Governors have continued to activate National Guard troops in the final days leading up to the presidential election, which has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. Soldiers and airmen are supporting polling stations, leading cybersecurity missions, and even preparing for civil disturbances in the wake of what could prove to be a contentious election in which results might not be known for weeks.

As of Friday, 10 states were actively planning for Guard members to handle election-related missions and 15 were indicating they plan to do so. Those missions include working polling stations and cybersecurity missions.

No Uniforms, No Weapons

Armed troops won’t be guarding polling places on Tuesday.

Leaders in several states said the hundreds of Guard members activated by their governors will be wearing civilian clothes and won’t be carrying weapons. That’s true in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Nebraska, officials from those states say.

“Our service members are placed on state active duty, and they show up in civilian clothes to the polling stations, so any member of the community that is coming into a polling station isn’t going to be able to recognize that they are in the Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, assistant adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard. “They are going to look like anyone else from the community.”

Several hundred Guard members assisted at polling places during the primaries, Military.com reported this summer. They were under strict orders to stay out of the actual voting process, filling gaps created during the pandemic since older people who tend to volunteer at polls were staying home to prevent contracting COVID-19.

In New Jersey, one of the states where Guard members assisted during the primaries, troops are helping process mail-in ballots. The country has seen a huge uptick in mail-in ballots during the pandemic. About 240 New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen are already supporting 18 counties’ board of elections, Lt. Col. Barbara Brown, a Guard spokeswoman there, said.

“This support is an extension of the Guard’s active role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” she said. “The [New Jersey National Guard] is fully capable and prepared for this mission.”

Guard members in other states, such as Washington and Delaware, are taking on cybersecurity missions. U.S. intelligence officials warned earlier this month that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information, and were already attempting to interfere in the election.

The National Guard has 59 cyber support units, Wayne Hall, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, said.

“Each state is different and has the advantage of tailoring its National Guard forces to their specific requirements to support elections, especially the states with cyber units,” he said. “We consider this flexibility one of the National Guard’s primary strengths.”

The National Guard for Washington State has been working with state officials since the 2018 midterm elections, performing vulnerability assessments on firewalls and ensuring that software is up to date, Air Force Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, assistant adjutant general for the Washington Guard, said this week.

“One of the unique things about the Guard is we dip into the talent that we’ve got in the civilian areas so having companies like Microsoft and Amazon … allows us to draw those folks into the Guard that have got cutting edge experience working in a tech company is able to pair that with the military training they have,” Welsh said. “And then when we have issues like we are having with our election system, we’ve got some really, really talented and qualified folks to do that work.”

Bracing for Conflict

Guard members say they’re not anticipating trouble at the polls, but if a problem breaks out, they say troops working on election day would respond the same way a civilian would.

“In that case it’s a 911 event to call in local law enforcement to handle any violence or any threats of violence,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general for the Nebraska National Guard, said.

If violent protests erupt after the election, Guard officials said it will be up to state leaders to coordinate with law enforcement units for potential National Guard response.

“I think the chief executives of each state are already thinking about these kinds of issues and they would be the focal point for any use of the National Guard for any civil unrest or disturbance following the election,” Bohac said.

After a long and often contentious campaign though, some National Guard members have for months been preparing to respond. In Tennessee, the Guard has a contingency plan to support the state highway patrol, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general, said.

“That has been a pretty established drill we have been executing since May and we do have a number of contingency plans,” he said. “We do talk with them more frequently; we have had a number of planning meetings just so we have a multitude of options that might be available.”

Guard personnel would primarily be tasked with providing protection for state and local facilities to free up the highway patrol to conduct law enforcement activities, Holmes added.

“We know our mission,” he said. “We have had to deploy for civil unrest, so we have a very good working relationship with them.”

In New Jersey, the Guard has a reaction force to assist the state for contingency responses when requested by proper authorities, Brown said.

“Our 8,500-member force remains committed to responding to our state and its citizens during times of need,” she said. “We live, work and raise families in these communities and will stay during this critical time for as long as we are needed.”

For now, though, leaders say they’re focused on ensuring troops aren’t burned out after a busy year for the National Guard.

“Our state leadership worries about our Guardsmen being overworked during our state call ups, but they work with our soldiers and airmen to ensure they are getting the rest they need and they are rotated out so they can take leave,” Joseph Siemandel, director of public affairs for the Washington National Guard, said.

The state activations follow National Guard missions for the pandemic, wildfires, border missions and protests across the country. Missions inside the U.S. peaked for the Guard in June, when more than 86,000 of its soldiers were engaged in domestic missions.

The National Guard provided 8.4 million days of support for domestic operations in fiscal 2020, which ended on Sept. 30.

“Due to all the peaks we’ve had, there’s no way that we would have been close to that in any previous year,” Hall said.

The missions haven’t come without controversy though, particularly after tens of thousands of Guard members were called on to support law enforcement personnel in responding to protests in dozens of states following the May death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody.

As Americans brace for the possibility of more unrest, National Guard leaders say they’ve reinforced law enforcement earlier this year and are prepared to do so again.

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

Articles

This Army veteran’s new mission is to rebuild New Orleans’ most devastated ward

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.


New Orleans native Burnell Cotlon has spent the last five years on a mission. He’s turning a two-story building that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (along with most of his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood), into a shopping plaza. Already, he’s opened a barber shop and a convenience store, and as of last November, is providing the neighborhood — identified as a food desert — with its first full-service grocery store in almost a decade.

The Lower Ninth Ward, which experienced catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, has had a much slower recovery than most New Orleans neighborhoods. Before Katrina, the area had a population of around 14,000 and boasted of the highest percentage of black homeownership in the country. According to the last census, however, only around 3,000 people live in the neighborhood. Many of its roads are still torn up, it lacks basic resources and the closest full-service grocery store is nearly 3 miles away in the neighboring city of Chalmette.

Burnell’s merchandise is still mostly limited to non-perishables and fresh produce, but he hopes to add poultry, bread and dairy this year.

Burnell Cotlon relies on a lot of second hand supplies, and with the right equipment, he could meet his goal of offering more food options for members of his community. Please consider making a donation and spreading the word in order to support his work.

Click here to show your support

More from NationSwell:

This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

Articles

The difference between Air Force and Army hair expectations

Civilians might think of military hair regulations as one standard look (see: jarhead), but there’s actually some variance among the branches. The “high and tight” sported by soldiers and Marines is much too short for your average airman.

Just ask Air Force captain Mark Harper.


In 2005, Harper deployed to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq as Officer In Charge of the Joint Combat Camera team. Though he deployed with the Air Force, it was a joint environment, so Harper found himself reporting to an Army colonel and supervising about 40 grunts.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The first day he reported to Army HQ, those soldiers jumped on the chance to give him a hard time about his hair (which is probably a good thing — you only haze the people you like, right? Right?).

“I learned my schedule was intense and I wouldn’t be able to get someone else to cut it, but I wasn’t going to endure this mockery again, so I thought, ‘How hard can this be? I’m just going to cut it myself…'”

He lucked out — the Post Exchange sold Wahl clippers.

That night at 0200 he finally found some spare time to cut his hair.

Also read: These are the rules NATO allies have about growing beards

With no practical experience selecting clipper guards, Harper wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing, but the Wahl gear was pretty intuitive and he even managed to fade it on the sides.

“So I officially did it. I cut my own hair.”

He then walked proudly into the Air Force tent.

Check out the video below to see their reaction:

www.youtube.com

We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the leader in the professional and home grooming field.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 tips for navigating marriage and military retirement at the same time

This is the advice I wish I had been privy to. The dynamics of marriage don’t suddenly change the day of retirement, rather, there is a period of anticipation that leads up to the finality of the transition. In much the same way that we address the stresses of pre-deployment, we should be discussing the stress that comes during pre-retirement.

It’s so complicated

Perhaps I should phrase this as what I didn’t know about the medical retirement process, because that is the one we endured. It is humiliating. Soldiers who have been told their entire career to push through the pain are suddenly being treated with suspicion as if they are trying to milk the government for every penny they can when really, all they want, or mine wanted, was to stay in and serve.

I went to every appointment I was able to attend. This isn’t realistic for all spouses, but in my unique line of work I was able to work my schedule around his. If you are able to, I highly recommend it. Things happen in those appointments where your soldier needs an advocate and a voice of encouragement that the temporary suck is worth the process.

The medical documents were an outright mess. According to the file, my husband had an abnormal pap-smear a few years back. Yes, a pap-smear. A mess!

They required hours of pouring over to make sure that they were correct and then hours more of appealing diagnoses that weren’t correct. This is when you, the spouse, begin to discover your new role of caregiver. It’s not an easy one and as a nurse recently told me it’s important to remember this is a marathon and not a sprint. Pace yourself and stick with it.

Your soldier needs to know you’re in this, too, and that you’ll be standing at the other side, just like he/she needed to know when they stepped on the plane to deploy.

The information they give you at the transition readiness seminar isn’t always up to date

Take notes and do the research. Double check everything you are told. Document and start a file folder. Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same advice we are given as we begin the pre-deployment process.

I went to the transition readiness seminar with my spouse to take notes. Part of the reason he was medically retired was due to memory loss related to a TBI. One of my new roles was to take notes and help him remember what was discussed.

Spouses are encouraged to attend these meetings, but as the only spouse in attendance I discovered some of the advice that given out was to our disadvantage. I listened as soldiers were told how to navigate around their benefits in order to payout the minimum amount to spouses if the marriage didn’t work out.

What I wish we had been told was not how to screw our spouses, but rather how to love and support one another through one of the more difficult transitions of our lives.

It may not be the best time to buy a house

A lot of couples start dreaming about their retirement home. For some of them, like us, it’s their first home purchase. Look, retirement is a big stressor all on its own. Buying a home might be a stressor you can put off but if not, here are a few tips from Forbes on how to buy a house while also avoiding a break up.

As a newly retired military family, if you are buying a house locate realtors and mortgage companies who have walked through the process with previous veterans from service to retirement. It’s a complicated system finding financing while in transition, one that requires a few experts in your corner. Some friends have had success moving the family months prior to the actual retirement while others have had to live with family until all the needed paperwork to move forward is available.

For us, one word off on the VA paperwork nearly made us homeless. After driving for four days, we were two hours away before we got the call that we had a place to move into. If you are considering buying a house while transitioning out of the military read this first: 5 Home Purchase Considerations For Your Military Consideration.

Experience prepping for deployments can help you in prepping for retirement

We all go into our first deployment with an idea of what it will look like; retirement is similar. I pictured lunch dates, Pinterest DIY projects, and shared household responsibilities. Our careers were about to take off, my husband with his dream of culinary school and mine as a full-time writer. Reality has a way of knocking you down a few notches.

I want you to dream. You need to dream. A year and a half out we seem to finally be getting the hang of communicating how we each need help and tackling the household responsibilities in a way that works. But none of it looks quite like we pictured. As we adjust to the reality of our new normal, we are learning to communicate more openly, to listen more fully and to forgive the missteps along the way.

There are a lot of emotions that go into prepping for deployments and there are a lot of emotions that come with the transition from military to civilian life. Be ready to be honest with one another along the way. Hold each other up because the period of your life doesn’t have to break you, it can be the moment that solidifies you as a couple.

Articles

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of numbered units throughout the military, many with storied histories and with extensive combat roles since the United States military began operating on the world stage in the early 20th Century. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment can trace its lineage all the way back to the American Revolution. The 1st Infantry Division can claim to be the longest continuously serving division in the U.S. military. Even the U.S. Navy has the famed USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned sailing ship in the fleet. However, no unit has been deployed to every major conflict of the last one hundred years except for one — the 5th Marine Regiment.


How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
Lance Cpl. Seth H. Capps, a member of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, drinks out of Devil Dog Fountain following the 93rd anniversary of the Battle for Belleau Wood May 30. (Photo By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

The 5th Marine Regiment’s story begins on June 8, 1917, when it was activated in Philadelphia as part of the United States’ buildup for World War I. The Regiment was assigned to the 4th Marine Brigade, which became a part of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The 5th would establish itself in Marine Corps lore for its actions at the Battle of Belleau Wood in the spring of 1918. They would also fight at places such as Aisne and St. Mihiel, as well as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

During the regiment’s service in France, it earned its nickname, “the Fighting Fifth,” and was awarded the French Fourragère for receiving three Croix de Guerre citations, a decoration members of the 5th Marines still wear today. The unit also had five folks (3 USMC, 2 USN) receive the Medal of Honor.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
A Collier’s drawing of Belleau Wood, circa 1921

The next major action for the Fighting Fifth was battling their way across the Pacific in World War II. The 5th landed on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 and endured four months of grueling combat on there before being relieved with the rest of the division on December 9, 1942. For their efforts during Guadalcanal, the 5th Marines and the entire 1st Marine Division received their first Presidential Unit Citation.

After a rest and refit in Australia, the 5th Marines returned to combat in the late stages of Operation Cartwheel in late December 1943. They landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain and would fight there until February 1944 when they were relieved by the 40th Infantry Division. The Marines had another period of rest and refit before encountering their greatest challenges of the war, at Peleliu and Okinawa.

The 5th Marines entered combat on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. Unbeknownst to them, the Japanese changed their tactics from attempting to stop landings at the beach to fortifying the entire island and creating a defense in depth. The lack of this knowledge would cost the Marines dearly. After the seizure of the airfield, the rest of the division set about clearing the remainder of the island.

By late October, the 5th Marines were the only regiment still combat effective and their commander, Col. Harold Harris, turned to siege tactics to remove the Japanese, telling his officers “be lavish with ordnance and stingy with men’s lives.” The Marines handed over operations of the island to the 81st Infantry Division and moved on to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The 5th Marines final action of the World War II was at Okinawa, where they landed along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division and 6th Marine Division on April 1, 1945. They were able to quickly clear the northern part of the island but Japanese resistance to the south would require extraordinary effort to reduce. The fight on Okinawa made places like Sugar Loaf Hill and Shuri Castle famous.In all of World War II four Marines from the 5th were awarded the Medal of Honor. Following the fall of Okinawa and the Japanese surrender,  the 5th was sent to China for occupation duty.

War soon found the 5th Marines again when they were deployed as part of the Provisional Marine Brigade to the Pusan Perimeter in South Korea to shore up defenses against the invading North Koreans. The Fighting Fifth then rejoined their World War II counterparts, the 1st and 7th Marines, in reforming the 1st Marine Division to take part in the landings at Inchon and the liberation of Seoul.

That winter the 5th Marines fought for their lives at the “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir. When the situation looked bleak and the Marines were falling back Gen. Oliver Smith told his command, “Retreat, Hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction!”

After their withdrawal from North Korea, the 5th Marines remained in the war and would hold off the Chinese attempts to break the Main Line of Resistance until the armistice in July 1953. The heroic efforts of the 5th Marines garnered ten more Medals of Honor and another Presidential Unit Citation. The regiment left Korea in 1955.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Peacetime would not last long for the 5th as just over a decade after leaving Korea they were deployed as part of the troop buildup in Vietnam in May 1966. The 5th Marines and the rest of the 1st Marine Division would spend six years battling the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong. Their fighting spirit would make their name known once again, this time at places like Huế during the Tet Offensive. During the Vietnam War, seven members of the regiment received the Medal of Honor before returning to Camp Pendleton in 1971.

The 5th Marines returned to combat once again against the forces of Saddam Hussein in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm. 1st Battalion served as part of Task Force Ripper, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions joined later and participated in the Liberation of Kuwait. The 5th Marines returned to the Middle East in 2003 as part of the Invasion of Iraq where they spearheaded the Marine Corps efforts. After defeating Iraqi forces, the 5th Marines remained in Iraq until October 2003, conducting security and stability operations. They would return to Iraq two more times, each time completing a 13-month deployment. Beginning in 2009 separate battalions of the 5th Marines began deployments to Afghanistan until the deployment of Regimental Combat Team 5 in 2011. 2nd Battalion was the last to deploy serving with RCT 6 in 2012.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
Cpl. Brian Conley of 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division drinks from the Devil Dog Fountain in the town of Belleau, France, May 26.After participating in the Memorial Day ceremony at the Belleau cemetery the Marines of 5th Marine Reg. walked to the town of Belleau to spend time with the locals and French marines to strengthen French-American relationships while memorializing losses in the battle of Belleau Wood. (Official Marine Corps photo by: Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz)

In the nearly 100 years since the 5th Marine Regiment was first formed, 24 Marines from the regiment have received the Medal of Honor, second only to the 7th Marines 36 recipients. The 5th Marines have also been a part of the 1st Marine Division when it received all nine of its Presidential Unit Citations, as well as earning two of its own during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. According to the Marine Corps website, the 5th Marines are the most decorated regiment in the Corps.

Articles

The US Navy built 12 concrete ships for World War I

During World War I, steel for building ships was in short supply.


While American President Woodrow Wilson was determined to keep the U.S. out of the war, he didn’t want America’s Merchant Marine to be left unbuilt. So he approved the construction of 24 ships made from concrete to the tune of $50 million ($11.4 billion adjusted for inflation) to help build American shipping capacity.

Concrete, while cheap and readily available, is expensive to build and operate when it comes to ships. They need thick hulls, which means less room for cargo. Only 12 were ever built and by the time they were ready, the Great War was over.

A website dedicated to this “experiment in ship building,” ConcreteShips.org, keeps track of what happened to these 12 innovations.

SS Atlantus

The Atlantus was a steamer that was sold as a ferry landing ship. Before she could ever be used for that, she broke free during a storm and grounded near Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
The Atlantus in 1926.

She’s been falling apart ever since but what’s left can still be seen from shore.

SS Cape Fear

A good example of the drawbacks of using concrete for shipbuilding, the Cape Fear ran into a cargo ship in Rhode Island, shattered, and then sank with 19 crewmen lost.

SS Cuyamaca

The Cuyamaca was stripped down in New Orleans after she was built. She was then converted into an oil barge. Like other concrete ships hauling oil in the Gulf of Mexico, not much is known about her final resting place.

SS Dinsmore

Artificial structures sunk in coastal areas protect the coasts from negative effects due to weather and the spread of sediment. The Dinsmore is living on in this regard. She was sunk to be a breakwater in the Gulf of Mexico.

SS Latham

The Latham also became an oil barge, storing oil pumped in the Gulf of Mexico. While transporting oil pipes, she hit a jetty and nearly sank. She’s now floating around the Gulf somewhere, storing oil.

SS Moffitt

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
SS Moffitt being launched.

Moffitt is another oil barge off the coast of New Orleans.

SS Palo Alto

This ship was turned into a dance club and restaurant in California. It featured an arcade and a swimming pool before the company that ran the place collapsed in the Great Depression.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
The Palo Alto (used by permission)

When a storm cracked her across the middle, the Palo Alto became a fishing pier.

SS Peralta

Now in British Columbia, Canada, the Peralta spent time as a floating fish cannery and is now a floating breakwater. She’s the only one of the 12 still afloat.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
The SS Peralta (photo by Scott J. Lowe)

The Peralta is also the largest concrete ship still afloat anywhere in the world. She protects the log storage pond of a Canadian paper company.

SS Polias

After hitting an underwater ledge, Polias shattered and sank off the coast of Maine. Fourteen crewmen died trying to abandon ship.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

A 1924 hurricane further shattered her wreck. What remains is off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine.

SS San Pasqual

When the San Pasqual ran aground off Cuba, no one was inclined to dig her out. She stayed there and became a depot ship and then a prison. Now, she’s a 10 room hotel.

SS Sapona

Originally sold for scrap, Sapona was converted into an offshore liquor warehouse during Prohibition. She was grounded off the coast of Bimini, an island of the Bahamas, during a hurricane. The stern broke off, destroying the rum running owner’s stock and leaving him penniless.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
The Sapona in 2009

The Army Air Forces and Navy used Sapona for target practice during WWII.

SS Selma

Called the “Flagship of Texas,” the Selma was an oil tanker that hit a jetty off the coast of Tampico, Florida. The government sent Selma to Galveston for repairs, but the shipwrights had no experience with concrete. She was taken to Pelican Island, Texa in 1922, where she sits today.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world
The SS Selma in Galveston (photo by John Wiley)

The Texas Army named her its flagship 70 years later.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

China tries to warn off Poseidon 6 times

Chinese forces deployed to the hotly contested South China Sea ordered a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft to “leave immediately” six times on Aug. 10, 2018, but the pilot stayed the course, refusing to back down.

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane flew past China’s garrisons in the Spratly Islands, giving CNN reporters aboard the aircraft a view of Chinese militarization in the region.


Flying over Chinese strongholds on Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef, CNN spotted “large radar installations, power plants, and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft.” At one outpost, onboard sensors detected 86 vessels, including Chinese Coast Guard ships, which China has been known to use to strong-arm countries with competing claims in the South China Sea.

Lt. Lauren Callen, who led the US Navy crew, said it was “surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean.”

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

View from Spratly Islands.

The Chinese stationed in the area were not exactly kind hosts to the uninvited guests.

Warning the aircraft that it was in Chinese territory — an argument an international arbitration tribunal ruled against two years ago — the Chinese military ordered the US Navy plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding.”

Six warnings were issued, according to CNN, and the US Navy responded the same every time.

“I am a sovereign immune US naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” the crew replied, adding, “In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”

The incident comes on the heels of a report by the Philippine government revealing that China has been increasingly threatening foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea.

“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the Spratlys warned a Philippine military aircraft in early 2018, according to the Associated Press. “I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the voice said over the radio.

The US Navy has noticed an increase in such queries as well.

“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP, adding, “These communications do not affect our operations.”

Of greater concern for the US military are recent Chinese deployments of military equipment and weapons systems, such as jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. While the US has accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the disputed waterway, Beijing argues it is the US, not China, that is causing trouble in the region.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on Aug. 10, 2018’s exchange between the Chinese military and the US Navy.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 ships sunk at Pearl Harbor fought in World War II

While “salvage operations” aren’t usually stories of perseverance and ingenuity, the actions of brave sailors and officers after the Pearl Harbor attacks formed a miracle that is legitimately surprising. While the battleships Utah, Arizona, and Oklahoma were permanently lost after the Pearl Harbor attacks, seven combat ships that were sunk in the raid went on to fight Japanese and German forces around the world, and at least three non-combat ships saw further service in the war.


In all, 21 ships were labeled damaged or sunk after the attack. Nine of them were still afloat and were either quickly repaired for frontline duty or sent to the U.S. West Coast for repairs and new equipment. But another 12 were sunk, and some of those were even declared lost. Before the war closed, seven of the sunken ships would see combat, and another three served in peacetime roles.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The USS West Virginia burns on December 7 thanks to Japanese attacks. It would go on to punish the Japanese forces across the Pacific.

(U.S. Navy)

USS West Virginia was declared lost three years before entering Tokyo Bay

The USS West Virginia was one of the worst hit in the raid. The “Weevie,” as it was called, had been hit by up to seven torpedoes, but no one could be certain exactly how many torpedoes hit it, really, because the damage was so severe. At least two torpedoes flowed through holes in the hull and exploded inside against the lower decks.

Salvage crews were forced to create large patches that were held in place with underwater concrete. As seawater was pumped out, it was expected that the ship’s electric drive would be unusable or would need extensive repairs but, surprisingly, it turned out that seawater hadn’t reached the main propulsion plant. The alternators and motors were repaired, and the ship headed for Puget Sound Navy Yard.

The ship received much better anti-aircraft armament and defensive armor and headed back into the fight in the Pacific. At the Battle of the Surigao Strait, Weevie fired ninety-three rounds into the Japanese fleet. It later hit Japanese forces ashore on Leyte, served at Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, and was the first of the older battleships to sail into Tokyo Bay to witness Japan’s surrender in 1945.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The USS Shaw explodes at Pearl Harbor on December 7. It later fought across the Pacific.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Shaw attacked Guadalcanal, Leyte, and the Philippines

The destroyer USS Shaw was only 6-years old when the Pearl Harbor attack began, but the modern warship was in overhaul on Dec. 7, 1941, and had all of its ammo stored below decks. So it was unable to protect itself as dive bombers struck it, shredding the deck near gun number 1, severing the bow, and rupturing the fuel oil tanks. All this damage led to a massive fire in the forward magazines which then blew up.

The Shaw was declared a total loss, but the Navy found that much of its machinery was still good. Damaged sections were cut off, a false bow was fitted, and the ship steamed to Mare Island in California for permanent repairs just two months after the attack.

The overhauled USS Shaw fired on Japanese forces at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, Guadalcanal, Leyte, and the Southern Philippines. It served out the war before being decommissioned in October 1945.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The USS Nevada fires its guns at the Normandy shore during D-Day in June 1944, about 30 months after the ship sunk at Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Nevada shelled Normandy

The USS Nevada was one of the few ships in the harbor that was ready to fight on December 7, and its official reports indicated that the crew first opened fire at 8:02, about 60 seconds after the attack started. It was able to down between two and five enemy planes, but still took one torpedo and six bomb hits that doomed the ship. An admiral ordered the ship to beach itself to protect the channel and the ship from further damage.

While Adm. Chester E. Nimitz was pessimistic as to the Nevada’s chances, salvage leaders were quite hopeful. Most of the holes were small enough to patch with wood instead of steel. It took extensive work to get the ship capable of sailing to the West Coast. When it arrived at Puget, it received new anti-aircraft guns and a full overhaul.

The Nevada took part in the Aleutian Islands Campaign just one year after Pearl Harbor before going on to fight at Normandy on D-Day. It headed back to the Pacific and fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The battleship USS California sits in drydock in 1942 as crews prepare to begin major repair operations.

(U.S. Navy)

USS California slammed a Japanese Fuso-class battleship with shells

The California crew was able to get into fighting position as Japanese bombers closed in, but that just left officers in perfect position to watch the track of the torpedo that hit the ship in the opening minutes. As damage control got underway, a second torpedo hit the ship followed by a single bomb. All this was made worse when the crew had to abandon ship as the fires from the USS Arizona floated around the California.

But the crew came back and kept the ship afloat for three days before it finally sank into the mud. Salvage operators had to build cofferdams to begin repairs so that crews could access previously flooded areas. As the ship emerged from the water, caustic solutions were used to remove corrosion and seawater. It sailed for the West Coast in October 1942.

By the time the California left the Puget Sound Navy Yard in late 1943, it had nearly all new parts, from the engine to many weapons. It used these to fight at the Marianas, bombard Saipan and Guam, and then slam a Fuso-class battleship at Surigao Strait with over 90,000 pounds of munitions.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The USS Downes on left and USS Cassin, capsized on right, sit on the partially flooded floor of Drydock No. 1 on Dec. 7, 1941, after suffering multiple bomb hits and internal explosions.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Cassin

The destroyers USS Cassin and USS Downes were in drydock on December 7. So they were essentially impossible to damage with torpedoes, but were highly susceptible to bombs. Guess what Japan hit them with? Bombs passed entirely through the Cassin and exploded on the drydock floor, and both ships were set on fire and struck by tons of fragments. Cassin even toppled off its blocks and struck the drydock floor.

The USS Cassin’s keel and hull were warped by the damage, and the hull was filled with holes. The shell plating was wrinkled. Crews disassembled the ship and sent most everything but the hull to Mare Island where they were installed in a new shell. Despite the entirely new hull, the Navy considered the resulting ship to still be the USS Cassin.

The Cassin was sent against Marcus Island, Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Palau, and the Philippine Islands. Yeah, it had a pretty busy war for a ship “lost” on December 7.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The USS Downes sails away from Mare Island to serve against Japan in World War II on Dec. 8, 1943, almost exactly a year after the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Downes

The Downes arguably suffered worst than the Cassin in drydock as the fires caused sympathetic detonations in the Downes‘ torpedoes and other weapons. It was also twisted by damage, and it had massive holes from the explosions. Downes had aluminum plating on its deckhouse that was completely destroyed.

Like the Cassin, the Downes had its hull scrapped and most of its innards installed in another hull in the shipyard on Mare Island.

This new and improved USS Downes fought at Saipan, Marcus Island, and Luzon. Like the Cassin, it had been declared lost after the Pearl Harbor damage.

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

The USS Oglala is visible in the foreground, mostly submerged on its side as other ships burned in the background on December 7 at Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Oglala

The minelayer Oglala technically didn’t suffer a hit on December 7, but a torpedo passed under it and hit the USS Helena. The blast from that crippled the old Oglala which had been built as a civilian vessel in 1906. The crewmembers took their guns to the Navy Yard Dock and set them up to provide more defenses. They also set up a first aid station that saved the lives of West Virginia crewmembers.

The ship suffered horribly, eventually capsizing and sinking until just a few feet of the ship’s starboard side remained above water. It was declared lost, and the Navy even considered blowing it up with dynamite to clear the dock it had sunk next to. But the decision was made that it could destroy the dock, so the Navy had to refloat it. At that point, it made sense to drydock and repair it.

After repair and refit at Mare Island Navy Yard, the Oglala was re-launched as a repair ship and served across the west Pacific. It actually joined the Maritime Reserve Fleet after the war and wasn’t scrapped until 1965, almost 60 years after its construction as a civilian passenger liner.

(Author’s note: Most of the information for this article came from The Navy Department Library’s online copy of Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal by Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin. It can be found online here.)

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