Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Defense Department officials want Congress to include in its fiscal 2019 defense policy bill new authorities to execute its plan to merge the Defense Commissary Agency with the three military exchange services under a single system of on-base stores to be called the Defense Resale Enterprise.

Resisting that effort out of public view are executives of the exchange services who fear their own success in running base department stores, gas stations and convenience outlets, which generate profits to support on-base morale, and recreational activities, could be put at risk by some of the policy executives they blame for deepening the decline in sales across the commissary system.


In 2016, Congress gave the department authority and new tools to “transform” base grocery stores, which for generations relied on taxpayer dollars to offer a wide array of brand products to military families and retirees at cost.

In addition, shoppers pay a five percent surcharge to fund the modernizing or replacement of aging commissaries.

The goal of recent reforms is to turn commissaries into profit-generating stores, similar to exchanges, thus lowering the $1.3 billion annual subsidy so that money can be diverted to more critical needs for sustaining a ready fighting force.

Congress insisted, however, that overall savings to patrons not drop, even as DeCA phases in more business-like practices. Two big ones are variable pricing of goods to replace the tradition of selling at cost, and adoption of commissary-label goods to compete for patron dollars with a narrowed selection of national brands.

Manufacturers over have competed through pricing for commissary shelf space. Surviving brands, in turn, often have cut coupon offerings and other promotions to make up for lower pricing, say industry sources.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
(Photo by Chiara Mattirolo)

Meanwhile, they have complained, it’s unclear whether their reduced profit margins are being passed on to patrons or retained to offset commissary operating costs. So far, critics in industry contend, one clear consequence of commissary reforms has been to accelerate declining sales.

Policy officials implementing the reforms are now seen as doubling down on their bet, insisting that, to survive, military resale stores must consolidate to squeeze out inefficiencies, rescue commissaries and evolve into super retailers to more effectively compete with commercial stores, not only on prices but on providing a more attractive, rewarding, and convenient shopping experience.

Officials are warning Congress, store suppliers and advocates for military shoppers that defending the status quo, amid falling sales, will jeopardize “the department’s ability to ensure the long-term viability” of base stores.

The comment appears in a draft legislative proposal for creating the Defense Resale Enterprise by merging DeCA with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange Command and the Marine Corps exchange system.

A merger, the proposal contends, will reduce reliance on appropriated funding; eliminate management redundancies; increase standardization of processes and systems; cut operating costs, and generate greater margins on goods sold “to be reinvested in price reductions, morale, welfare and recreation program funding and capital reinvestment.”

It also contends it “will increase the enterprise’s agility to respond to dynamic mission, industry and patron requirements and trends; and [to] ensure the long-term viability of these services” as benefits of military service.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
(Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi)

Sources say exchange officials are concerned that the team executing what so far are unproven commissary reforms is directing a merger of all resale operations with misleading claims. They are bristling at briefing materials to explain merger plans that lump exchanges in with DeCA as distressed operations. That’s just wrong, exchange leaders are contending, according to sources.

For example, AAFES touts that it has almost doubled earnings from sales over a recent five-year period, from 3.2 percent in 2012 to 5.9 percent in 2016, despite an 11 percent force drawdown across Army and Air Force in those years. Also, its website business is growing 50 percent annually and AAFES says it consistently has delivered about $375 million annually to support MWR programs.

And yet, sources say, to win support for a merger, Defense officials have portrayed exchanges as part of a failing resale system. The only store system that has been mismanaged, particularly against outside competitors, is DeCA, they insist. One internal communication referred to DeCA “the elephant in the room,” with sales down 20 percent since 2012 and current reforms aggravating patrons rather than turning sales around.

On April 12, 2018, Defense officials briefed some military associations on merger plans, perhaps also learned what sort of resistance to expect. Advocacy groups say they need to learn more.

“We are open to ideas that could make the system more efficient as long as they also preserve the value of the benefit for military families,” said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for National Military Family Association.

Priorities for families are to sustain shopper savings, improve the in-store experience and ensure proper funding of MWR programs, Huck added.

Streamlining of backroom processes across base stores to gain efficiency, without diluting the shopping benefit, “is something we support,” said Brooke Goldberg, director of military family policy for Military Officers Association of America. But how does a full merger of stores benefit the exchanges, she asked.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis)

“We don’t have answers on that,” she said.

“The intriguing part of all this is the untapped potential of commissaries…[T]here are things that should be explored [to] preserve that benefit. But we also want to preserve the exchange benefit,” Goldberg said. “Any change to the commissary that negatively affects the exchange is not something we support.”

Steve Rossetti, director of government affairs for the American Logistics Association, the industry trade group for businesses supporting military resale, cautioned against using exchange earnings to underwrite a wider resale enterprise. The earnings belong to patrons, he said, and have been used for decades to reinvest in exchanges and support MWR to improve base community programs.

Rossetti suggested Defense officials should focus first on reversing the falloff in sales at commissaries before launching a merger with exchanges to try to gain long-term efficiencies, and also that they “take a long hard look before they leap to ensure benefits truly outweigh costs.”

There’s fear a broken commissary system, and the quest to cut taxpayer support of it, could endanger still thriving exchanges if, through merger, their profits are seen as a life raft to save grocery discounts as the law requires.

The draft legislative proposal, however, describes different goals aimed at keeping all base retail operations competitive, for example by allowing exchanges and commissaries to combine into single stores. This could “respond to generational shopping habits” and to market forces “impacting all traditional grocery and retail stores,” it says. “Millennials (ages 22-36), who collectively represent the majority of military shoppers, [are] using technology to shop and save, and are driven by speed, convenience, proximity, variety, (rather than brand) and experiences.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This anti-aircraft Stryker is really good at killing tanks

The Army is pursuing a new variant of the Stryker wheeled armored fighting vehicle, the Stryker Initial Maneuver Short-Range Air-Defense system, or Stryker IM-SHORAD. As the name implies, this vehicle will specialize in knocking nearby airborne targets out of the sky — but it’s not exclusively a threat to drones, helicopters, and tactical jets. Tanks and armored vehicles will need to watch their step, too.

According to reports, this vehicle is going to pack a lot of firepower options. At the heart of the Stryker IM-SHORAD is the Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform from Moog — a versatile turret that can be configured to support a wide range of weapons options.


The loadout that the Army has selected will feature a 30mm M230 chain gun (similar to that on the AH-64 Apache), a M240 7.62mm machine gun, four FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. What this means, in short, is that just about any main battle tank or armored vehicle can be killed by Stryker IM-SHORAD.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

This configuration of the Reconfigurable Integrated Weapons platform packs a M230 chain gun, a M240 machine gun, and the BGM-71 TOW.

(Moog)

The Army is reportedly planning on buying four battalions’ worth of these vehicles — a grand total of 144 — by 2022. That distills down to 36 vehicles per battalion — yeah, that number seems a little low to us, too. The fact of the matter is, in a potential fight with a peer competitor (like Russia or China), the Army will need some sort of air defense alongside maneuver units on the ground. This would not be the first vehicle the Army has tested with both anti-air and anti-tank capability. The Air Defense Anti-Tank System, or ADATS, was developed but never purchased by the Army.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

The ADATS system was tested by the Army in the 1980s.

(US Army)

This may not be the only setup the Army goes with for the short-range air-defense mission. The Army is looking to adopt new, innovative weapons systems (these could range from electronic warfare to lasers weaponry) by as early as 2023.

Only time will tell if these futuristic weapon options make the Stryker IM-SHORADs look like a primitive solution.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Interview with HISTORY’s Garry Adelman: ‘GRANT’ 3-night miniseries event starting Memorial Day

HISTORY’s six-hour miniseries event, “Grant,” executive produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and biographer Ron Chernow and Appian Way’s Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio and produced by RadicalMedia in association with global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) will premiere Memorial Day and air over three consecutive nights beginning Monday, May 25 at 9PM ET/PT on HISTORY. The television event will chronicle the life of one of the most complex and underappreciated generals and presidents in U.S. history – Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant: Official Trailer | 3-Night Miniseries Event Premieres Memorial Day, May 25 at 9/8c | History

youtu.be

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Garry Adelman has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg for more than a decade. Seen here holding the first Civil War photo he owned, given to him by his grandmother when he was 17 years old.


Garry Adelman is the Chief Historian with American Battlefield Trust. He is a Civil War expert, published author and the vice president of the Center for Civil War Photography. He appears on the forthcoming miniseries “GRANT” that will air over three consecutive nights beginning Monday, May 25 at 9PM ET/PT on HISTORY.

The American Battlefield Trust has preserved more than 15,000 acres of battlefield land, hallowed ground, where Grant’s soldiers fought.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020

Leaders who lead from the front are very popular, however, even in today’s military there are officers who believe they’re above that. Grant was very hands on, how did he imprint that side of leadership onto his officers?

More than anything he was a product of his time. He would have learned at West Point and his war in Mexico in the 1840s that: Lieutenants, Colonels and Brigadier Generals are expected to recklessly expose themselves to danger at that time to inspire their men. It’s one of the roles of the civil war officers had to do this by possessing unbelievable personal bravery. He was cool under fire and by not being shy to roll his sleeves up to get a job done and remain cool under fire he inspired his troops to do the same.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Photo by Joe Alblas Copyright 2020

Maintaining order and discipline in the chaos of combat is paramount. Was there anything special about Grant’s training methods that turned raw recruits into warriors?

I’m not aware that Grant trained his troops in anyway, substantially different than other civil war commanders. What Grant did was give his soldiers victory.

“If you follow my example, if you stick to your post and do your duty, if you relentlessly pursued and attacked in front of you – I will give you victory- you will be part of that victory.”

That is the key to grant, more than any particular training he gave them. Again, leading by example and giving soldiers a purpose.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020

When I was deployed to Afghanistan, my platoon had the luxury of having internet maybe twice a month. How did Grant facilitate communication between his troops and their loved ones?

A lot of people don’t realize but to be a great commander in the 19th century, as today, you do not simply possess the skills of strategy and tactics but rather you need to be an excellent communicator, which Grant was. You need to be an excellent administrator, which Grant was, and in the latter manner; Grant was keeping his troops fed, kept his telegraph lines open, by keeping the mail running, Grant kept his troops happy.

Those troops were able to communicate primarily by letter, sometimes by telegraph, to get important messages home and more importantly to receive letters from home – including care packages. Grant accomplished that through the greatly underrated attribute of being organized.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Photo by Joe Alblas Copyright 2020

Grant’s popularity grew among the civilian population following his victories on the field of battle, how did he feel about becoming a celebrity General?

I think Grant could have done without any of the celebrity he achieved. Some of that allowed him to get certain things done, especially when he became President of the United States. It helped him become President of the United States, however, if Grant could keep a low profile and getting the job done – in this case; winning the civil war – it was all the better for him. An example: He arrived to be the first general to receive a third star since Washington.

He’s going to become a Lieutenant General in the United States Army.

When he showed up to check into his room, nobody recognized him. They didn’t offer him a room, nothing special, until he wrote his name on the ledger then everybody knew he was Ulysses S. Grant. He didn’t go out of his way to make sure people knew that. I think he could have done without every bit of his celebrity.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

U.S. Military R.R., City Point, Va. Field Hospital


Brady, Mathew, 1823 (ca.) – 1896

These battles were brutal to say the least. What kind of medical care did Union troops receive?

Medical care in the Civil War really changed during the civil war. In fact, it is night and day between the beginning of the Civil War and the end of the Civil War.

Let me explain what I mean.

By 1862, both North and South recognized the inadequacies of their medical systems. By 1863, both sides had come to possess many of the systems that save lives today. In other words: Triage, trauma and our modern 911 system were all developed during the Civil War.

When they started asking questions: “What is that ambulance made of? What is in that ambulance? How many of each of those things are in those ambulances? Who stocks the ambulance? Who drives the ambulance? How does the ambulance know where to go with the wounded soldiers?

When they do get to a field hospital, who mans that field hospital? Who does the surgery? It was unbelievable the leaps and bounds these simple systems, created by a guy named Jonathan Letterman, made in preserving life during the civil war.

Let’s say I traveled back in time and watched a Civil War surgery being performed. Most were done with anesthesia, they didn’t bite the bullet and sawed through bone while people were perfectly awake, that was a very rare occurrence.

Nonetheless, I may be horrified by the lack of hygiene. I’d say, “Wash that saw!” and the doctor may stare at me and say, “Why?”

“Well, trust me here, you can’t see them but there are these little things that live on all of us. Some are good and some are bad. If the bad ones go in the wrong place you’re going to get really sick!”

They would absolutely lock me up in an insane asylum.

We now know things that the people of the Civil War didn’t. One thing they did know, though, was how to turn a wound into something they could treat. That’s why amputations are so common. They didn’t know how to treat internal injuries the way we do now, but they could cut something off and tie it off to give some chance of survival.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020

During Grant’s presidency, he installed a network of spies in the South to combat the growing threat of the Ku Klux Klan. How did these spies gather actionable intelligence for, now President, Grant?

During the Civil War when Grant had something to accomplish he rarely went at it in just one way. Rather, he would think of five different ways to go and deal with a particular problem and maybe one of them would stick. In the case of dealing with the Ku Klux Klan, Grant did everything he could in Washington, through legislation, to enforce the rights of these relatively recently freed African Americans.

However, he also appointed someone he thought he could trust; Lewis Merrill, a very active, athletic cavalryman. He employed a large body of spies in order to try to infiltrate and spy on the Ku Klux Klan. [The Klan] was so persistent, Merrill once joked, “Just shoot in any direction and if you hit a white man, he’s probably part of the Ku Klux Klan.”

That’s how pervasive it was.

His employment of spies, including African American spies, helped preserve some of the lives of his soldiers and helped to ultimately mitigate the Klan and the domestic terrorism that ensued.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

President Grant vetoes the 1874 Inflation Bill, bottling the Genie of Butler.

Paine, Albert Bigelow Th. Nast: His Period and His Pictures (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1904)

There is a divide between the portrayal of Grant versus the reality, such as the over blown perception of his drinking problem, which could be linked to his post-traumatic stress after the Mexican-American War and isolation in California – was there any real merit to the propaganda?

At one point, yes.

Ulysses S. Grant did in fact have a genuine drinking problem. Call it what you will, but it was really his enemies that took one aspect of him and constantly extenuated that as if it was a constant thing.

For instance, Grant had a drinking problem while out in California long before the Civil War so he must have one contrary to the evidence. If he won a battle, his enemies would still complain that he was a “butcher” because too many people died. Yet, by the time he died, he was loved by everyone – people of the south, the north, black, white, Native American, everybody.

Sadly that didn’t reflect in the 20th century interpretation of Grant. He’s a wildly popular figure who suffered at the hands of historians and only now are people reexamining him under a new light. We’re now more looking more critically at the claims of his drinking, him being a “butcher,” and the other terrible claims.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020

Both Grant and Lee were heralded as both being some of the greatest military minds. Grant mentions to Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse that the two had briefly met beforehand during the Mexican-American War. Were there any other interactions between the two – even if it was just Grant seeing Lee from the edge of the formation?

Certainly not before the war. Grant would, of course, know of Lee when Lee was the commandant at West Point and he was a cadet. Lee, for his part, could not remember Grant from West Point and barely from Mexico. What I don’t think people realize is how much the two worked together in the post-war period to reconstruct the nation. They did correspond and they would meet at least once after that. I find that especially interesting. These commanders that rose to the top of their respective armies because of their skills would, to a certain degree, end up working together to reunite this nation after such a brutal war.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

If you could go back in time and offer Grant one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell him don’t change a thing except one: When President Lincoln offers to you to go to Ford’s theater on April 14th, 1865 – accept the invitation. Bring a side arm and the two toughest men to guard the door. With that, maybe the life of Abraham Lincoln could have been spared.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How America would slaughter Kim’s nuclear subs

As North Korea continues with their will-they/won’t-they stance on de-nuclearization, it’s worth looking at what options the U.S. has for countering the doomsday weapon that North Korea might posses: a nuclear-armed, ballistic-missile submarine. These are, broadly speaking, comparable to America’s Trident submarines designed to deliver a nuclear strike anywhere in the world with zero warning.

So, how is the Navy ready to prevent a radioactive Alaska or metro Los Angeles?


Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Literally everything in this picture is more capable and stealthy than any asset the North Korean Navy has.

(U.S. Navy photo by Fire Control Technician Senior Chief Vien Nguyen)

America’s best offensive tool against enemy submarines is our own nuclear-powered attack subs. Right now, the Virginia class is the top of the line, and we’ve covered before how these things are basically 400-feet of black death. They’re super stealthy and capable of finding most other vessels underwater. They also carry a huge arsenal with up to 12 tomahawk cruise missiles and 38 torpedoes, usually the Mk. 48. They can also carry anti-ship missiles, but that requires trading out torpedoes.

When fully configured for anti-ship, anti-shore missions, the subs can take 50 shots at enemy forces on a single cruise. If it catches some enemy subs in the docks, the tomahawks can quickly wipe them out. But catching them underwater is even better since the Virginia-class can flood its torpedo tube, take its shot, and then disappear back into the surrounding ocean noise for a re-attack or to hunt down more targets.

Best of all, the Virginia-class has a huge noise advantage over North Korea’s fleet of antique and homegrown subs, all of which are diesel electric. While diesel-electric boats can be quieter than nuclear ones, it still requires a huge amount of research and engineering knowledge to create stealthy subs. North Korea’s fleet mostly pre-dates these developments and their performance in the open ocean has been less than stellar. It’s doubtful that their ballistic missile subs are much stealthier than the rest of the fleet.

Oh, and if you don’t like the Virginia class, we still have dozens of Los Angeles-class and Seawolf-class attack submarines that are also leaps and bounds ahead of anything North Korea can put to sea.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

The USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, fires an anti-submarine rocket that is otherwise known as the “North Korean party crasher.”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William McCann)

But surely we aren’t counting solely on a couple of subs being on-station when a potential war breaks out? Of course not —rest assured, scared doubter that I made up for this segue. America also has a number of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that we deploy to the Korean peninsula, especially during anti-submarine exercises.

The Arleigh Burke-class vessels are equipped with the awesome Aegis radar that you’ve likely heard so much about. If not, it’s such an amazing air defense radar that it’s often used on land-based installations to counter nearly anything that flies including Russia’s nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

If a North Korean sub actually got a nuclear missile into the air, the Arleigh Burke-class has a good chance of knocking it right back out of the sky. The chances are slim that the sub would even get a chance to fire that missile since the Arleigh Burkes’ towed sonar array would likely find the sub and the destroyer’s anti-submarine rockets could put a quick end to it.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

These things can hover over you, waiting as long as is required to murder you and your whole crew.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Benjamin A. Lewis)

Add in the destroyer’s anti-submarine helicopter (yup, it has those), and it’s hard to imagine that those poor North Korean crews have much of a chance.

But what if all of that is somehow not enough? After all, the subs and ships have to get fairly close to the North Korean subs to find them, and there’s a lot of ocean out there.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

NK Sub: I’ll just hide way over here, far from the destroyers and subs. P-8 Poseidon: LOL

(U.S. Navy)

Luckily, the U.S. has also invested in a little thing called the P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine maritime patrol aircraft. It’s a Boeing 737, but with all the flight attendants and overhead bins ripped out and replaced with all the electronics you could ever imagine, all focused on spying out enemy submarines and reporting their locations to any and every asset in the area that can hurt them. Badly.

The plane can also do search and rescue or whatever, but that’s not important for this discussion.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

America has all these assets to destroy North Korean subs. Meanwhile, this North Korean sub was captured when it got itself stuck against the South Korean coast.

(Idobi, CC BY-SA 3.0)

So, with all the assets in theater, there are planes and helicopters in the air scooping up data on everything under the water, surface ships towing sonar arrays, and submarines carefully patrolling beneath the waves, listening to everything that happens in every nook and cranny.

And once one of them finds a target, Americans in the air, on the sea, and under the surface can all start pinning it in and attacking it with a vengeance. So, good luck, North Korean submarine crews. For your sake, you better hope that your engineers somehow created more stealthy submarines than the U.S., Russia, China, or NATO, because you will be very dead otherwise.

Intel

Every Veteran Should Take ‘The Spartan Pledge’

The issue of suicide within the military and veteran community is a serious problem, and a former soldier named Boone Cutler is taking it head on.


Also Read: One Of America’s Most Elite Universities Is Helping Veterans In A Unique Way

“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family,” reads the Spartan Pledge, a new initiative started by Cutler.

The pledge started between Cutler and his battle buddy Nacho who served in Iraq with him. They lost touch after the military, but were brought together after Nacho’s friend – who was also a veteran – committed suicide.

The Spartan pledge was created after they both admitted to each other of having suicidal thoughts and not talking about it. Realizing the disproportional suicide rate among veterans, Cutler started engaging other war buddies with his pledge starting a viral effect.

According to Boone, the pledge ensures that veterans take care of themselves, take care of their own, and maintain a mission focus.

Here’s Boone’s video. He requests that you please pass it along.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nslIi09gCLQ

NOW: This disabled veteran describes his scars of war with incredible slam poetry. Watch the video

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MIGHTY HISTORY

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

On July 7, 1919, a group of U.S. military members dedicated Zero Milestone — the point from which all road distances in the country would be measured — just south of the White House lawn in Washington, D.C. The next morning, they helped to define the future of the nation.

Instead of an exploratory rocket or deep-sea submarine, these explorers set out in 42 trucks, five passenger cars and an assortment of motorcycles, ambulances, tank trucks, mobile field kitchens, mobile repair shops and Signal Corps searchlight trucks. During the first three days of driving, they managed just over five miles per hour. This was most troubling because their goal was to explore the condition of American roads by driving across the U.S.


Participating in this exploratory party was U.S. Army Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although he played a critical role in many portions of 20th-century U.S. history, his passion for roads may have carried the most significant impact on the domestic front. This trek, literally and figuratively, caught the nation and the young soldier at a crossroads.

Returning from World War I, Ike was entertaining the idea of leaving the military and accepting a civilian job. His decision to remain proved pivotal for the nation. By the end of the first half of the century, the roadscape — transformed with an interstate highway system while he was president — helped remake the nation and the lives of its occupants.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Eisenhower served in the Tank Corps until 1922.

(Eisenhower Presidential Library, ARC 876971)

For Ike, though, roadways represented not only domestic development but also national security. By the early 1900s it become clear to many administrators that petroleum was a strategic resource to the nation’s present and future.

At the start of World War I, the world had an oil glut since there were few practical uses for it beyond kerosene for lighting. When the war was over, the developed world had little doubt that a nation’s future standing in the world was predicated on access to oil. “The Great War” introduced a 19th-century world to modern ideas and technologies, many of which required inexpensive crude.

Prime movers and national security

During and after World War I, there was a dramatic change in energy production, shifting heavily away from wood and hydropower and toward fossil fuels – coal and, ultimately, petroleum. And in comparison to coal, when utilized in vehicles and ships, petroleum brought flexibility as it could be transported with ease and used in different types of vehicles. That in itself represented a new type of weapon and a basic strategic advantage. Within a few decades of this energy transition, petroleum’s acquisition took on the spirit of an international arms race.

Even more significant, the international corporations that harvested oil throughout the world acquired a level of significance unknown to other industries, earning the encompassing name “Big Oil.” By the 1920s, Big Oil’s product – useless just decades prior – had become the lifeblood of national security to the U.S. and Great Britain. And from the start of this transition, the massive reserves held in the U.S. marked a strategic advantage with the potential to last generations.

As impressive as the U.S.’ domestic oil production was from 1900-1920, however, the real revolution occurred on the international scene, as British, Dutch and French European powers used corporations such as Shell, British Petroleum and others to begin developing oil wherever it occurred.

During this era of colonialism, each nation applied its age-old method of economic development by securing petroleum in less developed portions of the world, including Mexico, the Black Sea area and, ultimately, the Middle East. Redrawing global geography based on resource supply (such as gold, rubber and even human labor or slavery) of course, was not new; doing so specifically for sources of energy was a striking change.

Crude proves itself on the battlefield

“World War I was a war,” writes historian Daniel Yergin, “that was fought between men and machines. And these machines were powered by oil.”

When the war broke out, military strategy was organized around horses and other animals. With one horse on the field for every three men, such primitive modes dominated the fighting in this “transitional conflict.”

Throughout the war, the energy transition took place from horsepower to gas-powered trucks and tanks and, of course, to oil-burning ships and airplanes. Innovations put these new technologies into immediate action on the horrific battlefield of World War I.

It was the British, for instance, who set out to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare by devising an armored vehicle that was powered by the internal combustion engine. Under its code name “tank,” the vehicle was first used in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. In addition, the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1914 was supported by a fleet of 827 motor cars and 15 motorcycles; by war’s end, the British army included 56,000 trucks, 23,000 motorcars and 34,000 motorcycles. These gas-powered vehicles offered superior flexibility on the battlefield.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Government airplane manufactured by Dayton-Wright Airplane Company in 1918.

(U.S. National Archives)

In the air and sea, the strategic change was more obvious. By 1915, Britain had built 250 planes. In this era of the Red Baron and others, primitive airplanes often required that the pilot pack his own sidearm and use it for firing at his opponent. More often, though, the flying devices could be used for delivering explosives in episodes of tactical bombing. German pilots applied this new strategy to severe bombing of England with zeppelins and later with aircraft. Over the course of the war, the use of aircraft expanded remarkably: Britain, 55,000 planes; France, 68,0000 planes; Italy, 20,000; U.S., 15,000; and Germany, 48,000.

With these new uses, wartime petroleum supplies became a critical strategic military issue. Royal Dutch/Shell provided the war effort with much of its supply of crude. In addition, Britain expanded even more deeply in the Middle East. In particular, Britain had quickly come to depend on the Abadan refinery site in Persia, and when Turkey came into the war in 1915 as a partner with Germany, British soldiers defended it from Turkish invasion.

When the Allies expanded to include the U.S. in 1917, petroleum was a weapon on everyone’s mind. The Inter-Allied Petroleum Conference was created to pool, coordinate and control all oil supplies and tanker travel. The U.S. entry into the war made this organization necessary because it had been supplying such a large portion of the Allied effort thus far. Indeed, as the producer of nearly 70 percent of the world’s oil supply, the U.S.’ greatest weapon in the fighting of World War I may have been crude. President Woodrow Wilson appointed the nation’s first energy czar, whose responsibility was to work in close quarters with leaders of the American companies.

Infrastructure as a path to national power

When the young Eisenhower set out on his trek after the war, he deemed the party’s progress over the first two days “not too good” and as slow “as even the slowest troop train.” The roads they traveled across the U.S., Ike described as “average to nonexistent.” He continued:

“In some places, the heavy trucks broke through the surface of the road and we had to tow them out one by one, with the caterpillar tractor. Some days when we had counted on sixty or seventy or a hundred miles, we could do three or four.”

Eisenhower’s party completed its frontier trek and arrived in San Francisco, California on Sept. 6, 1919. Of course, the clearest implication that grew from Eisenhower’s trek was the need for roads. Unstated, however, was the symbolic suggestion that matters of transportation and of petroleum now demanded the involvement of the U.S. military, as it did in many industrialized nations.

The emphasis on roads and, later, particularly on Ike’s interstate system was transformative for the U.S.; however, Eisenhower was overlooking the fundamental shift in which he participated. The imperative was clear: Whether through road-building initiatives or through international diplomacy, the use of petroleum by his nation and others was now a reliance that carried with it implications for national stability and security.

Seen through this lens of history, petroleum’s road to essentialness in human life begins neither in its ability to propel the Model T nor to give form to the burping plastic Tupperware bowl. The imperative to maintain petroleum supplies begins with its necessity for each nation’s defense. Although petroleum use eventually made consumers’ lives simpler in numerous ways, its use by the military fell into a different category entirely. If the supply was insufficient, the nation’s most basic protections would be compromised.

After World War I in 1919, Eisenhower and his team thought they were determining only the need for roadways — “The old convoy,” he explained, “had started me thinking about good, two lane highways.”

At the same time, though, they were declaring a political commitment by the U.S. And thanks to its immense domestic reserves, the U.S. was late coming to this realization. Yet after the “war to end all wars,” it was a commitment already being acted upon by other nations, notably Germany and Britain, each of whom lacked essential supplies of crude.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

11 ‘Game of Thrones’ deaths you need to prepare yourself for

As the final season of Game of Thrones rapidly approaches, a lot of questions about the show remain: Will Dany and Jon be able to find a way to defeat the White Walkers? Is Cersei really pregnant? Will Jamie finally apologize to Bran for pushing him out a window so he could keep his incestuous love affair a secret? But one thing is abundantly clear: A lot of people are going to die in the last six episodes. And in anticipation of the onslaught of death that millions of us will be witnessing, we decided to create a list of 11 characters that need to be dead by the time the final credits roll.


To be clear, this isn’t just a list of the characters we hate the most (though there are a few of those). Instead, it’s a look at whose deaths make the most sense in the scope of the larger story. So we are offering our perspective on which character deaths are the most appropriate narratively. With that in mind, here is our Arya-esque list of 11 characters who need to join Ned, Joffrey, and Ygritte in the great orgy in the sky.

1. Cersei

This one is simple. From day one, Cersei has been nothing short of a monster and any hope she had of redeeming herself disappeared when she revealed she was going to leave Jon and Dany to fight the White Walkers without her help. It could be Jamie or Arya or literally anyone but for Game of Thrones to have an ending that feels satisfying, Cersei has to die.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFcXXP7NSV8
Game of Thrones S5 – Cersei Flashback

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2. Varys

Westeros’ last remaining gossip (RIP Littlefinger) doesn’t really have a role to play now that the never-ending game of thrones has been temporarily tossed aside in favor of fighting the White Walkers. He seems to mainly just look concerned while other people make decisions. Plus, Melisandre has already predicted his death and so it would be kind of weird if he lived.

3. The Moutain

It could be argued at this point that, technically, Gregor Clegane isn’t even really alive, as he seems to be more of some kind of Frankenstein’s monster than a human. But regardless, viewers have been clamoring for the Cleganebowl since Season 1 and hopefully, we finally get to see Sandor complete his redemption tour by murdering the shit out of his brother.

4. Theon Greyjoy

The disgraced ruler formerly known as Reek has experienced a lot of grief over seven seasons (to be fair, a good portion of it was caused by his own selfishness and disloyalty) but he has made some steps towards cleaning his filthy conscience and is now leading a mission to rescue his sister Yara. At this point, the best ending for Theon would involve him sacrificing himself to save Yara and perhaps even kill off his dickhead uncle Euron for good measure. Bittersweet? Absolutely but that’s about as good as it’s going to get for the guy.

Game of Thrones 7×07 – Theon Greyjoy and Jon Snow

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5. Euron Greyjoy

Game of Thrones is filled with iconic villains but Euron has been mostly disappointing as a wrongdoer who seems to have been tossed into the mix to stir up chaos, to underwhelming results. At this point, if he doesn’t die in some grotesque fashion, then what has all of this been about?

6. Bronn

This one hurts to write but hear me out. Our favorite quick-witted mercenary has always made a point of choosing survival over loyalty every time but it seems only fitting that at some point, he’s going to decide to turn on Cersei and join Jamie and Tyrion in the fight against the Whites. And knowing this show, he will probably be rewarded for this choice by getting viciously killed doing something heroic.

7. Bran Stark

One of the Starks has to die, right? Sansa and Jon seem like the most likely to live and while most people will put their money on Arya, I think Bran dying actually makes the most sense. As the new Three-Eyed Raven, Bran clearly still has a large role to play in the final season. But once the war is over, what does an emotionless prophet like Bran do? Looking at his awkward reunion with his sisters, it’s pretty clear a return to normalcy isn’t an option. So is he going to hang out in a tree like his mentor? Sounds depressing so I think the best send-off would be him kicking the bucket while putting a plan in motion that will allow the remaining Westerosians to take down the Night King and his crew.

Game of Thrones 7×04 – Arya reunites with Sansa and Bran

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8. Dany or Jon

Right now, these kissing cousins are blissfully residing in Bonetown but the idea of them both somehow surviving and then ruling Westeros together seems too good to be true for Game of Thrones, right? This is a show that delights in subverting happy endings so it feels like the bittersweet ending would be for one of them to die heroically in battle, leaving the other to rule on their own. My money is on Dany but don’t be surprised if Jon becomes the first person since Lazarus to die twice.

9. Jorah Mormont

The traitor turned Dany devotee has managed to avoid death over and over again, which naturally means death is going to catch up with him to collect at the end. It will make me sad but it feels right that he goes out in a blaze of glory, perhaps even saving his unrequited love.

10. A Dragon

A major theme of the last season is going to be the sacrifice it takes to achieve victory and while it will break all of our hearts, that tells me that a second dragon is going to have to die. Which one? Most people have predicted Rhaegal but it wouldn’t surprise me if the show goes for the gut-punch and kills off Drogo, Dany’s favorite. Brutal? Absolutely but let’s not forget this is a show that turned a wedding into one of the most visceral bloodbaths in TV or movie history.

11. The Night King

Do I even need to explain this one? He’s the main villain and if he is alive at the end, that means every non-White Walker is probably dead. So this motherfucker’s gotta go.

Jon Snow vs The Night’s King – Game of Thrones 5×08 – Full HD

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This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Podcast

4 survival skills that will help you thrive in a disaster or zombie apocalypse

Do you have a plan for the catastrophe most likely to affect your area? Since the WATM staff is based in LA, our most likely natural disaster is either an earthquake or devastating mudslides. We wondered which one of us in the office (aside from our office Green Beret) was most likely to survive such an event.

The surprise was that some of us have more skills than you might think.


Former Air Force intelligence officer Shannon Corbeil is an avid camper. As is Army veteran and radio operator Eric Milzarski. Veteran Corpsman Tim Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, is a borderline survivalist. As for me, Air Force combat cameraman Blake Stilwell, my plan is to get rescued as soon as possible — hopefully before my rations run out.

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During an earthquake, you’re supposed to seek cover, duck, and protect your neck. Shannon Corbeil was raised in the Los Angeles area, and was in major earthquakes in 1987 and 1994. The WATM crew also has different ideas on what to do after the crisis passes: account for resources or create a team of skilled party members, ready for adventure and initiative?

And then, like the real U.S. troops having a survivalism discussion that we are, we lay out our plans for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

But there are at least four very important general aspects of survival to talk about either after a disaster, in the wild, or yes, the zombie apocalypse. The most important is being prepared! Don’t wait until disaster strikes to try and get supplies. You’ll be food for the people who went to the Army-Navy surplus ahead of time.

Also, you need to figure out how to navigate through your new, post-apocalyptic world, either by the stars or the sun. Or perhaps you even made your own compass with a leaf and water.

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Finally, your life has some direction.

In the wild, you need a little bit more. You need to figure out how you’ll filter water, start a fire, and identify edible food. Forget that most of us are bad at picking real food in our daily lives — the stakes are much higher when Taco Bell is closed for the end of days.

Finally, you need a game plan for a disaster. What would you do if a disaster struck your area? Find out what the folks at WATM came up with in this week’s episode.

Resources Mentioned:

Key Points:

  • What do you need to carry with you in case of an emergency.
  • If you don’t know any survival skills, you are not alone.
  • Use Krazy Glue for wounds; use Doritos for kindling.
  • Surviving in the wild is much harder than surviving a disaster.
  • Earthquakes don’t feel like earthquakes until they do.

Sponsors:

  • Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
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Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

September 11, 2001 means different things for different Americans. For some, the events of that date will forever be seared in their memories. For others, they were too young to know what was going on, yet they sensed something big had happened. For a younger generation, 9/11 is history. They read about it in textbooks that are absent the feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress that plagued so many Americans on that morning and the days following.

But, it’s an important date. It’s a date that represents sacrifice. Many people died, putting the lives of others before theirs. It’s a date that represents unity. Americans came together to offer up support to the families of the fallen. It also represents mistakes. Following the events of 9/11, Muslims and Middle-Eastern Americans had to weather the racial blowback that came from 19 men flying planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.


What’s important is that we remember. And that our kids know what happened that day, so the sacrifices, the story of Americans coming together, as well as the mistakes we made are not forgotten. And a great way to share memories is through stories. In her debut middle-school novel, Caroline Brooks DuBois gives us The Places We Sleep. It’s a story about a young girl navigating a new school (because her dad is in the Army) during the events of September 11, 2001. I recently interviewed Caroline to learn more about her book.

WATM: This novel touches on so many different themes: 9/11, racism, being a military kid, being a middle schooler, and being a young girl in middle school. Could you talk a little bit about the story you tell in The Places We Sleep?

Caroline: With Abbey, I attempted to create a middle school character who is as multifaceted as the pre-teens and teens I know and teach (and adore). Middle schoolers currently are living through very complex times, yet they are still concerned about their complexion, their hair, what to wear, who said what to whom, getting embarrassed in front of their peers, and so much more. In the story, Abbey navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events, so I hope readers will see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. In the years that followed 9/11, my brothers and my brother-in-law were all called into active duty and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. These events were the seed for Abbey’s story. I knew I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and families in unexpected ways. But I also wanted to tell a story about a girl with whom readers could relate. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, and friendship.

WATM: Who should pick this book up? Is this a book a parent could read with their middle schooler to talk about 9/11?

Caroline: Middle grade students I’ve taught have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11 and are curious and want to know more. There are several great books for young readers on 9/11 that I’ve incorporated into my teaching over the years, as I’ve found reading stories offers an opening to difficult subjects. I hope The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy.

Although the story is written for middle-school age kids, adults have told me the story resonates with them as well. It allows readers to visit, or revisit, 9/11 in the safe space of a story. The current national trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic may have a similar traumatic impact on youth and adults. Reading with a child about a dark time in our history is one way to open up conversation on important topics such as resiliency, strength, attitude, and hope. My hope is that the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. If they see Abbey journey through difficult times and come out stronger, they too may be inspired and optimistic in the face of their generation’s own difficult times.

WATM: You chose to tell the story in Verse. Could you talk about that decision and why you think it will appeal to readers?

Caroline: As a teacher and parent, I’ve noticed the appeal of shorter and/or alternative forms of story-telling (e.g., books in verse, flash fiction, graphic novels, epistolaries, etc.), undoubtedly influenced by technology and reading online. Even though I have a love for long form and traditional novels, I’ve noticed how books in verse can create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate or hook adolescent readers.

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium for Abbey’s story.

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Where you may not have time to read an entire chapter with someone, there’s always time for a poem or two.

WATM: On top of all the other crazy events in the book, Abbey also deals with the struggle of puberty. A lot of middle school books gloss over this. But, it’s a main part of Abbey’s story. Could you discuss why you chose to address it in your novel?

Caroline: When I was a pre-teen, one of the few sources for making sense of puberty was Judy Blume novels, which we passed covertly between friends (Think: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). Changing bodies were cringe-worthy and carried heavy feelings of shame. Not enough has changed since then. I should know: I taught 7th grade for three years recently, and I saw it when girls cornered me at my desk to signal with their eyes they needed an emergency bathroom break, or when boys shut down in class conversations, avoiding branding themselves as not part of the pack. Novels that talk about puberty openly and other difficult issues are lifesavers for youth. Now more than ever, young readers need to be able to see themselves in books. Sometimes it takes a character in a book to show a reader they are not alone. Forewarning, my second reason is a little cerebral and a slight spoiler regarding Abbey’s character arc. Through her journey, Abbey makes a connection between coming of age (a.k.a, getting her period) and possessing the power to create life. She contemplates how the terrorists on 9/11 chose to destroy life. Coming of age brings with it many choices about how to act, and sometimes acting with integrity and authenticity means not following your peers—and that’s a true test of character.

WATM: Outside of classical literature, this is the first time I’ve ever read a novel in verse. Since you got your MFA in poetry, what are some of the must-reads in this genre?

Caroline: In this space, I’ll mainly mention notable middle-grade novelists who write in verse, but there are also numerous young adult novelists who write in verse as well. Disclaimer: These are a few of my own personal favorites and there are many others not included: Kwame Alexander (sports-themed Crossover and Booked), Sharon Creech (Love that Dog and Hate that Cat), Thanhha Lai (Inside Out Back Again), and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming). Additionally, Ellen Hopkins is a must-read author of books in verse for young adults; she tackles challenging topics such as drug addiction and mental illness in her unapologetic, in-your-face verse. One of my all-time favorite novels in verse is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, which tells the story of 14-year-old Billie Jo, who struggles to help her family survive the Dust Bowl.

The Places We Sleep is available on Amazon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a teenager with a Cessna’s insane trip helped topple the Soviet Union

Back in 1987, the world was a very different place. While the Soviet Union was on a crash course with destiny, the power the nation wielded–backed by a massive nuclear arsenal–had left it in a decades-long staring match with the United States.

Mutually Assured Destruction, a doctrine of military strategy that left the two nuclear powers in a stalemate President Ronald Reagan described as a “suicide pact,” had left the world in an uneasy state of both peace and war simultaneously. And nowhere was this dichotomy more present than in the homes of residents of East and West Germany. The nation had been divided since the end of World War II, with NATO’s Western powers in West Germany, and a Soviet puppet-state called the German Democratic Republic in the east.


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East German students sit atop the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate in front of border guards in 1989 (University of Minnesota Institute of Advanced Studies)

By 1987, the wheels that would ultimately tear down the Berlin Wall dividing East and West Germany physically and ideological were already turning, and a young man named Mathias Rust was keen on playing his part in history. Like many young adults, Rust was increasingly politically minded. Unlike most 18-year-olds, he also had a pilot’s license and access to a Cessna 172 airplane that had been modified by removing the rear seats for added fuel capacity.

In October of 1986, Rust had watched the Reykjavík summit between U.S President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. As that summit ended in a stalemate, Rust felt the overwhelming urge to find a way to make a difference.

“I thought every human on this planet is responsible for some progress and I was looking for an opportunity to take my share in it,” he would go on to tell the BBC.

Rust soon began forming a plan. President Theodore Roosevelt once famously said, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have,” and while it’s unlikely that Rust was aware of the axiom, his actions embodied the premise. He took stock of the skills he had, the resources he had available, and the situation to begin forming an idea. He’d take his little Cessna directly into the heart of the Soviet Union in a political spectacle he hoped would inspire others.

“I was thinking I could use the aircraft to build an imaginary bridge between West and East to show that a lot of people in Europe wanted to improve relations between our worlds,” Rust said.
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Rust’s rented Cessna 172 (WikiMedia Commons)

By May 13, 1987, Rust was ready to put his plan into action, but he still harbored understandable doubts. Today, Russia is renown for their advanced air defense systems, and the same was true of their Soviet predecessors. The USSR maintained the most elaborate and largest air defense system anywhere on the globe and they had demonstrated a propensity for using it against civilian aircraft. Only about five years earlier, the Soviets had shot down a South Korean airliner that had strayed into their airspace, killing all 269 passengers on board.

Rust told his parents he was leaving on a tour of Northern Europe that would help him accumulate more hours toward his professional pilot’s license, and for the first few days, that’e exactly what he did. After a few days of traveling, he stayed in Helsinki, Finland for a few days and pondered what he was about to do. He wanted to make a big public statement, but he wasn’t keen on dying in the process.

“Of course I was afraid to lose my life. I was weighing if it is really responsible, reasonable, to take this kind of risk. At the end I came to the conclusion, ‘I have to risk it.'”

He filed a flight plan that would have taken him to Stockholm and took off just like he would on any other day. As Rust recalls, he still wasn’t really sure he would go through with it until well after he was already airborne.

“I made the final decision about half an hour after departure. I just changed the direction to 170 degrees and I was heading straight down to Moscow.”
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Rust’s flight path (WikiMedia Commons)

It wasn’t long before Soviet air defenses were alerted to his presence. They were tracking him on radar, and within an hour of diverting from his flight plan, fighters had been scrambled to intercept his little Cessna. He was flying low–only about 1,000 feet off the ground or 2,500 feet above sea level, and donned his crash helmet.

“The whole time I was just sitting in the aircraft, focusing on the dials,” said Rust. “It felt like I wasn’t really doing it.”

Fate was on Rust’s side, however, and one of the fighter pilots reported seeing what he believed was a Yak-12–a Soviet plane that looks similar to a Cessna 172. Either the pilot or his air traffic controllers decided that the plane must have been allowed to be there, because they broke off pursuit. At around the same time, Rust descended below the clouds to prevent them from icing up his wings, which also made him disappear from Soviet radar. Once he passed the clouds, he climbed back up to 2,500 feet and popped back up on their radar scopes.

Suddenly, he spotted fighters emerge from the cloud cover in front of him.

“It was coming at me very fast, and dead-on. And it went whoosh!—right over me. I remember how my heart felt, beating very fast,” he explained. “This was exactly the moment when you start to ask yourself: Is this when they shoot you down?”

Before he knew it, Soviet Mig-23 interceptors pulled up alongside him from both beneath him and his left. The single-seat, swing-wing Mig-23 was capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2.3 (more than 300 miles per hour faster than an F-35) and was positively massive compared to Rust’s little Cessna. In order to flank him, the Migs had to lower their landing gear and extend their flaps to scrub their speed enough not to scream past Rust and his single-prop 172.

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Soviet Mig-23

“I realized because they hadn’t shot me down yet that they wanted to check on what I was doing there,” Rust said. “There was no sign, no signal from the pilot for me to follow him. Nothing.”

Rust would later learn that the pilots were indeed trying to contact him, but were using high-frequency military channels. Finally, the Migs pulled their landing gear in, dropped their flaps and screamed off into the distance again, circling rust twice in half mile loops before departing. Rust had once again made it through a brush with Soviet interceptors and was still flying straight for the Soviet capital.

A later investigation would confirm that, either the pilots assumed the Cessna was indeed a Soviet Yak-12, or their command didn’t think the situation warranted any concern. Shortly after the fighters departed, luck would once again deal in Rust’s favor. He unknowingly entered into a Soviet air force training zone where aircraft with similar radar signatures to his own were conducting various exercises. His small plane got lost in the radar chatter, which would save his neck in the following minutes.

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The Soviet Yak-12 looks very similar to a Cessna 172 (WikiMedia Commons)

Protocol required that all Soviet pilots reset their transponder at frequent intervals, and any pilot that didn’t reset theirs would immediately show as hostile on radar. At 3pm, just such a switch was scheduled, but because Rust was flying among a group of student pilots, the Soviet commander overseeing radar operations assumed he was a student that had absent-mindedly forgotten to switch his transponder. He ordered the radar operator to change Rust’s radar return to “friendly,” warning that “otherwise we might shoot some of our own.”

An hour later, Rust was little more than 200 miles outside of Moscow, and subject to a new region’s radar and air defense scrutiny. Once again, radar operators spotted the small aircraft and intercept fighters were dispatched, but the cloud cover was too thick and they were unable to find the small Cessna visually. Soon thereafter, another radar operator would mark Rust’s plane as “friendly,” mistaking it for a search and rescue helicopter that had been dispatched to the region.

As Rust approached Moscow’s airspace, the report that was forwarded to the air defense in the area listed a Soviet aircraft seemingly flying with its transponder off, rather than anything about a West German teenager infiltrating hundreds of miles of heavily guarded Soviet airspace.

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Soviet 2K12 “Kub” air defense system (Andrey Korchagin on Flickr)

Rust then flew his small plane over Moscow’s infamous “Ring of Steel,” which was made up of multiple overlapping air defense systems built specifically to protect the Soviet capital from American bombers. Air defense rings surrounded Moscow at 10, 25, and 45 miles out, all capable of engaging a fleet of heavy bombers, but none the least bit interested in the tiny plane Rust piloted.

Shortly thereafter, Rust entered the airspace over the city itself–an area that had all air traffic heavily restricted, even military flights. As Rust flew over Moscow, Soviet radar operators finally realized something was terribly amiss, but it was too late. There was no time to scramble intercept fighters; Rust was already flying from building to building, trying to identify Moscow’s famous Red Square.

“At first, I thought maybe I should land inside the Kremlin wall, but then I realized that although there was plenty of space, I wasn’t sure what the KGB might do with me,” he remembers. “If I landed inside the wall, only a few people would see me, and they could just take me away and deny the whole thing. But if I landed in the square, plenty of people would see me, and the KGB couldn’t just arrest me and lie about it. So it was for my own security that I dropped that idea.”
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Moscow’s Red Square

Rust spotted a 6-lane bridge that led into Red Square with sparse traffic and only a few power lines he’d need to avoid. He flew over the first set of wires, then dropped the aircraft down quickly to fly below the next set. As he nearly touched down, he spotted a car directly in his path.

“I moved to the left to pass him,” Rust said, “and as I did I looked and saw this old man with this look on his face like he could not believe what he was seeing. I just hoped he wouldn’t panic and lose control of the car and hit me.”

With his wheels on the ground, Rust rolled directly into Red Square. He had wanted to park the plane in front of Lenin’s tomb, but a fence blocked his path and he settled for coming to a stop in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral. He shut down the engine and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath as the reality of his situation slowly engulfed him. He had done the impossible.

“A big crowd had formed around me,” Rust recalled. “People were smiling and coming up to shake my hand or ask for autographs. There was a young Russian guy who spoke English. He asked me where I came from. I told him I came from the West and wanted to talk to Gorbachev to deliver this peace message that would [help Gorbachev] convince everybody in the West that he had a new approach.”
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Rust next to his Cessna 172 in Moscow’s Red Square

He had anticipated being captured immediately by the KGB, but instead found the crowd confused and delighted by his stunning entrance. One woman gave him some bread. A young soldier chastised him for not applying for a visa, but credited him for the initiative. What Rust didn’t realize was that the KGB was already present, and agents were already worming through the crowd, confiscating cameras and notebooks people had Rust sign.

An hour later, two truck loads of Soviet soldiers arrived. They mostly ignored Rust as they aggressively pushed the crowds back and put up barriers around the teenager and his plane. Then three men arrived in a black sedan, one of whom identified himself as an interpreter. He asked Rust for his passport and if they could inspect the aircraft. Rust recalls their demeanor as mostly friendly and even casual.

The plane was then taken to the nearby Sheremetyevo International Airport where it was completely disassembled during its inspection, and despite the friendly demeanor of the Soviets, he was immediately transported to Lefortovo prison. The prison was infamous for its use by the KGB to hold political prisoners.

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A modern view of the Lefortovo prison (WikiMedia Commons)

Initially, the Soviets refused to believe that Rust had accomplished his daring mission without support from NATO forces. The date he chose, May 28, was Border Guards Day in the Soviet Union, and they accused him of choosing the day intentionally to embarrass them. Then they accused him of getting the maps he’d used to reach Moscow from the American CIA… that is, until the Soviet consul in Hamburg confirmed that they could purchase the very same maps through a mail order service.

After realizing Rust was not the world’s youngest and most ostentatious CIA operative, they finally charged him illegal entry, violation of flight laws, and “malicious hooliganism.” Rust pleaded guilty to the first two charges, but refused the third, claiming he had no malicious intent. Nonetheless, he was found guilty on all counts by a panel of three judges and sentenced to four years in the same Lefortovo prison. Despite the prison’s harsh reputation, Rust was mostly well cared for, and even allowed to have his parents visit every two months.

In 1988, Rust was released from prison in a “goodwill gesture” following a treaty between Reagan and Gorbachev that would have both nations eliminate their intermediate range nuclear missiles. It was not quite such a happy ending for many Soviet officials however.

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Rust’s re-assembled Cessna on display in the German Museum of Technology (WikiMedia Commons)

In a way, Rust’s flight did exactly what he’d hoped. The stunt had seriously damaged the reputation of the Soviet military and provided Gorbachev with the leverage he needed to outfox those who opposed his reforms.

Almost immediately following Rust’s landing in Red Square, the Soviet defense minister and the Soviet air defense chief were both removed from their posts for allowing such an egregious violation of Soviet airspace. Shortly thereafter, hundreds of other officers were also removed from their positions. Rust’s flight led to the single largest turnover of Soviet officers since the 1930s, according to Air Space Magazine.

Rust would never sit behind the stick of an aircraft again, but would go down in history as the only pilot to defeat the entirety of the Soviet military using a rented, single prop, trainer plane. Unfortunately, Rust’s seemingly heroic stunt has been overshadowed by the troubled man’s continued run-ins with the law. In the early 90s, he received another prison sentence for assaulting a woman that refused his romantic advances. In 2005, he was again convicted of a crime–this time for fraud. Today he describes himself an analyst for an investment bank, seemingly keen to leave his high-flying theatrics behind him.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY CULTURE

10 unintentionally hilarious military acronyms

The United States military loves slapping an acronym on anything that moves. Actually, things that don’t move are equally likely to be described with a jumble of letters when words would do the trick just fine.

Sometimes it’s obvious that the acronym-izer should’ve put more thought into the process, and we get some unintentionally hilarious descriptors.


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1. PMS

Every Professor of Military Science is used to the giggles because every new set of students is equally immature.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

2. MANPADS

While we’re on the subject of bodily functions, anyone who’s carrying a Man-Portable Air-Defense System better be ready for a few comments about whether they might need a diaper.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

A male chicken is usually called a rooster but it’s also known as a cock.

3. MANCOC

Students at the Army’s Maneuver Advanced NCO Course must’ve gotten mighty tired of questions about their MANCOC. Perhaps that’s why it’s now called the Senior Leader Course.

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Richard Cheney is known as Dick to his friends.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

4. DICC

But those guys likely were not nearly as tired as the intelligence officers answering questions about their Defense Intelligence Collection Cell.

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John Travolta is king of the disco in “Saturday Night Fever.”

(Paramount)

5. DISCO

Spending an evening processing requests down at the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office isn’t nearly as glamorous as the acronym might suggest.

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Aladdin and Princess Jasmine take a magic carpet ride.

(Disney)

6. MAGIC CARPET

OK, maybe the acronym for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologieswasn’t unintentional. Someone put a lot of effort into making that one work.

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One Dr. Bob is a noted folk artist. The other co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous.

7. DRBOB

The future of commissaries and exchanges may be in the hands of the Defense Resale Business Optimization Board, but how many New Orleans folk art fans think of the famed painter behind the city’s “Be Nice or Leave” signs? What about the AA members who know Dr. Bob as Bill W.’s cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous?

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Rick and Morty should be your preferred source for fart humor.

(Adult Swim)

8. FARP

Everyone at the Forward Area Refueling Point is tired of your fart jokes.

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We can’t really go there.

9. FAP

The Fleet Assistance Program, aside from assigning Marines to extra duties outside the normal chain of command, raises an entire set of issues that we can’t really discuss here.

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A fine-looking bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

10. BLT

Who wouldn’t enjoy a delicious Battalion Landing Team?

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Brazilian trainer thinks it can replace the Warthog

Brazil has had a decent aerospace industry centered on Embraer, a conglomerate that made everything from airborne radar planes to trainers. However, that industry has gotten a little too full of itself lately. They think one of their trainers can replace the A-10.

Now to be fair, this trainer, the Super Tucano, is doing some attack work with the Afghan Air Force and is a contender in the Air Force’s OA-X program, advancing to a fly-off with the AT-6. Two other contenders, the AT-802 and the Textron Scorpion, didn’t make it to the fly-off. Stinks to be them, but honestly, could any of them really replace the A-10?


But we digress. We’re not here to cyberbully a wannabe A-10 to the point that Selena Gomez has to consider making an aviation version of 13 Reasons Why, despite how much fun it would be to really make said wannabe feel really bad about itself. Even though it should… but again, we digress.

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The fact is, the P-51 Mustang could arguably fly circles around the A-29, but the A-29 makes for a decent trainer.

(USAF photo)

No, we are here to take a look at this plane, which is already giving honorable service in the fight against terrorism. It’s been dropping bombs on al-Qaeda and the Taliban for a bit. It’s in service with over 14 countries.

The Super Tucano boasts a top speed of 229 miles per hour (the P-51 Mustang could hit 437). It can carry rockets, bombs, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, air-to-air missiles, and gun pods for use against enemy forces. The plane also boasts a maximum range of 2,995 miles. Currently, 205 Super Tucanos are in service around the world.

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The United States Air Force is one of 14 countries using the Super Tucano.

(USAF photo)

While the winner of the OA-X competition has yet to be determined, the Super Tucano does have a decent track record as a trainer and light attack plane. Learn more about this Brazilian A-10 wannabe in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrHqQ1u1yOI

www.youtube.com


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The American howitzer you never heard much about

Some artillery pieces become very famous. Some of the most notable are the French 75 of World War I, or the Napoleons used during the Civil War, or the German 88. But some are less well-known, but packed a big punch – or long range – of their own.


One such artillery piece is the M107 self-propelled howitzer. This 175mm artillery piece entered service in 1962, alongside the M110, an eight-inch self-propelled howitzer. It could fire shells as far as 25 miles away – and this long range proved very handy during the Vietnam War.

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SGT Max Cones (gunner) fires a M107, 175mm self-propelled gun, Btry C, 1st Bn, 83rd Arty, 54th Arty Group, Vietnam, 1968. (US Army photo)

The M107 is not like the M109 self-propelled howitzer in that it is open, and lacks both a turret and on-board ammunition storage. As such, it needed its ammo vehicles nearby to provide shells. The M107 was fast for an armored vehicle, with a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and could go almost 450 miles on a single tank of fuel.

The M107s used the same chassis as the M110s. In fact, Olive-Drab.com reported that the two self-propelled howitzers could exchange guns, thus a M107 could become a M110, and vice versa. This was used to good effect in Vietnam, where the barrels could be swapped as needed at firebases. Israel also used the M017 for decisive effect in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, destroying a number of Syrian and Egyptian surface-to-air missile batteries, and even shelling Damascus.

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A gun crew member from 1st Battalion, 83rd Arty, takes a short break on top of the loading mechanism of his self-propelled 175 while waiting for further instructions. (US Army photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the M107 fired only one type of conventional round, the M347 high-explosive round. The gun didn’t see service long past the Vietnam War. The M107 had a long reach, but it was not accurate – rounds like the laser-guided Copperhead or the GPS-guided Excalibur had not been developed yet.

An extended barrel for the M110 was developed, and in the late 1970s many M107s were converted to the M110A2 standard. The M110s eventually were replaced by the M207 MLRS.

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