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MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch: Inside the Arctic Military Base at the center of U.S. – Russia tensions

Melting Artic ice might begin to raise some alarm bells for military leadership as near-peer enemies literally start to come closer. With Besides national security, commercial, environmental and search-and-rescue concerns are also at play. As the sea ice melts, the more human activity becomes possible in the Arctic. This allows countries like Russia and China another point of access to the US, one that didn’t exist when the barrier of the ice and cold prevented exploitation of the area. Watch this incredible video by the Wall Street Journal to learn more.

We should probably come up with a game plan

As the Arctic ice continues to melt, sea passages are forming in international waters, leading to competition for resources (like fish and oil) and strategic military placement. The US military is now having to revise its Arctic strategy in and around Alaska as a result.

The Cold War was a time of increased activity in the Arctic, but that eventually died down. With the waterways opening and the region warming, the Russians are increasing their Arctic activity once again. Only now, they are practicing attack strategies on the US and Canada in ways that were not possible before. Right now, the increased Russian activity seems to be a strategy: to remind the US of their power. This is worrisome to the US. If there were a conflict between Russia and the US, the Arctic provides the closest possible route of attack. Yikes.

Alaskan Military Bases are on the Frontlines Once Again

Tin City, Alaska is the closest mainland point in the United States to Russia. With only about 55 miles between them, that is way too close for comfort. The Tin City Air Force Station is the northernmost US military base and a long-range radar site with strategic placement specifically to keep a watch out for Russian bombers. Installed during the Cold War era, it only returned as a frontline post because of the melting Arctic ice.

The radar looks for unidentified aircraft. In recent years, the US military at Tin City Air Force Station has spotted Russian fighter planes and bombers in the area at double the normal rate. It is likely a test by the Russians to see how quickly the US responds. Newsflash Russia: the US military always responds at lightning speeds. The US government expects any aircraft that crosses the US Air Defense Identification Zone to identity itself, though (surprise, surprise) Russian aircraft don’t always comply. This prompts US jets to fly alongside them until they leave. The radar is in effect 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without fail.

A Disappearing Ice Buffer of Safety

The Arctic used to be a kind of buffer of protection for the US from potential threats, but the melting Artic ice is changing that, forcing the US to develop a new, notably more aggressive Arctic strategy with many additional resources. For instance, Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska, is getting more involved in protecting the US Arctic border zone. Their new, cutting-edge F-35 planes are on the job now. Has Russia noticed? You can bet on that. Only time will tell how this unfolds.

Related: Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What 24 hours is really like for recruits at US Marine Corps boot camp

Marine Corps boot camp is legendary. But is it anything like the movies show?

The commercials make it look like constant action, with obstacle courses, gladiator style fighting, jumping off high dives, and crawling through the dirt commanding most of the airtime.

In reality, these things are sandwiched between hours and days of monotony and boredom.

I spent the summer of 2012 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and here is a sample day that a recruit might experience in the first phase of training.


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A recruit writes in the log book as he stands watch at night.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

0330: Officially, 0400, pronounced as “zero four,” or “oh four hundred,” is the time to wake up and get out of bed. Unofficially, you’re up 30 minutes before that.

The drill instructor woke you up by barking commands at the firewatch. The firewatch, which you will also stand every few days, is the interior guard. They are members of the platoon who are awake for one or two hours at a time throughout the night. The first and last shift aren’t so bad, but the 0000 to 0200 shift is brutal. The drill instructor is yelling at them, asking them why they messed up the log book, making them give the report until they get it right, or just making them run around the squad bay, looking for things that are amiss. You take this time to use the bathroom, as there won’t be time later. There are around 50 recruits to six toilets, so it’s best to go when you have time. Officially, you will have time to go after the lights come on, but it’s best to go now. It’s also best to brush your teeth before the lights come on.

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A drill instructor storms through the squad bay as recruits stand “on line.”

(U.S. Sgt. Jennifer Schubert/US Marine Corps)

0400: Lights, lights, lights! That’s what firewatch yells as they throw the switches, turning on all the lights.

There’s no time for stretches or yawns, you get up and stand on line and stick your hand out. You better be ready, because the count starts immediately. Every time your platoon goes anywhere, you are counted. They have to make sure nobody took off in the middle of the night, even if firewatch is there to make sure this doesn’t happen. The recruits are standing “on line,” meaning standing in front of their beds, called “racks,” at attention, awaiting instruction. You will spend a lot of time here on line, so get used to it. The drill instructor runs down the line of recruits, around 25 on the left, and then back down the right, 25 there too. You have to yell your number and snap your arm back down at lightning speed. If somebody messes up, you start over. This counting process takes forever in the first few weeks, as recruits mess up by shouting the wrong number, pausing too long, or skipping over somebody. You do this counting process until you get it right.

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Recruits race to put on their uniforms.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

0401: After 30 seconds to get 50 recruits in and out of the bathroom, now called the head, it’s time to get dressed.

However long it takes you to get dressed in the morning, it takes longer now. You are about to get dressed “by the numbers.” This process was the single most frustrating part of boot camp for me, since it was so tedious and you would inevitably end up with a sock inside out all day. This process looks like this: the drill instructor names a piece of clothing, say trousers, and all the recruits get that item and bring it on line. The uniform items, or cammies, are hung on the back of the racks overnight, meaning you have to run to the back, get it, and make it back on line, arm outstretched, before the drill instructor gets to zero. If somebody doesn’t make it, you put it back.

You finally get your trousers on, but somebody didn’t get them buttoned by zero, so you take them off and put them back. Once you get your trousers on, it’s time for the blouse. Then it’s time for the boots. You can get to the last item of clothing, say your left boot, and have to start all over. This process takes as long as the drill instructor needs it to. If there is a gap in the schedule, it takes forever. The countdown goes as fast or as slow as they want. You can sometimes tell when the games have gone on too long, as they start counting down slightly slower. But in the beginning, you will finish with a few buttons undone, your boots untied, and you’ll be rushed onto the next task. You are expected to fix it on the fly. Not surprisingly, tying your boots while trying to run down the stairs is not easy.

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Recruits “scuzz” the floor of their barracks.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

0415: Time to clean house.

With around 50 recruits constantly running in and out of the squadbay, dirt is always present. You will spend many hours “scuzzing” the deck, meaning sweeping the floor with a little hand held “scuzz brush.” This process works much like getting dressed, (“Scuzz brush on line, ready, move!”) but you have to run to the wall, squat down, and push the dirt to the middle of the squadbay. You are in boot camp though, so you have to do so at “parade rest” with your non-scuzz brush hand behind your back. And don’t even think about letting your knee hit the deck. You squat and duck walk your way to the middle. If you don’t get there in time, you do it again. Either before or after this, you make your bed, aka “rack.” In years past, recruits got wise and started sleeping on top of the sheets so as to leave the rack pristine. This was not allowed in the summer of 2012. You either slept under your sheets, or you would have to tear them up in the morning anyway. Making the bed can be as fast or as slow as getting dressed, depending on what’s happening that day. They can let you get it done fast and move on, or they can have you rip all the sheets off and bring them on line. It’s always a surprise.

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Recruits at Parris Island march in formation.

(U.S. Marine photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

0430: Somewhere during that time, you got your boots tied, and it’s time to get outside and “form up.”

Forming up is the process of getting outside and standing in formation, ready to move to the next place. For right now, it’s breakfast. All meals in boot camp are referred to as “chow.” This is morning chow. You are formed up in the correct order, rifles in hand, and you are ready to march to the chow hall.

This isn’t a leisurely walk though, this is a chance to practice drill. The drill instructors call the commands, and you execute. Depending on how early in the process of learning drill you are, you could be marching at a snail’s pace, your foot hitting the ground only when the drill instructor allows it. You eventually get to the chow hall, you stack your rifles outside, since they don’t go in, and get in line. You leave a couple of guards on the rifles, who will have a chance to eat when the first two in your platoon come out.

While waiting in line for the chow hall, you will study your knowledge. Knowledge is just the word that the Marines use to describe any of the things that will be on the tests. This can be history, land navigation, first aid, marksmanship, drill, uniforms, customs and courtesies, or rank structure. This is usually done at top volume, with the drill instructor shouting the question, and the recruits shouting the answer. For example, the answer to “Two Marines, two medals,” is “Dan Daly, Smedley Butler Ma’am!” at top volume. The question is looking for the two Marines who have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. The answer will be shouted at top volume, or it will be shouted again.

Eventually you get inside, get your food, and sit down to eat. You eat as fast as possible without choking, since the drill instructor is yelling at you to get out. There is no time here for butter on toast. If you want butter on your toast, you stuff the toast in your mouth, then stuff a pat of butter in after it. You finish eating and go back outside to pick up your gear.

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Welcome to the sand pit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Sarah Stegall)

0500: Your platoon got into the chow hall first, and now you are done. Your next activity doesn’t start until 0600, so it’s time for drill.

Your platoon marches back and forth on a concrete square, called a parade deck, learning how to turn, start and stop, or reverse direction as a unit. If anybody messes up, you start over.

If you are struggling more than they would like, you might be sent to the pit. There is a sand pit conveniently located right next to the parade deck, and you are about to go do exercises in it. You do pushups, sit-ups, mountain climbers, side straddle hops, or hold a plank while screaming at the top of your lungs. Usually you are screaming the number of reps completed. If you aren’t loud enough or you aren’t performing up to their expectations, you just stay in there until you do.

If there is more than one of you in there, it’s a group effort. This is one of the most effective ways to break a recruit down. Maybe I don’t care about getting yelled at or being seen as weak, but there might be five of us in the pit, and nobody gets to leave until I hold that plank for 60 seconds. After 8 or 9 solid minutes of planks, 60 seconds gets a lot longer. They force you to care, because now you’re letting the team down. (“Oh good, Ohlms wants to let her knees touch the deck. Start over.”) The funny thing is, they will say you cheated a move just to piss off your fellow recruits, and you can’t say anything about it. Eventually you get back to your unit, just in time to mess up the next drill move.

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Recruits attend classroom training.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jennifer Schubert)

0600: Time for class.

This should be a relaxing time. You go into a classroom, sit in the air conditioning, and learn about topics that the Marine Corps will test you on later. You may be a huge history buff, and this may be a history class, but it will not be fun. You drill over to the classroom and get inside as fast as possible, lining up by a desk. You don’t dare sit down, as you weren’t told to yet. Your rifles get stacked in racks at the back of the room, and you take off your day pack, holding it out parallel to the deck, arms straight out, both thumbs hooked under the carrying handle. You stand there until the drill instructors deem you worthy of sitting.

If you don’t get that day pack under the chair and your book on the desk fast enough, you pick them back up, arms parallel to the deck. All the while, a constant stream of yelling. You try again and maybe this time you make it. You sit when told to and you open your book. The teacher is another drill instructor, but the class isn’t so bad. He isn’t yelling at you, unless your eyes start to droop or your head starts to bob. Then you get put on a list. After about an hour, it’s time for a break. Those who were pointed out in class are rushed outside to the pit, while the rest of you are given a chance to go to the head and refill your canteens with water. Everywhere you go, you are screamed at. You are screamed at to fill your canteen faster, pee faster, wash your hands faster, get back in the classroom faster. You get back to the classroom to pick up your pack and hold it out again. As soon as everybody is back, some covered head to toe in sand, the next class starts.

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A drill instructor inspects a recruit’s weapon.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anthony Leite)

0900: Class is over and there is an hour until afternoon chow. Time for more drill.

This time, the sun is beating down on you, adding to the experience. The sweat makes the sand stick so much better.

1000: Afternoon chow. The bugs have come out now, making standing outside the chow hall unbearable. You dare not swat at a bug crawling on your face, as you know that earns you a trip to the pit later. You just stand there screaming knowledge as the sweat drips into your eyes and the bugs crawl on your neck and face. Eventually you get inside, stuff down as much food as you can in 60 seconds, and get back outside.

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A recruit in the basic warrior stance during martial arts training.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brooke C Woods)

1100: Time for MCMAP, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

You move to this football field-size lot of chopped up rubber and slip a mouth guard in. You are about to do the Marine Corps version of karate. You partner up and practice punching, kicking, chokes, escaping from chokes, slamming your partner to the ground, and trying to enunciate with a mouth guard in. If the drill instructors feel like you aren’t going hard enough, they will make you do it again and again until you do. Your partner will thank you to do it right the first time.

1300: Time to go back to the house, but you’ll stop by the parade deck first to get in a little drill.

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A drill instructor inspects recruits.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anthony Leite)

1500: You get back to the squad bay.

With your first inspection coming up, the drill instructor shows you exactly how everything is going to look in the squad bay. Everything has to match. Every recruit has a foot locker, a sea bag, and a rack, and they all must be marked and arranged in exactly the same way. If one person marks their foot locker in the wrong spot, the tape is ripped off of all of them and it is done again.

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Recruits line up for chow.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

1700: Evening chow.

1800: Back to the squad bay. It’s time for all 50 recruits to take a shower.

1805: Done with showers. Get out.

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Recruits are responsible for cleaning their rifles.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Maximiliano Bavastro)

1806: Rifle cleaning time.

One piece at a time, and everybody cleans the same piece until they are all done. Also, somebody was slouching, so you are scrubbing with both arms fully extended up over your head.

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A recruit reads letters from his family.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mackenzie Carter)

1900: You get one hour of “free time” before bed.

This is when they hand out letters, you have time to study for the upcoming history test, you can practice drill movements that you are having trouble with, or somebody might forget to announce a drill instructor as they enter the room and you spend most of your free time at attention waiting for forgiveness.

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Even sleeping involves discipline.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Vaniah Temple)

2000: Bedtime.

You lay at the position of attention in your rack until you are given permission to adjust. You will get used to falling asleep in the position of attention. Another day down, only seventy-something left.

Sweet dreams!

Sara Ohlms spent 13 weeks feeding the sand fleas of Parris Island in the summer of 2012. She then spent the next four years as a military working dog handler. She is now a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vets are going to get a new ID card, and they’ll be ready for use next month

Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.


“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.

“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”

When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.

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Speaker John Boehner signs H.R. 91, the Veterans Identification Card Act, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-MI). Photo from Speaker John Boehner Flickr.

Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.

The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.

Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is now grooming kids to make AI weapons

An elite group of “patriotic” students in China have been selected to begin training for new artificial intelligence weapons development program.

31 kids — all under 18 — have been recruited to participate in the “Experimental Program for Intelligent Weapons Systems” at the Beijing Institute of Technology, South China Morning Post reported Nov. 8, 2018, citing an announcement from the Beijing Institute of Technology. The program selected 27 boys and four girls from more than 5,000 applicants, the school’s website said, according to the Post.

“These kids are all exceptionally bright, but being bright is not enough,” a BIT professor who asked not to be identified told the Post.


“We are looking for other qualities such as creative thinking, willingness to fight, a persistence when facing challenges,” he said. “A passion for developing new weapons is a must … and they must also be patriots.”

According to the program’s brochure, each student will be mentored by two weapons scientists with both academic and defense backgrounds. The kids will later be tasked with choosing a specialization within the weapons sector and will be assigned to the relevant defense laboratory to hone their skills under the guidance of experts.

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RoboCup 2015.

The institute expects students will go on to complete doctorate degrees and become leaders in the field of AI weapons technology, the Post said.

China has been outspoken about its interest in developing AI technology

China has touted its AI development across sectors, including a trillion-dollar autonomous-driving revolution and a massive expansion of its facial-recognition software.

In his 2017 keynote speech to the ruling Communist Party, President Xi Jinping called for the embedding of artificial intelligence technologies into the economy to create growth and expand its capabilities across industries.

In July 2018, China released its own AI development plan, which proposed building up its domestic AI industry to 0 billion over the next few years to establish the country as an “innovation center for AI” by 2030.

And while China has largely kept the development of its AI-weapons technology opaque, Elsa B. Kania an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, predicts that China’s army will “likely leverage AI to enhance its future capabilities, including in intelligent and autonomous unmanned systems.”

China is reportedly working on a fleet of drone submarines in order to give China’s navy an advantage at sea. And in April 2018, the Chinese air force released details about an upcoming drill using fully autonomous swarms of drones.

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A Reaper MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Air System.

(Photo by Corporal Steve Follows RAF)

But experts have repeatedly warned about the dangers of AI

Experts have repeatedly warned about the dangers AI, arguing that advanced systems which can make thousands of complex decisions every second could have “dual-use” to help or harm, depending on its design.

In February 2018, AI experts across industries outlined in a 100-page report the dangers of AI technology and how the technology could be weaponized for malicious use. Aside from using AI technology for attacks in the digital realm, the technology could be used in the physical realm to turn technology, like drones, into weapons and attack targets at the push of a button or the click of a mouse.

In April 2018, China submitted its proposal to the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems announcing its desire to create a new protocol for restricting the use of AI weapons. In its proposal, China highlighted the dangers of AI weaponry but also stressed the need to continue developing AI technology.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bank restores funds stolen from the oldest living veteran

Bank of America restored funds to America’s oldest living veteran’s bank account after a mystery thief stole all of his savings.

Richard Overton’s relatives discovered that someone had accessed the 112-year-old’s account using his social security and personal checking account numbers, The Dallas Morning News reported.

His cousin, Volma Overton Jr., said the family was shocked when the bank said it would credit Overton’s account.


“Man, I teared up,” he said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I couldn’t believe it. They made it happen. The executive of the company said he’d take care of this, and he took care of it.”

Bank of America, Austin police, and federal authorities are investigating the incident.

One of the World War II veteran’s cousins was making a deposit into his account when he noticed a series of illicit withdrawals.

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Richard Overton with Volma Overton Jr.
(Richard Overton’s Go Fund Me)

“I looked at it — what the hell are these debits?” Overton’s cousin, Volma Overton Jr., told CNN affiliate KXAN.

The thief or thieves used the funds to purchase savings bonds from Treasury Direct, leaving nothing in the account.

“It’s a shock, it hurts, it hurts tremendously,” Overton Jr. said when he became aware of the theft.

The family hasn’t identified the culprit, and hopes it isn’t someone close to Overton.

It’s unclear how much money was drained from the account. Relatives described it as a “considerable amount.”

Overton, an Austin, Texas resident, volunteered for service in 1942, serving as a member of the Army‘s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion — an all-black unit that served on various islands in the Pacific, according to the report.

He was honored by Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony in 2013.

He is also the oldest man in America, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

Overton’s family set up a GoFundMe account to help cover the costly, around-the-clock care he requires. The account saw a spike in donations after the theft was reported.

“It’s been a true blessing in disguise for us,” his cousin said.

“Everything’s back just like it was.”

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

Articles

North Korea blasts US arsenal in fresh propaganda video

A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.


In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.

Also read: The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.

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uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.

The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.

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Screenshot via uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.

The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.

Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commissaries now have their own store brand

Introduction of the commissary’s new brands continue to chug along, with 467 different items currently on shelves stateside, officials said.


Eventually, the agency plans to have upwards of 4,000 different in-house brand options on shelves. The products are sold under the Home Base, Freedom’s Choice, and Top Care brands (Do those names make you feel patriotic?).

Also read: Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

In the next several months, starting March 2018, officials plan to introduce a slew of new products, including more cheese options, dressings, honey, a variety of condiments, pie fillings, baking goods, tea, and creamers.

Items hit stateside stores first, with OCONUS stores getting the items about six weeks later, Defense Commissary Agency.

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(Photo courtesy of USAF)

Because I live to help you out, I’ve tested many of the commissary’s different products, from trash bags to cheese. And I’ll tell you what: they are pretty much the same as any other products, but typically cheaper. I support things being cheaper, so that makes me happy.

Related: Commissary savings overhaul might cost shoppers extra

And that’s actually the whole point of all of this. The generic products (or what they really want me to call “store brand”) are being produced and stocked under a system that allows the commissary to break from what had been the rule of only selling items at cost plus that nice 5 percent surcharge, and price them above what they are paying for them.

The goal is for the commissary system to make some cash to cover its own costs, instead of requiring an over $1 billion subsidy from taxpayers to stay in business.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the elite PJs rescue troops in the mountains of Afghanistan

US Air Force Pararescue specialists, or PJs, are one of the most elite special operators in the world.

Consisting of about 500 airmen, PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.

These “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”

“One of the challenges [in Afghanistan] is the altitude and terrain because we are surrounded by mountains,” Maj. Jason Egger, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander at Bagram Airfield, said in a Defense Department news release on the training.

“We overcome that challenge by working with the Army pilots, which gives us the capability to get to the altitude we need and insert the teams,” Egger added.

Here’s how PJs rescue troops in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.


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US Air Force PJs on the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

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A CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off during a PJ training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

After getting a call, the PJs load into an Army CH-47 Chinook, which they often use for transports in rescue missions in Afghanistan.

“Most of the central and northern Afghanistan area is very high altitude, and that’s where the CH-47s can really provide some special capability because of their ability to get to that high altitude area and insert the team,” Eggers said.

Read more about Chinooks here.

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A CH-47 Chinook helicopter flies over an MRAP during a PJ training mission on Nov. 5, 2018 in Afghanistan.

(US Air Force photo)

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An Air Force PJ fast-ropes down to the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

At the site, PJs fast-rope down to the ground to get the troops in need.

PJs can also insert from higher altitudes, and therefore train in high altitude jumps from fixed-wing aircraft.

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PJ operators perform rescues during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

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A PJ operator helps an service member with a simulated injury during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

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PJs provide first aid to wounded service members during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018. The wounds were simulated for the training’s realism.

(US Air Force photo)

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PJs flying in Chinook helicopters during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

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PJs carrying a service member with a simulated wound during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

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PJs conduct combat arms training Nov. 1, 2018 at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

(US Air Force photo)

But PJs also undergo intense combat arms training as well, which is needed in certain rescue scenarios.

“The PJs and the combat rescue officers have a pretty broad skill set, and it’s pretty difficult to stay sharp on all those skills,” Eggers said. “So continuing to keep them engaged through training, it keeps those skills sharp throughout the entire deployment.”

Watch the full interview with Eggers here, and the PJ training videos here, here and here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.


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A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.

But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.

NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.

There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.

Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.

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First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.

Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.

The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”

It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.

“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.

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Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

‘Better than it was’

The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.

But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.

These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

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A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.

A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”

The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.

The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.

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A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.

“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”

Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.

“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”

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US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.

“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”

Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”

Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

The military and veteran community made their voices heard when it was announced in November that the newly established 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade would be wearing olive green berets similar to the rifle green of the Special Forces. To reaffirm what was said when it was proposed, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Army Times that it is his responsibility, saying,


If anyone’s angry, take their anger out on me, not [the 1st SFAB].

While the 1st SFAB and Special Forces’ missions would overlap on tasks like Foreign Internal Defense and Security Force Assistance, changes have been made to the beret, the flash, and the unit insignia. The beret is now a “muddy brown” in reference to the moniker given to leaders who “get their boots muddy” with their troops.

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From one veteran to another, and you’re entitled to your own opinions, but don’t hate the troops that were assigned to the 1st SFAB. Gen. Milley can handle the backlash — the troops were just assigned to the unit. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The flash and unit insignia are in reference to the Military Assistance Command — Vietnam and the Military Assistance Advisory Group, predecessors to the 1st SFAB. One complaint surrounding the brigade’s uniform is the ‘Advisor’ tab. Clarification has been made that it is simply a unit tab and not a skill tab.

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Comparison of the 1st SFAB unit insignia with the MAC-V and MAAG-V.

On Feb. 8, 2018, the 1st SFAB held it’s activation ceremony at the National Infantry Museum and the heraldry has been made official. The SFAB’s mission is to stand ready to deploy in support of national security objective and to train, assist, advise, and accompany our allies. Their first deployment is already set for the coming spring to advise Afghan National Security Forces and the unique uniforms are meant to easily distinguish them from other American troops in the eyes of foreign troops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This classic-rock legend is also a top missile-defense expert

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.

Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Oct. 11, 2018, to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.

Unlike every other musician in the room, including Kid Rock, Baxter has built a successful second career as a defense consultant.


Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.

Baxter has said he “fell into his second profession almost by accident.”

While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.

“Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile,” Baxter said in a 2013 interview. “As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing.”

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Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.

(InnoTown Conference / Youtube)

Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.

“Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application,” he told MTV in 2001. “For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression.”

He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.

“The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an “autodidact,” he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. “There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous.”

The big shift came in 1994.

Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.

“One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system,” he said in a 2016 speech. “I have no idea. I just did it.”

Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.

“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”

Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, “Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?” according to Baxter.

Rohrabacher replied, “No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers.”

Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.

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Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system, launches a missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, July 30, 2009.

(Department of Defense Photo)

“The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things,” Baxter told MTV in 2001.

The appointment to the panel “sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” Baxter said in 2013.

He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.

“We did some pretty cool stuff,” Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. “Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it.”

He was also a hit at the Pentagon.

“Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there,” Baxter said in 2001. “But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here.”

Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.

“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.

Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.

In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.

For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.

“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said in 2005.

“My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

North Korea is secretly asking for coronavirus aid from other countries while publicly denying that it has any cases

North Korea has been quietly soliciting coronavirus aid from other countries even though it has publicly denied the existence of any cases on home soil, according to a new report.

Officials in the isolated country have privately reached out to their counterparts in other countries asking for urgent help in fighting the outbreak, the Financial Times reported, citing several people familiar with the matter and an unidentified document.


The country has also asked hospitals in South Korea and several international aid agencies for masks and test machines, Reuters reported last Friday, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter.

North Korea has officially reported no cases of the coronavirus, and, in late January, shut its border with China after the outbreak started to spill out of the central Hubei province into other regions near the border.

According to the FT, the country has tested at least 590 citizens — all of whom had arrived from outside the country in January — but all of them tested negative.

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Foreign media and experts doubt the official infection toll, however.

Some South Korean media outlets have reported that North Korea has recorded deaths from the coronavirus, but that the regime is concealing them from the world.

Daily NK, a news site focusing on North Korea, also reported that 180 North Korean soldiers died of the virus in January and February, and that another 3,700 were sent to quarantine.

South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said that there were at least two suspected cases of the illness in the city of Sinuiju, which borders China. Daily NK also reported that as many as five people had died of the coronavirus in Sinuiju.

North Korea’s lack of medical supplies and weak healthcare system have left it ill-equipped to handle an outbreak like the coronavirus, Business Insider’s Paulina Cachero previously reported.

“There’s not enough medicine for the country. I’m really concerned about them facing an outbreak,” Nagi Shafik, a former World Health Organization and UNICEF official in Pyongyang, told Business Insider.

The country currently fears it doesn’t have enough testing kits for its citizens, the FT reported.

“The government has testing kits for COVID-19 and they know how to use them, but [the number of kits are] not sufficient, hence, [officials are] requesting all organizations … to support them in this regard,” a source told the FT.

Non-governmental aid agencies have also been trying to help North Korea prepare for an outbreak, but are struggling to get supplies across its shuttered border with China, Reuters reported.

Médecins Sans Frontières told the news agency that emergency supplies bound for North Korea were currently in Beijing and Dandong, a Chinese city bordering North Korea, and that officials were working to get the kit across the border despite the closure.

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In a rare admission of weakness, Kim acknowledged on March 18 that his country did not have enough modern medical facilities and called for improvements, the Associated Press reported, citing the state-controlled Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

On the orders of Kim, construction began on the new Pyongyang General Hospital on Wednesday, according to KCNA.

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

Articles

WWII Museum explores homefront’s ‘Arsenal of Democracy’

Museums, by definition, are repositories of the past.


But the good ones continue to keep things fresh – and not with small changes.

That certainly applies to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which continues to add exhibits and space.

Following the success of its Air Power Expo and the launching of the restored PT 305, the museum’s latest permanent exhibit, “The Arsenal of Democracy,” opens to the public Saturday, the week of the anniversary of D-Day.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The 10,000-square-foot salute to the homefront is funded by the Brown Foundation, of Houston, which is linked to the war by Brown Shipbuilding, a major supplier to the military during WWII.

“Until now, the museum’s main focus has been on the fighting,” said Rob Citino, the museum’s senior historian. “But if you want to tell the story of World War II, you have to give at least equal time to the homefront.”

Indeed. Although 16 million Americans were in uniform during the war, that’s only a little more than 10 percent of the country’s population at the time.

And not all of the young men were away. Of the major combatants, only the U.S. and China had less than half of its men ages 18-35 in the military.

But there were few, if any, American families who weren’t directly affected by the war to some degree, even those without a close relative in the service.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“There are so many stories wrapped up in the big story of World War II,” said Kim Guise, the museum’s assistant director of curatorial services. “We’ve kind of kept the homefront on the back burner until now.

“But now it’s time to bring it forward.”

The exhibit also is a reminder of the origins of the museum – outgoing museum CEO Nick Mueller and museum founder Stephen Ambrose, both then history professors at the University of New Orleans, were intrigued by the contributions of the Higgins boat, manufactured in New Orleans, in helping to win the war. The desire to tell that story resulted in what began as the D-Day Museum, which opened in 2000.

“Arsenal of Democracy,” which has been two years in development and is on the second floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, spotlights the massive mobilization of American manufacturing, which produced more goods than the Axis combined, tipping the scales in the Allies’ favor.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It’s a tribute to American ingenuity and know-how. Seemingly overnight, factories went from making typewriters to machine guns and from refrigerators to airplane parts, because there was no time to waste.

The exhibit also highlights the domestic side, complete with a “Main Street” showing how shop windows and movie marquees of the time looked, along with a home decorated in the style of the period – right down to a Radio Flyer, the classic little red wagon, sitting on the back porch full of metal collected for a scrap drive.

The living room features a world map, a reminder of a February 1942 fireside chat in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked listeners to follow along as he described the status of the global conflict.

There are poignant reminders of the human cost of war, too, such as letters home from Myron Murphy, a sailor from Vermont who died aboard the battleship Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, along with the gold star flag his mother hung in her window to signal her loss.

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Photo from USAF

There’s also the oral history of Lorraine McCaslin, who was alone at home when the word was delivered that her brother had been killed in action.

Noble sacrifice was a hallmark of the times. But there also were discordant voices.

The first gallery – “The Gathering Storm” – addresses the arguments made by isolationists that America should stay out of the war.

After the fall of France in spring 1940, those voices were less prominent, and in December, Roosevelt coined the phrase “arsenal of democracy” in a radio address, announcing manufacturing support for Great Britain.

The war effort demanded that the nation utilize more of its human capital than ever. Women went to work, and new employment opportunities emerged for African-Americans, both in the South and in places such as Ford’s Willow Run assembly line in Michigan.

It’s cliché now to say that the homefront was unified in its fight against the Axis. And it’s not entirely true.

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Thousands of Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during the war. There were riots in Detroit and Los Angeles and continuing discrimination against African-Americans. The military was still segregated.

In fact, the war created tremendous social upheaval from the beginning of civil rights movement to the diaspora of thousands of African-Americans from the South to the Midwest and West Coast. Women’s horizons broadened with the absence of so many men in previously all-male fields.

Those are issues that didn’t get much play when the museum opened in 2000, when the heroism of “The Greatest Generation” was unquestioned.

“History can be messy sometimes,” Citino said. “As heroic as the American war efforts were, then and now this country has work to do to build a just society.”

The war changed American life in other ways, too.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

There were momentous developments in science, technology, food production and medicine, ranging from the creation of the atomic bomb to the invention of MM’s because ordinary chocolate rations for soldiers melted too easily.

The exhibit itself has more interactive features than its predecessors. And, Citino added, the museum isn’t finished. “Liberation” is the next major project, and the postwar world has yet to be addressed.

“With visionary leadership and good fundraising, you can move mountains,” he said. “We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeves.”

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