Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

“I am 95 years old,” said James Davis. “I am a World War II veteran, and I’m the last of my unit.”

Davis sat stoically in the chair, his head cocked to one side due to his poor hearing. His hands folded over the grip of his walking stick and his experienced eyes were surveying the room of soldiers and the distinguished guests in attendance who had come to hear him speak.

Davis spoke confidently, not fazed by Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan, Hawaii State, Adjutant General and Brigadier General Kenneth Hara, Hawaii State, Deputy Adjutant General, and along with the Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Dana Wingad who attended to hear Davis speak.


“I was in one of the first ten firefighting units created,” Davis said. “We were one of four units to deploy overseas to Africa. I made the landing on D-Day plus one on the southern French coast, but not Normandy.”

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

Davis, a Firefighter Historian, and last surviving member of the 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon, had come to the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 103rd Troop Command Armory in Pearl City, Hawaii to provide a professional development seminar to the 297th Engineer Fire Fighting Team. Davis became the Historian of his unit 30 years ago.

“I was born blind in one eye,” Davis said. “So, I figured the Army wouldn’t want me. But I registered with the selective service as was required by law. A few months later, the Army said, ‘We want you!'” The room laughed, as Davis chuckled.

Davis entered the United States Army as a selective service limited service inductee early of 1943. Due to his limitations, Davis was not permitted to deploy into combat.

Davis would not initially serve as a firefighter for the Army.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers 103D command staff attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“I started in another Corps,” Davis said. “The Army came looking for people like me that had had experience in wild land fires. Which I had had from the National Park Service. There weren’t many with firefighting experience. We had some training and some the job training. That was typically how we learned how to fight fires, ‘OJT.’ Between the end of World War I and Dec. 7, 1941 there was no class of Army firefighter, they didn’t exist.”

Six months later, he was deployed to Noran, Algeria.

“One year later, I’m hitting the beach on D-Day plus one,” Davis said. “We are very proud of what we did, in many respects. We were by in large, selective service inductees with no fire experience.”

Davis would go on to tell the role of the Army firefighter during World War II

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“When we went to shore in France, we had 37 men and five fire trucks,” Davis said. “We had engineer firefighting platoons that fought anything that burned, military or civilian.”

The 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon served a number of roles from supporting engineering missions as well as supporting combat operations. They were able to utilize their equipment to accomplish missions that normal military equipment could not accomplish.

The Army firefighter was also called upon to directly support combat operations on the front lines of the war.

“When we went into the forward areas, we worked behind the artillery,” Davis said. “Because the adversary would be throwing incendiary rounds, trying to burn the guns out, and would set fire in the process.”

Davis’ history and connected to the lineage and the roots of the 297th FFT Command.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“He loves firefighting,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Odoardi, 103 Troop Command Sergeant Major. “He loved the job. He’s sharing that history with our guys, sharing their roots. In regards to professional development, it was an opportunity for our small firefighter group to learn from somebody who did it in World War II. It was amazing. We have such a diverse set of Military Occupational Specialties, anytime we can capture history from the past, especially from a veteran, it’s invaluable”

“We got to learn our history,” said Staff Sgt. Julius Fajotina, Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer for the 297th FFT. “I didn’t think firefighting went back to the Legions of Rome. Knowing where we came from and knowing what we equipment we have now, it’s amazing what firefighter Davis accomplished.”

Davis is the last surviving member of his unit and his story will continue on through the soldiers of the 297th FFT.

“We did what we could, with what we had,” Davis said. “It wasn’t adequate, but we are proud of what we did.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

A Pentagon spokesman said July 11 that he hopes reports of the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are true and advised the terror group to develop a “strong succession plan.”


In response to a query from Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland about the alleged death of Baghdadi, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the military effort against ISIS, said the US cannot confirm reports of his demise, but added that the Pentagon “hope[s] it is true.”

“We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession, it will be needed,” the spokesman continued.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi.

A monitoring group called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Newsweek on July 11 that it had confirmed Baghdadi is dead based on information received from the second in line for ISIS leadership.

“(We have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor,” Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR director, said. “We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how.”

Baghdadi allegedly died near the Iraqi border.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
US-led Coalition successfully executes a large scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility. (DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.)

Reports of Baghdadi’s death follow about a month after the Russian Defense Ministry stated it possibly killed Baghdadi in an airstrike near Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city in Syria. At the time, the Syrian Observation for Human Rights claimed the Russians were simply fabricating information, and the Pentagon said it was unable to independently confirm those reports — just as it is still unable to confirm the new report from the SOHR.

Since 2014, Baghdadi has been reported dead numerous times. The State Department has placed a $25 million dollar bounty for any information leading to his capture.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 Questions with Greg Bishop: From Bosnia to the Box Office

Greg Bishop advanced from private in the Army to Lieutenant Colonel, across a spectrum of specialties from Infantry to the Signals Corps and finally to Public Affairs. He had a dream to work in Hollywood when he was young which he fulfilled through his military service. Bishop runs MUSA Consulting now for the entertainment industry advising on different projects. Bishop has produced his own feature Ktown Cowboys and worked on projects such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Battlefield 4 and Snitch.


Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?

I grew up in the suburbs of Louisville, KY, in a normal, all-American, middle-class family and experience. I was the third of four boys, I had loving parents who are still married today. My father, who was a Marine Corps officer and Vietnam Veteran, was tough but a great role model. My mother took great care of us boys and she was our superhero. We grew up in the pre-home-video game era, so we spent most of our time outside, playing sports, riding bikes, chasing girls and getting into normal boyhood trouble complete with skinned knees and elbows, broken bones and hearts.

2. What values were stressed at home?

With my father being a Marine, and having four boys within six years of one another, discipline, hard work and personal responsibility were paramount in the Bishop household. A strong work ethic was instilled in all of us, so all of the Bishop Boys worked as soon as we were big enough to rake leaves, shovel snow, or cut grass. Our family also pretty much had a newspaper delivery dynasty in the neighborhood for several years. All of us delivered papers until we were old enough to have a regular job, and that was back in the days when newspapers were delivered two times a day. Once old enough, we all had after school jobs washing dishes, busing tables, working in fast food, or whatever we could do to make money legally.

We all went to private Catholic high schools and we were expected to pay half of our tuition for the first three years; our parents covered all of it in our senior year. At the time it was tough. My friend’s parents were giving them money for their hobbies and entertainment while I had to work to pay for the things I wanted or wanted to do. My Mom would slide us a couple bucks if she knew we were tight on cash, but for the most part if I wanted to go to the arcade and play video games, those were my quarters going in the machine. I bought my first car at 15 before I even had a driver’s license. It was a lot of work for a kid, but in the end, my parent’s lessons paid off. All of my brothers currently work for themselves in one capacity or another.

3. What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?

I wasn’t the best student in high school. I had to go to summer school my freshman year, and I think I only had two A’s in my four years…one in Physics and one in Film Appreciation. Don’t ask me to explain that. In my junior year I was cast as an actor in a local educational video on teen suicide. The director allowed me to tag along throughout the production and post-production process. That was my first taste of video production and I really loved it. My senior year, in the film appreciation class, I made a Super-8 movie as the final project, and that’s when I really fell in love with film and video production. I loved the process and everything about it. I knew I needed to go to film school.

Now, there were no film schools in Louisville, so I attended a couple regional colleges for a couple of years, but it wasn’t really doing anything for me. I desperately wanted to go to film school. Then one day I saw an Army commercial promoting the GI Bill and the Army College Fund which just so happened to be the amount of money I needed. I went to see a recruiter; told him I wanted the college money and if I was going to join the Army, I also wanted to paint my face green and run through the woods with a gun. I signed up for the infantry and I shipped off to Basic Training February 27, 1989. While at Fort Benning, I was offered the opportunity to apply for Army OCS (Officer Candidate School). I was accepted and made it through OCS. I was commissioned a year and a day after I arrived at Basic Training and spent the first half of my career as an Army Signal Officer serving in Korea, Fort Campbell and Germany. I wasn’t really thrilled with being a Signal Officer.

While at Fort Campbell I met, fell in love and married my amazing wife, and then the Army let me finish my degree through their Degree Completion Program. I got my bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University, which is right outside of Fort Campbell. I studied public relations there and did a summer internship in an advertising firm. At this point the film school dreams began to dwindle, but I enjoyed advertising because it was still very creative. So while still serving I took the GMAT, applied for MBA programs, all with the intention of getting out of the Army and going to work in advertising.

I still owed the Army a few years because of the time they gave me to finish my degree, so fast forward a couple of years, in the mid-90’s, I was stationed in Germany and deployed to Bosnia. One day I stumbled on an article in the Stars and Stripes, about Army Advertising, that changed my life. I learned that I could do advertising IN the Army. I loved being a Soldier, I just didn’t like the Signal Corps. I learned I needed to become a public affairs officer to get that job, so after my company command time in the Signal Corps, I transitioned over to Army Public Affairs, and my first job in that career field was with Army Recruiting Command’s Advertising Directorate at Fort Knox.

While stationed at Fort Knox I was accepted into the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling program and I went to USC (University of Southern California) where I got my MA in Strategic Public Relations. While there, I learned about this awesome job in LA where a Public Affairs Officer served as the Army’s liaison to the entertainment industry. I really wanted THAT job one day.

While at USC, OIF and OEF started, so after graduating I was assigned to Fort Campbell and deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division from ’05-’06. I was one of the first brigade combat team PAOs during the Army’s “Transformation” period. I had a great team, an important mission, and was part of one of the best divisions in the Army. It was a tough but rewarding year.

After Iraq I was assigned as the Deputy PAO for the Headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in downtown DC. After serving there for a couple of years it was again time for a reassignment. I learned an important lesson from a senior officer once and it was to not just accept any assignment the Army offers you. If you want something, you have to fight for it. I fought very hard to get the PAO job in Hollywood. My branch manager told me that the entertainment office position was open, but he would not fill the slot because the Chief of Public Affairs (2-star general) believed it didn’t need to be filled. I told my branch manager that that position was one of the most important public affairs jobs in the Army, but he assured me the general had made his decision, and it was “final.” I told him that I was going to write a white paper on why it was such a critical position and why I was the right guy for it…I asked him to promise me that he’d read it. He did, and he agreed, but now had to go change the mind of a 2-star general to put me into that position.

The general called me into his office a couple weeks later, told me my white paper made sense and he thanked me for keeping him from making a mistake. I admired him for his humility. He told me to pack my bags, you’re going to Hollywood. A few months later, I was on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and I thought to myself, “Holy shit, the Army got me to Hollywood.” It was a surreal experience. I retired from the Army about 10-years ago and have been working in the entertainment industry ever since.
Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Bishop with his Drill Sergeant on Basic Training graduation day.

4. What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?

I am most proud of just being a soldier and serving. I am proud to represent our country. I’m proud that I began my Army career as a Private First Class with no degree and finished as a Lieutenant Colonel with a master’s degree. My proudest achievement in service was the year I spent in Iraq where I like to say we fought the information war. Serving as a PAO doing media relations with major news agencies was interesting but working with the Iraqi people to set up their own newspapers and media outlets was the most rewarding. I helped Iraqi citizens run their own businesses, instructing them on how to create a revenue model for their newspapers, radio and TV stations. I also helped my two interpreters create a market research company that helped the local government, the U.S. Army and the U.S. State Department understand the concerns and opinions of local Iraqi citizens. We advised the police, fire and government public affairs of what it means to tell their citizens the truth. We were there for the first election in Iraq and I got to be a small part of it. It was an incredible experience.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Bishop (top left) deployed in Bosnia.

5. What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?

The military and entertainment business are very similar. I told Michael Bay once that, “you shoot film and we (the Army) shoot bullets, everything else is the same.” People in entertainment might be shocked to hear this, but both industries require teamwork, leadership, planning, and even OPSEC. You deal with fiefdoms, budgets and timelines. Hard work and discipline are key. Understanding the commander’s intent, or the director’s vision, it’s the same. Neither culture suffers fools for very long. Both are meritocracies for the most part. I think it’s more so in the military than in Hollywood, and Hollywood is more nepotistic that the military, even though that exists in both worlds. But if you’re good at what you do, you’ll succeed. I knew the Army trained me to be a producer, I just needed to learn the entertainment industry language.

6. What project did you most enjoy doing while working in Hollywood?

I worked in Hollywood as a soldier and as a civilian. As a soldier, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the most fun. It was a Michael Bay movie, so we blew things up and we fired thousands of rounds on set. We had nearly everything in the Army inventory in that movie. There were so many explosions. We shot live rounds from Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles on set. The set caught on fire a couple times. Everybody was out there putting the fire out. Even Michael Bay had a hose in his hand putting out the fire. Every day was just a blast.

As a civilian, it has to be producing my first movie Ktown Cowboys with my business partner Brian Chung. We took it from script all the way to distribution. It premiered at SWSX (South-by-Southwest) in 2015 and it was a nerve-racking experience having so many strangers watching our film. But there’s nothing more rewarding than watching an audience laugh and enjoy a film that your team made. Finishing a movie is very tough. Making a bad movie is hard, making a great film is almost impossible. The military trained us to face challenges and solve difficult situations. That’s true in a military operation and it’s true in the film business.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

MLRS from the Army in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Photo credit Paramount Studios.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

MLRS from the Army in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Photo credit Paramount Studios.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

The film that Greg produced. Photo credit IMDB.com

7. What was it like transitioning to Hollywood?

Even though I had worked in the Entertainment industry for the Army it was harder than you may think. The industry doesn’t have the time to help anybody else achieve their dreams unless it’s a family member. Most people stop returning my phone calls once I no longer “had the keys” to Army helicopters, troops, vehicles, locations, etc.

I knew some people at Electronic Arts who worked on the Battlefield franchise. Working with them was one of our first gigs. One of the early challenges we had was knowing how much to charge for our services. As a Soldier, you work as long as it takes to accomplish the mission and your pay is the same regardless of outside circumstances. There’s really no relationship between pay and time in the military. I remember in one of our early phone calls with EA one of the producers asked us how much we charge for our services. At the time we had no idea what our time and expertise was worth. We threw out a number and the EA guys laughed at us. They literally said, “We can pay you more than that!” Lesson learned.

We probably wasted a lot of money and time starting a business immediately after retirement because we were career military guys and not trained businessmen. We made some mistakes, learned a lot, but we’ve been doing this for more than 10-years now.

One other similarity between Hollywood and the military is both cultures tend to slap labels on people. In the military we literally wear those labels on our uniform. That’s one of the things that always bothered me about the military culture. Promotions and career paths tend to be very rigid and bureaucratic. In the civilian world there are 25-year old CEOs and they’re judged on performance of their leadership and the company. There aren’t any 25-year-old generals. The entertainment industry is similar though because if you’re a consultant, in their mind you’ll always be a consultant. It’s tough to use that role as a stepping stone into something bigger like acting, or directing, or producing.

Our consulting company was essentially our film school. It helped us learn the language of the industry. In 2012 we created our production company, and while our consulting company is still operating and growing, our production company is our primary focus these days.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Bishop working with Norman Lear on Netflix’s reboot of “One Day at a Time”.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Photo credit IMDB.com

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

A screenshot of Battlefield 4. Photo credit imdb.com.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra released in 2009. Photo credit IMDB.com.

8. What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?

I have a few leadership lessons.

  1. For big challenges, eat the elephant one bite at a time. Don’t let the scope of the challenge intimidate you. Take it on incrementally.
  2. You have to do the work. A lot of young people think accomplishing something is as easy as Googling it. It isn’t. You have to do the work, and oftentimes the work is more difficult than you imagine.
  3. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Write the white paper telling the two-star general he is making a mistake.
  4. Teamwork. It’s critical that you come together to achieve a common mission or objective. You won’t do it alone.

For those getting out of the military soon, I recommend that you find and do something you’re passionate about. Do something that excites you. Do something that will make you look at weekends as a distraction and look forward to Monday mornings. Whatever you are passionate about and love doing, find a way to do it and make money from it. If it doesn’t work, you can always get a government job or contracting job or whatever job other retired military people do.

9. As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?

In 1927 the first Academy Award for Best Picture went to the Army for a movie called Wings. The military has been part of Hollywood ever since and military stories have always been a part of the DNA of filmmaking and storytelling in Hollywood. For decades Hollywood was patriotic and told mostly pro-American stories portraying our troops against foreign enemies. Yes, it was probably borderline propaganda, but it was a unifying effort from people who loved their country. After the Vietnam War, and even more so after 9/11, most films and television programs about our troops were about fighting their own government, their chain of command or themselves. The politics in the industry shifted along with the way Hollywood portrayed our military. Hollywood struggles with telling authentic stories about our military. It seems we’re mostly portrayed as superheroes or broken mental patients. To answer your question, the only way we can change Hollywood is to do it ourselves. That is the only way it is going to get done authentically. We need to work to become the writers, or producers, or financiers to fund our own content. It’s easier to do that today than it’s ever been, but it’s still extremely difficult.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

A scene from Wings in 1927 that won the first Oscar for Best Picture. Photo credit Paramount Studios.

10. What are you most proud of in life and your career?

Personally, I am most proud of my marriage to my wife of 25 years. She is my life’s purpose. Career wise, building three businesses with my business partner Brian Chung. But I am not done yet, so we will see what comes next.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army will spend $500 million training to fight underground

U.S. Army leaders say the next war will be fought in mega-cities, but the service has embarked on an ambitious effort to prepare most of its combat brigades to fight, not inside, but beneath them.

Late 2017, the Army launched an accelerated effort that funnels some $572 million into training and equipping 26 of its 31 active combat brigades to fight in large-scale subterranean facilities that exist beneath dense urban areas around the world.

For this new type of warfare, infantry units will need to know how to effectively navigate, communicate, breach heavy obstacles, and attack enemy forces in underground mazes ranging from confined corridors to tunnels as wide as residential streets. Soldiers will need new equipment and training to operate in conditions such as complete darkness, bad air, and lack of cover from enemy fire in areas that challenge standard Army communications equipment.


Senior leaders have mentioned small parts of the effort in public speeches, but Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia’s Maneuver Center of Excellence — the organization leading the subterranean effort — have been reluctant to discuss the scale of the endeavor.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
(U.S. Army photo by John Lytle)

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘ok, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter, so let’s brush it up a little bit.”

Left unmentioned were the recent studies the Army has undertaken to shore up this effort. The Army completed a four-month review in 2017 of its outdated approach to underground combat, and published a new training manual dedicated to this environment.

“This training circular is published to provide urgently needed guidance to plan and execute training for units operating in subterranean environments, according to TC 3-20.50 “Small Unit Training in Subterranean Environments,” published in November 2017. “Though prepared through an ‘urgent’ development process, it is authorized for immediate implementation.”

A New Priority

The Army has always been aware that it might have to clear and secure underground facilities such as sewers and subway systems beneath densely-populated cities. In the past, tactics and procedures were covered in manuals on urban combat such as FM 90-10-1, “An Infantryman’s Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas,” dated 1993.

Before the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mission for taking large, underground military complexes was given to tier-one special operations units such as Army Delta Force and the Navy‘s SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

But the Pentagon’s new focus on preparing to fight peer militaries such as North Korea, Russia and China changed all that.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

An assessment last year estimates that there are about 10,000 large-scale underground military facilities around the world that are intended to serve as subterranean cities, an Army source, who is not cleared to talk to the press, told Military.com.

The Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group — an outfit often tasked with looking ahead to identify future threats — told U.S. military leaders that special operations forces will not be able to deal with the subterranean problem alone and that large numbers of conventional forces must be trained and equipped to fight underground, the source said.

The endeavor became an urgent priority because more than 4,800 of these underground facilities are located in North Korea, the source said.

Relations now seem to be warming between Washington and Pyongyang after the recent meeting between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But in addition to its underground nuclear missile facilities, North Korea has the capability to move thousands of troops through deep tunnels beneath the border into South Korea, according to the Army’s new subterranean manual.

“North Korea could accommodate the transfer of 30,000 heavily armed troops per hour,” the manual states. “North Korea had planned to construct five southern exits and the tunnel was designed for both conventional warfare and guerrilla infiltration. Among other things, North Korea built a regimental airbase into a granite mountain.”

For its part, Russia inherited a vast underground facilities program from the Soviet Union, designed to ensure the survival of government leadership and military command and control in wartime, the manual states. Underground bunkers, tunnels, secret subway lines, and other facilities still beneath Moscow, other major Russian cities, and the sites of major military commands.

More recently, U.S. and coalition forces operating in Iraq and Syria have had to deal with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria operating in tunnel systems.

Learning to Fight Underground

To prepare combat units, the Army has activated mobile teams to train the leadership of 26 brigade combat teams on how prepare units for underground warfare and plan and execute large-scale combat operations in the subterranean environment.

So far, the effort has trained five BCTs based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Camp Casey, Korea; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Army trainers have a January deadline to finish training 21 more BCTs located at bases including Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Bliss and Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Richardson, Alaska, the source said.

The 3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado is next in line for the training.

Army officials confirmed to Military.com that there is an approved plan to dedicate $572 million to the effort. That works out to $22 million for each BCT, according to an Army spokeswoman who did not want to be named for this article. The Army did not say where the money is coming from or when it will be given to units.

Army leaders launched the subterranean effort in 2017, tasking the AWG with developing a training program. The unit spent October-January at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, developing the tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs, units will need to fight in this environment.

“Everything that you can do above ground, you can do below ground; there are just tactics and techniques that are particular,” the source said, adding that tactics used in a subterranean space are much like those used in clearing buildings.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
(U.S. Army photo by Erick Warren)

“The principles are exactly the same, but now do it without light, now do it in a confined space … now try to breach a door using a thermal cutting torch when you don’t have air.”

Three training teams focus on heavy breaching, TTPs and planning and a third to train the brigade leadership on intelligence priorities and how to prepare for brigade-size operations in subterranean facilities.

“The whole brigade will be learning the operation,” the source said.

Army combat units train in mock-up towns known as military operations in urban terrain, or MOUT, sites. These training centers often have sewers to deal with rain water, but are too small to use for realistic training, the source said.

The Defense Department has a half-dozen locations that feature subterranean networks. They’re located at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Story, Virginia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana; Tunnel Warfare Center, China Lake, California and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, according to the new subterranean training manual.

Rather sending infrastructure to these locations, units will build specially designed, modular subterranean trainers, created by the AWG in 2014. The completed maze-like structure is fashioned from 15 to 20 shipping containers, or conexes, and sits above ground.

Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, talked about these new training structures at the Association of the United States Army’s LANPAC 2018 symposium in Hawaii.

“I was just at the Asymmetric Warfare Group recently; they had built a model subterranean training center that now the Army is in the process of exporting to the combat training centers and home stations,” Townsend said.

“I was thinking to myself before I went and saw it, ‘how are we going to be able to afford to build all these underground training facilities?’ Well, they took me into one that wasn’t underground at all. It actually looked like you went underground at the entrance, but the facility was actually built above ground.But you couldn’t tell that once you went inside of it.”

Shipping containers are commonplace around the Army, so units won’t have to buy special materials to build the trainers, Hedrick said.

“Every post has old, empty conexes … and those are easily used to simulate working underground,” Hedrick said.

Specialized Equipment

Training is only part of the subterranean operations effort. A good portion of the $22 million going to each BCT will be needed buy special equipment so combat units can operate safety underground.

“You can’t go more than one floor deep underground without losing comms with everybody who is up on the surface,” Townsend said. “Our capabilities need some work.”

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

The Army is looking at the handheld MPU-5 smart radio, made by Persistent Systems LLC, which features a new technology and relies on a “mobile ad hoc network” that will allow units to talk to each other and to the surface as well.

“It sends out a signal that combines with the one next to it, and the one next to it … it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” the source said.

Off the shelf, MPU-5s coast approximately $10,000 each.

Toxic air, or a drop in oxygen, are other challenges soldiers will be likely to face operating deep underground. The Army is evaluating off-the-shelf self-contained breathing equipment for units to purchase.

“Protective masks without a self-contained breathing apparatus provide no protection against the absence of oxygen,” the subterranean manual states. “Having breathing apparatus equipment available is the primary protection element against the absence of oxygen, in the presence of hazardous gases, or in the event of a cave-in.”

Soldiers can find themselves exposed to smoke, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane natural gas underground, according to the manual.

Breathing gear is expensive; some apparatus cost as much as $13,000 apiece, the source said.

Underground tunnels and facilities are often lighted, but when the lights go out, soldiers will be in total darkness. The Army announced in February 2018 that it has money in its fiscal 2019 budget to buy dual-tubed, binocular-style night vision goggles to give soldiers greater depth perception than offered by the current single-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggles and AN/PVS 14s.

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle B uses a traditional infrared image intensifier similar to the PVS-14 along with a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display. The Army is considering equipping units trained in subterranean ops with ENVG Bs, the source said.

Units will also need special, hand-carried ballistic shields, at least two per squad, since tunnels provide little to no cover from enemy fire.

Weapon suppressors are useful to cut down on noise that’s significantly amplified in confined spaces, the manual states.

Some of the heavy equipment such as torches and large power saws needed for breaching are available in brigade engineer units, Hedrick said.

“We definitely did put some effort into trying to identify a list of normal equipment that may not work and what equipment that we might have to look at procuring,” Hedrick said.

Jason Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for new American Security, was skeptical about the scale of the program.

Dempsey, a former Army infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, told Military.com that such training “wasn’t relevant” to fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He questions spending such a large amount of money training and equipping so many of the Army’s combat brigades in a type of combat that they might never need.

“I can totally understand taking every brigade in Korea, Alaska, some of the Hawaii units — any units on tap for first response for something going on in Korea,” said Dempsey, who served in the combat units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division.

“Conceptually I don’t knock it. The only reason I would question it is if it comes with a giant bill and new buys of a bunch of specialized gear. … It’s a whole new business line for folks whose business tapered off after Afghanistan.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This year’s Gerber baby is an Army brat

Georgia Army National Guard Spc. Jason A. Warren, an aircraft powertrain repairer with the Marietta, Georgia-based Company D, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, and his wife Cortney garnered national media attention on Feb. 9, 2018, when their son, Lucas, was named the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby.


The Warrens were amazed when they received the news of Lucas’ win.

“Absolute shock,” said Jason. “It was hard to believe he won out of 140,000 entries.”

Also read: This former Army officer celebrates July 4 by competing in hot dog eating contests

Lucas, diagnosed with Down syndrome, is the eighth Gerber baby since the contest began in 2010. Inspired by the original Gerber baby sketch of Ann Turner Cook, families began sharing their baby photos with Gerber. In response, Gerber launched its first official photo search competition in 2010.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
Georgia Guardsman Spc. Jason Warren smiles for a picture with his wife Cortney and son Lucas. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

“We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have potential to change the world,” said Cortney. “Just like our Lucas.”

The Warrens hope other families with special needs children can look to Lucas as a source of inspiration.

“We hope this will help people kick-start their own lives and give them more confidence,” said Jason. “They might think if Lucas can do this, what can I do in my life?”

Related: This video shows why quadruple-amputee Travis Mills is an inspiration to all

The winning photo shows Lucas, sitting in an overstuffed chair, grinning from ear to ear wearing a black and pink polka-dot bow tie.

“He is very outgoing and never meets a stranger,” said Cortney. “He loves to play, loves to laugh, and to make other people laugh.”

“He is just the absolute cutest thing ever,” said Staff Sgt. Misty D. Crapps, supply sergeant with Company D, 171st Aviation Regiment. “He always smiles at everybody he sees.”

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
Georgia Guardsman Spc. Jason Warren smiles for a photo with his wife Cortney and son Lucas. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

Jason looks forward to continued service in the Georgia Army National Guard. He feels a sense of pride and family being part of the organization.

“I absolutely love the Guard: the ability to help my community and serve my country,” said Jason. “The benefits of service are always great to have, and it allows me to serve my country the way I want to.”

More: This commander prepped for war by organizing a beard growing contest

The fellowship of his teammates in his aviation unit also reinforces the feeling of family.

“The Guard has been with me with everything I’ve ever done,” said Jason. “Through my grandmother’s passing, when I had shoulder surgery, they’ve helped Cortney and me a lot, and they are a second family to us.”

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
Lucas Warren, the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

The aviators and Guardsmen in Jason’s unit share his feeling for service in the Guard and look forward to his continued service.

“He always volunteers to do the little things which are not part of his job description to make the unit better,” said 1st Sgt William W. Adcock of Company D, 171st Aviation Regiment. “Specialist Warren is a fantastic Guardsman. He does what we all do: dedicates his time and personal energy to serve the people of this state and the United States.”

Jason plans to re-enlist in March 2018 for another six years and hope Lucas sees him and understands the importance of service.

“I hope one day Lucas will see I was in the military and has a sense of pride,” said Jason.

Mighty Moments

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.

A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.

“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”


Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out

www.youtube.com

The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.

“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”

Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.

Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.

“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”

Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.

“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.

“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”

Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.”
“I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”

When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.

Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.

“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”

Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.

“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.

“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”

Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.

Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These soldiers built 3 tanks in a night to face the entire Nazi ‘bulge’

On Dec. 18, 1944, Pfc. Harry Miller was cold, exhausted, and covered with grease. His hands were numb from the cold and he was bone tired after working all night. He and his fellow Soldiers from the 740th Tank Battalion had toiled around the clock to piece together three American tanks from an ordnance depot in Belgium.


With only the three refurbished tanks, Miller and the 740th was asked to stop the 1st SS Panzer Division, the German spearhead in the Battle of the Bulge.

Related video:

Even before the Germans launched their surprise Ardennes offensive that December, Miller was not thinking about Christmas. His only thought was on keeping warm, he said. Northern Europe had been gripped by record-breaking cold.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

When the German tank columns first approached, Miller and his fellow Soldiers were in Neufchateau, Belgium, but they had no tanks. At the beginning of the battle, the 740th was ordered to proceed to an ordnance depot in nearby Sprimont. Miller was hopeful, as he believed tanks would be issued at the depot. However, upon arrival, there were no functional tanks.

Depot personnel had left town in a hurry, leaving all of their equipment and tools behind. Miller and the 740th worked throughout the night and by morning, three tanks and a tank destroyer rolled out the gate. They were ordered to Stoumont to stop the German advance.

Also read: This is the massive Nazi sneak attack at the Battle of the Bulge

The 740th’s three tanks faced the lead element of Battle Group Peiper and the 1st SS Panzer Division. One M-1 Sherman tank fired and destroyed a German Panther. A second Sherman destroyed a second German tank. A third tank, a restored M-36, destroyed a third German tank. With the three German tanks out of action, and the narrow road blocked, the attacking German column retreated. Thus, a few restored tanks within their first one-half hour of combat had turned the tide of the German attack.

Miller was part of a specialized unit. A few days later he crewed one of six Sherman tanks that formed the Assault Gun Platoon. His tank had a 105mm gun.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

During much of the Battle of the Bulge his unit supported the 82nd Airborne Division.

Miller remembers the snowfall was especially heavy. Members of 82nd were cold and exhausted. Marching through four feet of snow was laborious. A few lucky Soldiers from the 82nd jumped on his tank to hitch a ride to avoid walking in the deep snow. Suddenly the tank took on enemy fire. When they heard audible dings from enemy bullets hitting the tank, the 82nd Soldiers scrambled off to take defensive positions.

The Battle of the Bulge lasted from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945. It was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. For the Americans, out of 610,000 troops involved in the battle, 89,000 were casualties. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by U.S. troops in World War II.

The 740th Tank Battalion was formed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on March 1, 1943. It had mostly men from Texas and Oklahoma. They trained at Knox and at the Desert Training Center in Bouse, Arizona.

Leaders: 8 amazing facts about General Douglas MacArthur

Miller is a veteran of 22 years in the Army and Air Force. The Columbus, Ohio-native had always wanted to serve in the Army and enlisted at the age of 15 in 1944. Besides being a veteran of World War ll, he served in the Korean War with Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters, in the communications center.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Miller later served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War with the Strategic Air Command. He was in charge of codes and cryptology used for command missions, including bombing runs in Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force in January 1966 as a senior master sergeant and a communications operations superintendent.

Upon retirement, Miller worked as a private investigator, director of security and safety at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and as a safety inspector at the University of Texas in Arlington, Texas, where he again retired in January 1989. He took up jazz and swing drumming lessons at age 69 to play with Seattle, Washington bands.

Miller, 89, resides at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. He laments that out of 800 Soldiers from the 740th, only six were able to attend this year’s reunion on Labor Day.

Miller said he is proud of all of his military service and wishes he could do it all over again. He advises Soldiers who are serving today to stay in and retire.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 reasons that soldiers get jealous of airmen

Fine, we’ll admit it. Soldiers do sometimes get jealous of airmen. Not because of their warfighting prowess, which is acceptable at best. And not because of their uniforms — oh, you’re finally switching out those ridiculous stripes for OCPs? Congrats.

No, in addition to them getting respect and fair treatment from their leadership, they also get all the perks. You know, like these six things:


Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Air Force food. Fresh ingredients. Healthy options. Disgusting.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Emily Kenney)

Quality food

It’s common knowledge that the best food on a joint Army-Air Force base is almost always in the Air Force dining facility. And, when the Air Force runs a major terminal on a base, they’ll often have a 24-hour DFAC. They can often eat better at 3 a.m. than the Army can during a standard meal.

All so a bunch of paper-pushers and wrench-turners (and the occasional pilot) are happy.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

An Air Force barracks in Germany. Snotty bastards.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Joshua Joseph Magbanua)

Awesome barracks

Actually, they don’t even call them “barracks” anymore. Officially, airmen live in “dorms” now, some of which have theater and game rooms, and most of which have free WiFi. Meanwhile, the Army usually has access to internet, but there’s usually only one option on base, and you can bet that geographic monopoly limits their give-a-damn when people complain.

So, yeah, single life in one service is demonstrably better than the other. So much so that the Air Force offers…

…money for living in Army conditions

Yeah, the Air Force gives their dudes’ money if they have to reside in “unfit quarters” — which applies to airmen in Army living spaces. This author trained in a multi-service school run by the Army. The Air Force got the best barracks at the school, but were the only service that got money every month for having to live in such decrepit conditions.

Decrepit conditions that the other four branches just had to deal with.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

These airmen are travelling to Germany. Notice how they’re happy? Wish the Army had that.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Watson-Kirwin)

Actual international travel

Sure, Marines and Navy get to travel the world, too, but the Air Force gets preferred slots during Space-A travel, getting first dibs on open seats anywhere that an Air Force plane is already flying. And their bases are truly international, with lots of slots open across the planet. Folks who get a job on an airplane could see a few countries in a single week.

But the Army has relatively few international bases, and it takes a spot of luck to actually get a billet in Korea, Germany, Italy, or somewhere else cool. Most soldiers will train stateside, deploy to the Middle East and Africa, rinse and repeat.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

These guys aren’t even holding rifles. Disgusting.

(U.S. Air Force Kemberly Groue)

Training and experience that translates to the civilian world

The Air Force is basically a corporation, and their training and job duties reflect that fact. While the Army is busy focusing on warfighting skills, like land nav and rifle marksmanship, the Air Force focuses on things employers care about, like professional conduct in office jobs, air control towers, and terminals.

CEOs don’t care if a soldier can shoot the wings off of a fly, because that’s not something businesses do. But they do care whether you can write an email without calling anyone f*cker. Too bad, soldiers.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Ryan Hall at the Community College of the Air Force. Yes. The Air Force has its own college.

(U.S. Air Force)

Community college built into the service

Ugh, but the worst is that whole Community-College-of-the-Air-Force thing. Yes, it’s an actual community college. And yes, it helps airmen get actual degrees — usually associate degrees in applied sciences. Army training gets you, at best, some elective credits in a real degree program.

But the Air Force kids get actual college credits and a whole community college to help them turn those credits into degrees.

Oh, well. At least all the branches get the G.I. Bill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Australia’s new prime minister is ready to counter china

In Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s first landmark Pacific policy address, the newly installed PM said Australia will commit anew to the Pacific, setting up a multibillion-dollar infrastructure bank to fund projects in the region and appointing a series of new diplomatic posts.

“Australia will step up in the Pacific and take our engagement with the region to a new level,” the prime minister said Nov. 8, 2018.

“While we have natural advantages in terms of history, proximity and shared values, Australia cannot take its influence in the southwest Pacific for granted, and too often we have,” Morrison said.


Morrison announced new defense force mobile-training team, annual meetings of defense, police, and border security chiefs, and new diplomatic posts in a number of Pacific countries.

The centerpiece will be a billion AUD financial facility to help fund major regional projects while the existing export financing agency (EFA) will be boosted by another one billion dollars.

Referring to Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Morrison said the stability and economic progress of the Pacific region are of “fundamental importance,” and no single country can tackle the challenges on its own.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Chinese President Xi Jinping

(Photo by Michel Temer)

Morrison announced his Pacific Pivot ahead of a milestone meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Asia-Pacific regional leaders next week at the APEC forum in Papua New Guinea.

Morrison said it was time Australia opened a “new chapter in relations with our Pacific family.” “Australia has an abiding interest in a Southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically, and sovereign politically.”

A familiar tone

In a speech that strongly echoed former US President Barack Obama’s “Asian Pivot” address in Canberra in 2011, Morrison outlined his own plan to project Australian soft power in an attempt to thwart China’s unchecked economic and industrial expansion across the Pacific over the last decade.

In a pretty unforgettable speech to Australia’s parliament on Nov. 17, 2011, Obama declared that “America is back!” “Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all-in.”

That was about the zenith of the much-vaunted pivot, and at around exactly the same time China started to take its interests in the Pacific to a fresh intensity.

According to Reuters’ calculations, since Obama’s “Asia Pivot,” China has poured id=”listicle-2618687423″.3 billion in concessionary loans and gifts to almost instantly become the Pacific’s second-largest donor after Australia.

Falling under Beijing’s influence

Today, China is the region’s biggest bilateral lender, although Australia’s significant aid programs mean it remains the largest financial backer in the South Pacific.

While China has always maintained a political stake in the region as part of its ongoing diplomatic chess battle with Taiwan, the sheer magnitude and speed of Chinese assistance eventually raised alarms and even hysteria among Western-aligned nations that the string of southern Pacific island states was very quickly falling under Beijing’s influence.

But if Australia’s backyard was finding itself over a Beijing barrel, then Morrison put his hand up for the first time to acknowledge that Australia and its major allies, the US foremost amongst them, wore some of the blame for that and had neglected the region for too long.

Australia, he said, had taken the Pacific and its nations “for granted.” Speaking from a military facility in Townsville where US troops are based, Morrison redrew the Pacific’s strategic importance to Australia’s foreign and defense policy.

Morrison promised closer economic, military and diplomatic ties in what will undoubtedly be seen from Beijing as a move to counter its efforts to drive its controversial One Belt, One Road initiative or in this case its 21st-century maritime silk road.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

One Belt, One Road initiative. China in red, Members of the AIIB in orange, the six corridors in black.

Fortunately, Beijing won’t even have to pick up the phone with Morrison’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne already in Beijing heading up Australia’s first mission to China in several years after an extended diplomatic freeze out. “This is not just our region, or our neighborhood.

It’s our home,” Morrison said. Morrison flagged that the region requires around billion per year in investments up to 2030, adding, “It’s where Australia can make the biggest difference in world affairs.”But that is something China has been more than happy to help achieve.

Beijing has sewn up diplomatic relations with eight Pacific island countries, from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu. (Others of course, recognize Taiwan.)

In the ten years between 2006 and 2016, The Lowy Institute a Sydney-based think tank, reckons Beijing has probably injected more than .3 billion into the region.

China has been more than happy to accommodate small nations such as Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands with concessional loans, criticized by many as overt “debt-trap diplomacy.”

Colombo’s failure to get on top of billion in debt repayments to Beijing’s state-owned enterprises has already given Beijing what many analysts consider a critically handy strategic toehold in Sri Lanka, in the port of Hambantota, including a 99-year-lease.

The port has idyllic views of the major Indian Ocean sea lanes. Elsewhere China is copping its first significant OBOR pushback out of the Asia-Pacific.

Malaysia is trying to find itself some wriggle room, preferably around perceived inequalities in the huge billion of China-originated infrastructure deals Kuala Lumpur has signed off on. Part of Australia’s appeal to the Pacific will be in aid and funding transfers that have traditionally not been about incurring trade deficits or weighty balance of payments crisis.

However, academics including James Laurenceson, deputy director of the Australia China Research Institute say that analysis of debt in the Pacific strongly suggests that the “debt-trap diplomacy” argument is without much foundation.

What is certain, however, is that over and above China’s bilateral aid programs across the pacific and its support for regional organisations, Beijing has been at pains to show it is a partner in good faith.

Beijing has backed and hosted major regional meetings, most recently in 2013, in which it announced a suite of aid measures to boost economic resilience and diplomatic engagement, while also providing strong support to regional organisations, most particularly the Pacific Islands Forum.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

China has provided generous scholarship programs for Pacific islands students and contributes significant human resources and training for pacific island government officials.

Johnny Koanapo Rasou, Vanuatu’s Member of Parliament for Tanna Constituency, where China has been delivering badly needed road works and infrastructure, said in a press statement in 2017 that Vanuatu had its eyes wide open as China’s assistance becomes more and more evident.

“Our people are now learning more about China’s capability to positively contribute to our development aspirations.” “The manner in which the Chinese Government is delivering their aid to Vanuatu is different from the styles we are used to from New Zealand or Australia.

“But we must accept that all our development partners have different state structures. China is a communist state but it has created an enabling environment for its own citizens to flourish and therefore they themselves can go out and invest in other countries.”

League of debtor nations

However, according to Thomson Reuters almost half (49.08%) of Vanuatu’s external debt belongs to China. In August 2018, Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said he hoped Pacific states could negotiate together to find a way out from under Beijing’s loans, before Tonga began to lose control of state assets as was happening in Sri Lanka.

Chinese loans make up more than 60% of Tonga’s total external debt burden. Another focus for Beijing has been the variety of resources available in loosely governed Papua New Guinea, which lays claim to the biggest Chinese debt, nigh on 0 million.

New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu all receive military aid from China. Fiji’s military leaders in particular have been welcoming of Chinese economic, military and strategic assistance.

China’s state media Xinhua has a quiet, but impactful bureau in Suva. While the US and its allies have been distracted with conflicts in the Middle East, China stepped up its military activities in the South Pacific. Chinese companies have sought and often secured access to strategic ports and airfields across many regional archipelagos.

According to Anne-Marie Brady, a political scientist from Canterbury University, satellite interests are an important aspect to China’s surge into the South Pacific. “In 2018, China launched 18 BeiDou-3 satellites into space.

Beidou-3 is China’s indigenous GPS, it provides missile positioning and timing and enhanced C4ISR capabilities for the Chinese military, as well as navigation services to more than 60 countries along the Belt and Road, including in Oceania.

Professor Brady said China’s mobile satellite station receiving station vessels regularly dock in Papeete (Tahiti) and Suva (Fiji), as do other quasi-military boats such as the Peace Ark and China’s well-equipped polar research vessels.

Brady a leading expert on Chinese investment in then pacific said many Pacific leaders now acknowledged China as “the dominant power in the region.”

“China’s strategic and military interests in the South Pacific build on longstanding links and fill the vacuum left by receding US and French power projection in the region, as well as Australia and New Zealand’s neglect of key relationships in the region.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This cyber threat will exploit almost all PCs, smartphones, and tablets

Silicon Valley is abuzz about “Meltdown” and “Spectre” — new ways for hackers to attack Intel, AMD, and ARM processors that were first discovered by Google last year and publicly disclosed Jan. 3.


Meltdown and Spectre, which take advantage of the same basic security vulnerability in those chips, could hypothetically be used by malicious actors to “read sensitive information in the system’s memory such as passwords, encryption keys, or sensitive information open in applications,” as Google puts it in a blog post.

The first thing you need to know: Pretty much every PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone is affected by the security flaw, regardless of which company made the device or which operating system it runs. The vulnerability isn’t easy to exploit — it requires a specific set of circumstances, including having malware already running on the device — but it’s not just theoretical.

And the problem could affect much more than just personal devices. The flaw could be exploited on servers and in data centers and massive cloud-computing platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. In fact, given the right conditions, Meltdown or Spectre could be used by customers of those cloud services to actually steal data from one another.

Though fixes are already being rolled out for the vulnerability, they often will come with a price. Some devices, especially older PCs, could be slowed markedly by them.

Here’s what Meltdown and Spectre are. And, just as important, here’s what they’re not.

Am I in immediate danger from this?

There’s some good news: Intel and Google say they’ve never seen any attacks like Meltdown or Spectre actually being used in the wild. And companies including Intel, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are rushing to issue fixes, with the first wave already out.

The most immediate consequence of all of this will come from those fixes. Some devices will see a performance dip of as much as 30% after the fixes are installed, according to some reports. Intel, however, disputed that figure, saying the amount by which computers will be slowed will depend on how they’re being used.

The Meltdown attack primarily affects Intel processors, though ARM has said that its chips are vulnerable as well. You can guard against it with software updates, according to Google. Those are already starting to become available for Linux and Windows 10.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
Brian Krzanich, Intel’s Chief Executive Officer. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Spectre, by contrast, appears to be much more dangerous. Google says it has been able to successfully execute Spectre attacks on processors from Intel, ARM, and AMD. And, according to the search giant, there’s no single, simple fix.

It’s harder to pull off a Spectre-based attack, which is why nobody is completely panicking. But the attack takes advantages of an integral part of how processors work, meaning it will take a new generation of hardware to stamp it out for good.

In fact, that’s how Spectre got its name.

“As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time,” the official Meltdown/Spectre FAQ says.

What are Meltdown and Spectre, anyway?

Despite how they’ve been discussed so far in the press, Meltdown and Spectre aren’t really “bugs.” Instead, they represent methods discovered by Google’s Project Zero cybersecurity lab to take advantage of the normal ways that Intel, ARM, and AMD processors work.

To use a Star Wars analogy, Google inspected the Death Star plans and found an exploitable weakness in a small thermal exhaust port. In the same way two precisely placed proton torpedoes could blow up the Death Star, so, too, can Meltdown and Spectre take advantage of a very specific design quirk and get around (or “melt down,” hence the name) processors’ normal security precautions.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
Let’s just hope your processor doesn’t end up looking like this. (Image from Star Wars)

In this case, the design feature in question is something called speculative execution, a processing technique that most Intel chips have used since 1995 and that is also common in ARM and AMD processors. With speculative execution, processors essentially guess what you’re going to do next. If they guess right, then they’re already ahead of the curve, and you have a snappier computing experience. If they guess wrong, they dump the data and start over.

What Project Zero found were two key ways to trick even secure, well-designed apps into leaking data from those returned processes. The exploits take advantage of a flaw in how the data is dumped that could allow them — with the right malware installed — to read data that should be secret.

This vulnerability is potentially particularly dangerous in cloud-computing systems, where users essentially rent time from massive supercomputing clusters. The servers in those clusters may be shared among multiple users, meaning customers running unpatched and unprepared systems could fall prey to data thieves sharing their processors.

What can I do about it?

To guard against the security flaw and the exploits, the first and best thing you can do is make sure you’re up-to-date with your security patches. The major operating systems have already started issuing patches that will guard against the Meltdown and Spectre attacks. In fact, fixes have already begun to hit Linux, Android, Apple’s MacOS, and Microsoft’s Windows 10. So whether you have an Android phone or you’re a developer using Linux in the cloud, it’s time to update your operating system.

Microsoft told Business Insider it’s working on rolling out mitigations for its Azure cloud platform. Google Cloud is urging customers to update their operating systems, too.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
It’s a good idea to stay current with your Windows updates. (Screenshot from Matt Weinberger)

It’s just as important to make sure you stay up to date. While Spectre may not have an easy fix, Google says there are ways to guard against related exploits. Expect Microsoft, Apple, and Google to issue a series of updates to their operating systems as new Spectre-related attacks are discovered.

Additionally, because Meltdown and Spectre require malicious code to already be running on your system, let this be a reminder to practice good online safety behaviors. Don’t download any software from a source you don’t trust. And don’t click on any links or files claiming you won $10 million in a contest you never entered.

Why could the fixes also slow down my device?

The Meltdown and Spectre attacks take advantage of how the “kernels,” or cores, of operating systems interact with processors. Theoretically, the two are supposed to be separated to some degree to prevent exactly this kind of attack. Google’s report, however, proves the existing precautions aren’t enough.

Operating system developers are said to be adopting a new level of virtual isolation, basically making requests between the processor and the kernel take the long way around.

The problem is that enforcing this kind of separation requires at least a little extra processing power, which would no longer be available to the rest of the system.

Related: Why it’s a big deal that Cyber Command is now a combatant command

As The New York Times notes, researchers are concerned that the fixes could slow down computers by as much as 20% to 30%. Microsoft is reported to believe that PCs with Intel processors older than the 2-year-old Skylake models could see significant slowdowns.

Intel disputes that the performance hits will be as dramatic as The Times suggests.

Some of the slowdowns, should they come to pass, could be mitigated by future software updates. Because the vulnerability was just made public, it’s possible that workarounds and new techniques for circumventing the performance hit will come to light as more developers work on solving the problem.

What happens next?

Publicly, Intel is confident the Meltdown and Spectre bugs won’t have a material impact on its stock price or market share, given that they’re relatively hard to execute and have never been used (that we know of). AMD shares are soaring on word that the easier-to-pull-off Meltdown attack isn’t known to work on its processors.

But as Google is so eager to remind us, Spectre looms large. Speculative execution has been a cornerstone of processor design for more than two decades. It will require a huge rethinking from the processor industry to guard against this kind of attack in the future. The threat of Spectre means the next generation of processors — from all the major chip designers — will be a lot different than they are today.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
Google is urging customers of its Google Cloud supercomputing service, hosted from data centers like this, to update their operating systems. (Image via Google)

Even so, the threat of Spectre is likely to linger far into the future. Consumers are replacing their PCs less frequently, which means older PCs that are at risk of the Spectre attack could be used for years to come.

As for mobile, there has been a persistent problem with updating Android devices to the latest version of the operating system, so there are likely to be lots of unpatched smartphones and tablets in use for as far as the eye can see. Would-be Spectre attackers are therefore likely to have their choice of targets.

It’s not the end of the world. But it just may be the end of an era for Intel, AMD, ARM, and the way processors are built.

Articles

‘Lt. Dan’ received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

And he did it while thanking World War II veterans for “defeating tyranny”.


Gary Sinise paid tribute to military veterans as he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13” actor was joined by members of the armed forces and emergency services during the ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard.

The 62-year-old was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Vietnam War veteran Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump and created the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2003 to support servicemen and women.

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

On stage, Gary thanked Second World War veterans for “defeating tyranny over 70 years ago”.

“Just imagine the world if we had not succeeded in defeating that tyranny all those years ago,” he said.

“I’m grateful for these heroes and all who continue to defend us. It’s a gift to be able to use some of the success that I’ve had in the movie and television business to try to do some good for those who serve and sacrifice each day for our precious freedom,” he added.

“It’s a great country. I’ve been so blessed over the years.”

General Robin Rand, head of the US Air Force Global Strike Command, described Gary as a “true American patriot”.

Also read: 11 celebrities you didn’t know were passionate about helping vets

Addressing Gary on stage, he said: “My friend and brother Gary doesn’t stop. Like a tiger in battle, he doesn’t quit. He’s just there for us, quietly and without fanfare. You’re a humble servant and you’re a valued friend to American warriors who serve in ill forgotten places. Your star is a legacy of service and a legacy of love.”

Other guest speakers at the event included “Everybody Loves Raymond” actress Patricia Heaton and “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna.

Gary was presented with the 2,606th star on the Walk of Fame.

MIGHTY CULTURE

2021 Military Pay Charts

What is your monthly base pay? Military.com’s Military pay charts give you all the information you need.

2021 Pay Charts

Military pay saw a 3.0% increase for 2021 compared to 2020 levels.  View the 2021 pay charts

The tables below reflect the current monthly base pay for all military members, while our military pay calculator can compute your personalized base pay plus allowances and special pays.

For your personalized pay and allowance computation check out our Military Pay Calculator.

Factors That Affect Military Pay

  • The annual pay raise
  • Longevity raises virtually every 2 years (based on the number of years in service)
  • Promotions
  • Number of Drill Periods (Guard and Reserve Only)
  • Basic Allowance for Housing Increases: BAH (based on location).
  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence Increases: BAS 
  • Special Pay(s) (based on occupations: Language Skills, Combat, Flight, Hazardous Duty).

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The difference between military funeral honors and ‘full’ military honors

Any eligible veteran who requests a military burial is guaranteed by law to have certain honors at his or her funeral. The Department of Defense is required by law to provide these services at no cost to the veteran’s family. 

The honors they receive at their funeral depends on the veteran’s service, but will always have certain baseline elements, which includes at least two honor guard members. Depending on their military achievements, however, the funeral can range from a simple, understated ceremony to something akin to the opening act of a Super Bowl.

For veterans to get military honors at their burial, the family must give the VA or the local military installation two days’ notice. This can be coordinated through a veteran’s funeral director. 

Any veteran’s funeral will have, at the least, the two-person honor guard, who will play “Taps” as well as fold and present the American flag to the veteran’s family. The Department of Defense will go out of their way to provide a real bugler, but in some cases, exceptions have to be made for a recording. 

Air Force members honoring a veteran at his funeral

Sometimes, a ceremonial bugle will be used, where the song comes from a speaker in the bell of the bugle, but the song isn’t actually being played live. 

The honor guard will then fold the flag draping the casket and present it to the family. If the veteran is cremated, the folding ceremony varies slightly, but is still presented to the next of kin. Burial flags are provided free of charge, but must be coordinated through a funeral director or VA office, after completing the required form.

Every veteran interred at Arlington National Cemetery will have a 17-person casket team, a firing party, a bugler and the folding of and presentation of the flag. 

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII
A Buckley Air Force Base Honor Guard bugler plays taps at the funeral for World War II flying ace, retired Col. John Smith Stewart at the Ft. Logan National Cemetery, Denver, Colo., on Oct. 8. 2004. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Anika Williams) (RELEASED)

For members of the Coast Guard and the Navy, families can request a burial at sea. Families are responsible for transporting the remains to the port of embarkation and must know that the burial will take place during a routine deployment. It’s unlikely that the family will be able to be present at a burial at sea. 

Some veterans are eligible to receive military honors with escort, also known as “full” military honors. What eligible veterans receive with full military honors also varies by availability and service.

According to Arlington National Cemetery, military honors with escort are available to any veteran who reached the ranks of E-9, CW-4, CW-5, or O-4 and above. Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war and those killed in action – of any rank – are also afforded “full” military honors. 

Those receiving military honors with escort are provided with the standard military honors; the flag ceremony, playing of “Taps,” and an honor guard. They can also receive a marching escort of various sizes (dependent on rank), a firing party for a three-volley salute, a military band and a military team of pallbearers. 

If the veteran is being interred at Arlington, they are eligible to be driven to the gravesite by the cemetery’s caisson, a wagon driven by a team of six horses. 

General officers who served in the Army or Marine Corps can get full military honors that include a riderless horse and a cannon salute with the number of cannons dependent on the general’s rank. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps officers of 0-7 and above are offered minute guns for their salute. 

Families can also request a military flyover, if the assets are available to the location of the funeral and the weather permits.

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