Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military - We Are The Mighty
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Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. | US Navy photo by Chad J. McNeeley


In another historic change for the military, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday lifted the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the ranks, calling the move “the right thing to do” both practically and as a matter of principle.

Starting immediately, “Otherwise qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. “Our military, and the nation it defends, will be stronger” as a result, he said.

The secretary said he was acting to ensure that the military of the future had access to the widest talent pool. “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.

Another reason for lifting the ban was to end discrimination against those who are transgender and currently serving, Carter said.

He cited Rand Corp. statistics estimating that about 2,500 people out of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and about 1,500 out of about 825,000 reserve service members are transgender. The upper range estimates put the number of transgender persons on active duty at 7,000 and at 4,000 in the reserves, he said.

Most importantly, allowing transgender persons to serve openly was a matter of fairness and living up to the American principles of equal treatment and opportunity under the law, Carter said.

“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he said.

Carter quoted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said, “The United States Army is open to all Americans who meet the standard, regardless of who they are. Embedded within our Constitution is that very principle, that all Americans are free and equal.”

The lifting of the transgender ban was the latest in a series of rapid and wide-reaching social and cultural changes in the military going back to the 2011 action to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the military and continuing through Carter’s move last January to lift restrictions on women serving in combat.

Critics have scorned the changes as “social engineering” that would impact readiness and the ability to fight, and the transitions have been adopted reluctantly by many in the upper ranks.

Significantly, Carter was standing alone at the podium when he made the transgender announcement. In matters of major policy statements, the defense secretary is usually joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gen. Joseph Dunford was absent.

Dunford was also absent when Carter announced that he was opening combat military occupational specialties to women. As commandant, Dunford had urged closing some combat positions in the Marine Corps to women.

When asked about Dunford’s absence, Carter did not respond directly.

“This is my decision,” he said.

Carter said the decision was supported by the “senior leadership,” but did not say whether Dunford was included in the senior leadership.

Criticism of Carter’s action from Capitol Hill was immediate. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the announcement as “the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy.”

“Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” Thornberry said. “The administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our armed forces are deployed around the world.”

However, Carter had the authority to change the policy on his own, and it appeared that Congress could do little to block him. Thornberry was vague on whether Congress might seek to act. His statement said that “Congress would examine legislative options to address any readiness issues that might be associated with the new policy.”

OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, a group supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military community, praised the lifting of the ban. “Transgender service members have been awaiting this announcement for months and years. It has been long overdue,” said Matt Thorn, executing director of the group.

Thorn said Carter “has given a breath of relief and overdue respect to transgender service members who have been and are currently serving our country with undeniable professionalism, the utmost respect and illustrious courage, with the caveat to do so silently. Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence.”

Carter had made his position on the transgender ban clear last July, when he called the ban “outdated” and ordered a study on lifting it.

“I directed the working group to start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” he said.

The study looked at other militaries that already allow transgender service members to serve openly. Currently, about 18 militaries allow transgender service, including those of Britain, Israel, Australia, Brazil and Chile.

Based on the analysis of other militaries, Rand concluded that there would be “minimal readiness impacts from allowing transgender service members to serve openly,” Carter said. Rand also estimated that health care costs would represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of the department’s overall health care expenditures, he said.

The Pentagon signaled it plans to pay for costs associated with transgender health care.

“Medically necessary” gender reassignment surgery and medications will also be covered beginning in about 90 days, Carter said.

“Our doctors will give them medically necessary procedures as determined by the medical professions,” he said. “In no later than 90 days, the DoD will issue a commanders’ guidebook for leading transgender troops, as well as medical guidance to military doctors for transgender-related care.”

The success of changing the policy on transgender service will be determined by how the changes are put in place, said Carter, who set out a year-long course of gradual implementation.

Within three months, the department will issue a commanders’ guidebook on how to deal with currently-serving transgender service members, along with guidance to doctors for providing transition-related care if required to currently-serving transgender service members, Carter said. Also within that time period, service members will be able to initiate the process for officially changing their gender in personnel management systems, he said.

Following the guidance period, the focus will turn to training the entire force on the new rules — “from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating force and recruiters,” Carter said.

By the one-year mark, all service branches will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. Also, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.

Immediately, however, transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen will no longer have to live with the possibility of being booted from the service or denied re-enlistment solely because they are transgender, Carter said. “Service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly,” he said.

On the subject of “gender re-assignment” surgery, Carter said the Pentagon will not pay for recruits to have it. “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition and to have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military,” said.

The decision on whether to allow those already in the ranks to have gender re-assignment surgery paid for by DoD would be up to the individual’s military doctor, Carter said. “The medical standards don’t change,” Carter said, and all service members will be entitled to “all the medical care that doctors deem necessary.”

— Amy Bushatz contributed to this report.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these morale patches caught the Navy’s attention

One of the best things about the military is its subculture and sense of humor. If you give any group in the military any leeway at all in regard to uniform wear, even the slightest bit, the chances are good that they’ll make jokes out of it. One such tradition is the morale patch. Usually worn during deployments and on aircrew, the morale patch is worn solely by the designation of a unit commander. They often make fun of some of the worst, most boring, or most defining aspects of a career field.

Recently, some Naval aviators got into hot water by wearing patches that may have been a little too close to political.


Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

It’s not as if this is the military’s first Trump joke.

Many of the best morale patches often have a pop culture element to them. Some of them may have some kind of inside joke, or technical jargon. In the patch above, for example, a UARRSI is part of an aircraft’s in-flight refueling apparatus, specifically on the receiving end.

Related: 13 of the best military morale patches

Unfortunately for the Navy aircrew sporting the red patch and the “Make (blank) Great Again” joke, using an image of the President’s 2016 campaign slogan might be a little too political for the Navy’s top brass, with or without the “p*ssy” joke the Air Force used in the second patch above. No matter what the reason, the military is increasingly concerned about U.S. troops and their acts of political affiliation in uniform.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

Trump signed signature red “MAGA” hats for deployed troops during a New Years visit in 2018. What concerned brass then was that the White House didn’t distribute the hats, troops already brought them.

The Pentagon’s Uniform Code of Military Justice states “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.” This expressed line may be the cause of the Navy’s ire with the red Trump aircrew patch.

More: 13 more awesome military morale patches from around the service

It’s possible that the aircrews were making a political statement, but it’s much more likely that the reference to the President and his 2016 campaign slogan is a pop culture one. Trump’s revival of the old 1980 Reagan election theme has permeated American culture since Trump adopted it and made it his own. Even the President’s detractors use some variation of the MAGA line to insult the President and his policies.

The problem is this time, U.S. troops were seen by members of the media sporting the patches during an official Trump visit to the USS Wasp in Tokyo Bay. The image of troops wearing the patch went viral, and people who don’t seem to know about the morale patch tradition called it “more than patriotism” and “inappropriate.”

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

President Trump delivers a Memorial Day speech aboard the USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Shorter)

The Navy downplayed the patches officially, calling them “old news” but acknowledged it was conducting an inquiry to determine if the move was an overtly political act.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Last week, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of a small island in the South China Sea claimed by Communist China. This is not the first time something like this has happened. Other ships, like the Hopper’s sister ship, USS John S. McCain, have made similar runs.


So, you might ask yourself, “why continue running these kinds of routes when they piss off China?” After all, the Hopper was warned off by a Chinese Communist missile frigate and Scarborough Shoal, the island in question, isn’t even inhabited — what’s the point?

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) and the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) conduct an underway replenishment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo)

Well, part of the reason is to contest China’s claim over pretty much all of the South China Sea. This is a claim that was rejected by an international tribunal in the summer of 2016, although China pulled a Lannister-esque gambit and boycotted the proceedings. China has since built some island bases in the disputed region and uses them to not only support aircraft operations but also houses surface-to-air missiles as well.

So, in addition to disputing the claims of the Chinese in the South China Sea, these near-passes provide an opportunity to get a good look at the electronic emissions and other military capabilities on island bases.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

The United States Navy calls these close passes “freedom of navigation” exercises. The term sounds innocent enough, but similar exercises resulted in brief battles with Libya in 1981, 1986, and 1989, which included the sinking of two Libyan naval vessels and the downing of Su-22 “Fitter” and MiG-23 “Flogger” combat jets by F-14 Tomcats. In one instance in the 1980s, a pair of Soviet frigates bumped the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
The Soviet Krivak I class guided missile frigate BEZZAVETNY (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS YORKTOWN (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (U.S. Navy photo)

Currently, the freedom of navigation exercises have not drawn hostile fire from Chinese Communist forces. However, it has not been unusual for American planes to be buzzed by ChiCom jets, as happened on multiple occasions in 2017, one of which mirrored a secne in the 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun. In 2001, a ChiCom J-8 “Finback” collided with a United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance aircraft, which, as a result, had to make an emergency landing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sikh family balances faith, military service

Sikhism is the fifth largest world religion, according to the Sikh Coalition, with 500,000 Sikhs living within the U.S. Among the core beliefs is service to humanity, a principle the Singh family hopes to be fulfilling through their military commitment across generations.

Air Force Reserve 2nd Lt. Naureen Singh, 26, grew up watching her father, retired Col. G.B. Singh, serve as an officer in the U.S. Army. Though he was stationed overseas in places like Korea and Germany, her parents made the decision to keep the family in Colorado Springs for stability.


When attending community group events for South Asians or Sikh, Naureen was confused about why her father was the only one in the military.

“It didn’t really click in my head that my dad is a really unique case until I got a lot older,” she said.

The distinctiveness comes into play because as a Sikh there are certain aspects to their faith that made a goal of military service difficult to obtain at the time. Those who identify as Sikh do not believe in cutting any hair on their bodies and most men wear a turban. In fact, the Sikh Coalition states 99% of the people wearing turbans in America are Sikhs.

Both the turban and unshorn hair are considered articles of faith and a constant reminder to remember their values. These two articles in particular create a barrier to a military that prides itself on uniformity.

Singh’s father pursued a commissioning in 1979. Two years later the Department of Defense banned the turban and long hair. Although he was grandfathered in, Naureen says her father felt honor bound to fight for Sikhs to be able to serve while following their faith.

“It was not easy for him. Day in and day out he had an uphill battle trying to be an officer but then also be an officer with a certain faith,” Naureen explained.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

AIr Force 2nd Lt. Naureen Singh, the 310th Space Wing director of equal opportunity, stands outside the wing headquarters building on Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marko Salopek.

She remembers going on base and listening to people question his rank, not believing he was an officer. Despite treatment like this, she said her father had an overwhelmingly positive experience which he credited to having supportive higher ups.

He went on to become one of the highest-ranking Sikhs to keep his turban and serve on active duty, retiring in 2007.

Practicing Sikhs have served in the U.S. military since World War I. Over 80,000 Sikhs died fighting for the allied forces during World War II. Few temporary religious accommodations were granted following the ban in the 1980s, preventing a whole generation of Sikhs from serving.

“I do think it is really important to recognize that when you are diverse of thought or of background, you bring a new voice to the table … that voice can help with mission accomplishment,” Naureen explained.

In 2017, a successful lawsuit opened the door for more Sikhs to join the military without issue, meaning they can file for a religious exemption to wear a turban and beard.

Naureen completed Air Force Officer Training School earlier this year. She began her journey in 2016, inspired by her father’s service. She is also pursuing a Master of Criminal Justice degree from the University of Colorado at Denver.

She shared that she didn’t always know what she wanted to do or that the military would be her path.

“I was born in the states and my parents, who immigrated from India, grew up with a different outlook than mine. I was always too American for my Indian friends and too Indian for my American friends. It was so hard to see where I belonged,” Naureen said.

There were also other struggles growing up that added to the difficulty of finding herself.

“I grew up in the shadows of 9/11. I think growing up after 9/11 and seeing how we equated the turban with terrorism in this country … Here I was trying to fit in, but in media I would see people who had turbans like my dad be projected in a very certain light. That’s why I think I shoved my identity to the side, I didn’t want to make myself stand out,” Naureen said.

After finishing college, she realized thinking that way was detrimental and embraced her identity as a Sikh.

“If you look at Sikh history and especially Sikh soldiers, it makes me meant to be in this force. It took a long time to get there though,” she said with a smile.

Naureen hopes her family’s story and journey will inspire others to serve, adding those aspiring to join the military should just go for it.

“Don’t ever doubt yourself or put restrictions on yourself … Keep pushing. If my dad could do it in the 1970s, anyone can do it.”

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.


Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Oct. 13

Another week down. Everything in the news is still terrible.


The White House is imploding. Hollywood is imploding. There’s a Friday the 13th in October.

But you know what you can count on?

Memes. And we have the best military memes around.

1. Nobody wants to work on weekends. Or ever. (via Pop Smoke)

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
You can also apply this to any girlfriend I’ve ever had.

2. If you thought the news from Hollywood was bad…

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
He may not be surprised that we’re still in Afghanistan though.

Read: 6 reasons why it would suck to be a Stormtrooper in Star Wars

3. At least the Army keeps it interesting.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Does this mean they have to bring back DCUs for Iraq and Afghanistan?

4. Blueberries are the new bell bottoms. (via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
I thought they swabbed decks.

5. Veterans day is coming. You can almost taste the free food.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Vets are getting more aggressive with it every year.

Also: 11 things your platoon medic would never say

6. Grandpa is sick of your bullsh*t. (via Decelerate Your Life)

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Be frightened of old sailors. I am.

7. It’s not just good advice. It’s reality.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

8. It’s the Navy birthday, but the Coast Guard can still ruin the party.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

Now: This Desert Storm gun is a favorite for special ops units

9. For some reason Veterans declared war on JROTC last week.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
They’re all gonna get officer ranks for this. If they, you know, survive.

10. If you know how this started, drop us a line.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
That kid doesn’t even have a single merit badge, I bet.

11. It ain’t about the merit badges, it’s about the freshman next to you.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
At least there’s no hot weapons. Because they’re in high school.

12. JROTC is the calm before the storm.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
That’s true bearing and discipline.

13. JROTC: Send us your best responses.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Veterans only respect strength. They better be good.

Bonus: More of the best JROTC Memes. Enjoy your weekend!

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
via Decelerate Your Life

 

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Zapp Brannigan had 30 Merit Badges as a Freshman.

Also Read: 11 regional American foods we’d like to see in MREs

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Operator AF.

 

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said.

Articles

US carriers deploy new torpedo defense system

The Navy is arming aircraft carriers with a prototype high-tech torpedo defense technology able to detect, classify, track and destroy incoming enemy torpedoes, service officials said.


The Anti-Torpedo Defense System, currently installed on five aircraft carriers and deployed on one carrier at the moment, is slated to be fully operational by 2022.  

The overall SSTD system, which consists of a sensor, processor and small interceptor missile, is a first-of-its-kind “hard kill” countermeasure for ships and carriers designed to defeat torpedoes, Navy officials said.

The emerging Surface Ship Torpedo Defense technology includes the Anti-Torpedo Defense System, or ATTDS and an SLQ-25 Acoustic Device Countermeasure; the ATTDS consists of a Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo program and Torpedo Warning System.  

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. Graphic: Department of Defense Ron Stern

 “The ATTDS is designed to detect, classify, track and localize incoming torpedoes utilizing the Torpedo Warning System leading to a torpedo hard-kill by employing the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo,” Collen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior.

Thus far, the ATTDS has completed three carrier deployments.  The ATTDS Program of Record plan for future ships includes additional carriers and Combat Logistic Force ships.

Earlier this year, the ATTDS was installed and operated on the USNS BRITTIN (TAKR-305) over a six day period during which the latest system hardware and software was tested. The results of the testing are instrumental for continued system development, O’Rourke added.

The technology is slated for additional testing and safety certifications.

The emergence of a specifically-engineered torpedo defense system is quite significant for the Navy – as it comes a time when many weapons developers are expressing concern about the potential vulnerability of carriers in light of high-tech weapons such as long-range anti-ship missiles and hypersonic weapons. An ability to protect the large platforms submarine-launched torpedo attacks adds a substantial element to a carrier’s layered defense systems.

Ships already have a layered system of defenses which includes sensors, radar and several interceptor technologies designed to intercept large, medium and small scale threats from a variety of ranges.

For example, most aircraft carriers are currently configured with Sea Sparrow interceptor missiles designed to destroy incoming air and surface threats and the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. CIWS is a rapid-fire gun designed as an area weapon intended to protect ships from surface threats closer to the boat’s edge, such as fast-attack boats.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
The Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. | YouTube

Torpedo defense for surface ships, however, involves another portion of the threat envelope and is a different question. SSTD is being rapidly developed to address this, Navy officials explained.

The system consists of a Torpedo Warning System Receive Array launched from the winch at the end of the ship, essentially a towed sensor or receiver engineered to detect the presence of incoming torpedo fire. The Receive Array sends information to a processor which then computes key information and sends data to interceptor projectiles – or Countermeasures Anti-Torpedos, or CAT – attached to the side of the ship.

The towed array picks up the acoustic noise.  The processors filter it out and inform the crew. The crew then makes the decision about whether to fire a CAT, Navy officials said.

The CATs are mounted on the carriers’ sponson, projections from the side of the ship designed for protection, stability or the mounting of armaments.

The individual technological pieces of the SSTD system are engineered to work together to locate and destroy incoming torpedos in a matter of seconds or less.  Tactical display screens on the bridge of the ship are designed to inform commanders about the system’s operations.

After being tested on some smaller ships such as destroyers, the SSTD was approved for use on aircraft carriers in 2011 by then Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert, according to the Navy.

The SSTD effort is described by Navy officials as a rapid prototyping endeavor designed to fast-track development of the technology. In fact, the Torpedo Warning System recently won a 2013 DoD “Myth-Busters” award for successful acquisition practices such as delivering the TWS to the USS Bush on an accelerated schedule. The TWS is made by 3 Phoenix.

The Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo is being developed by the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory, officials said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army might have weaponized ticks and released them in the US

Ticks are some of the dirtiest disease-carrying bugs on Earth. They can carry any number of pathogens, bacterias, and viruses – a single tick bite can infect a human with more than one of those at any given time. The point is ticks don’t need any help to be terrible disease vectors.

But you couldn’t tell that to the U.S. Army, who apparently doesn’t have an off switch.


Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

“… and that’s how I made cancer airborne and contagious. Go Army, beat Navy.”

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to require the Pentagon’s Inspector General to tell the public if the Army weaponized disease-ridden ticks and then released them into the continental United States between 1950 and 1975. The vote came as part of a vote on amendments related to the 2020 defense authorization bill, which was passed the next day.

A very important aspect of the request is finding out if the military released the ticks on purpose or if the release came as an accident. Congress also required the Pentagon to provide the House and Senate Armed Services committees with a detailed report on the scope of the experiment.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

How would you vote on this measure?

Ticks can cause Lyme Disease, Typhus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Meningoencephalitis, Hemorrhagic Fevers, paralysis, and even an allergy to meat. The House vote was only to force the Pentagon to acknowledge and deliver a report on whether or not the military released weaponized ticks, despite a ban on such experiments implemented by the Nixon Administration. The vote, however, would not require the Pentagon to reveal what the ticks were carrying, though advocates of the bill are primarily interested in the spread of Lyme Disease, which affects 300,000 to 400,000 new people every year.

The Senate bill did not have the weaponized ticks amendment and it remains to be seen if the reconciled bill bound for the President’s desk will include it.

Articles

The story of the iconic Soviet general and the secret order for a special kind of Coca-Cola

As World War II ended and the Iron Curtain fell over Eastern Europe, relations deteriorated between the Soviet Union and its Western allies.

The Soviet repudiation of the West and of capitalism went as far as banning business with Western companies, as there was no reason to trade with “imperialist” powers.

That created a problem for one of the most revered Soviet military leaders, marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov, who oversaw many of the USSR’s greatest victories against the Nazis.

The problem? Zhukov had developed an intense liking for Coca-Cola, a drink now illegal in the Soviet Union. Not only that, but Zhukov also feared that being seen consuming such a recognizable Western product would lead to punishment.

In an effort to maintain good ties, the Truman administration undertook a covert effort to get Zhukov the soda he wanted.

A cultural icon

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Soldiers the front lines of the Cassino Front drink the first Coca-Cola to reach US troops in Italy on March 16, 1944. (PH/Sherman Montrose ACME)

Coca-Cola’s steadfast support for the Allied war effort helped make it both distinctly American and recognizable worldwide.

As the US entered the war, Coca-Cola President Robert Woodruff ordered his company “to see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the Company.”

The soft drink was seen as an important morale booster and thus a wartime necessity. Coca-Cola bottling plants sprang up close to front lines all over the world to get the drinks to Allied troops as fast as possible.

More than 100 employees known as “Coca-Cola colonels” were even given the Army rank of technical observer and deployed to the front to ensure soldiers got their Cokes quickly and efficiently.

In 1943, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, a fan of the drink himself, ordered 3 million bottles to the front in North Africa. He also requested enough supplies and materials to refill 6 million more bottles every month.

When Richard Bong, a US Army pilot in the Pacific theater, set the American record for air-to-air-combat victories in January 1944, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, the head of the Army Air Forces, sent him two cases of Coke as a reward.

By the end of the war, Allied military personnel had consumed 5 billion bottles of Coke from 64 bottling plants around the world.

‘White Coke’

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Zhukov, Eisenhower, and Montgomery at a banquet at Allied headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1945. (Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Zhukov acquired his taste for Coke after drinking it during a meeting with Eisenhower after the war. Zhukov could enjoy Coke in meetings with Western officials but not at home, as the Soviet Union had banned Coca-Cola outright.

No alternative sated Zhukov’s thirst for Coke, but in 1946, he had an idea: If the drink were delivered without its distinctive caramel color, it could possibly be passed off as vodka.

Zhukov asked his American counterparts to see if such a feat was possible. Gen. Mark W. Clark, commander of US forces in the American sector of Allied-occupied Austria, eventually passed the request to President Harry Truman, who contacted James Farley, chairman of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation.

Coca-Cola was actually in the process of expanding its business operations in Austria, and one of its employees was assigned to the effort. A company chemist soon made a clear version of the drink by removing caramel from the ingredients.

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military
Zhukov, then Soviet defense minister, demonstrates a bayonet thrust at the military academy at Dehradun, India in January 1957. (CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

At Zhukov’s request, the new beverage wasn’t put in the usual Coke bottles but instead in unmarked, straight-edged bottles. To create a communist-friendly appearance, Coca-Cola even used custom-made white caps emblazoned with a red star on the bottles.

Fifty crates of “white Coke” were delivered to the Soviets in Vienna. While all other goods entering the Soviet occupation zone were stopped and inspected, Coca-Cola was able to deliver the crates without interference.

In the end, the rare olive branch between East and West amounted to little more than a personal favor between wartime colleagues.

It’s not known what became of the drinks or their bottles, and the exchange had no effect on the deteriorating relationship between the two blocs.

It didn’t even earn Coca-Cola better treatment, either. Its rival Pepsi eventually gained a virtual monopoly in the Soviet Union, which the Soviets maintained — once trading several warships for $3 billion worth of Pepsi — until 1985.

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

Feature image: Bettman/ Getty Images

MIGHTY TRENDING

These U.S. pilots are flying security missions over Iceland

Air Force F-15 Eagle pilots are helping to guard the skies over Iceland for the eleventh time since NATO’s Icelandic Air Surveillance mission began.

The 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron began flying operations here this week in support of the mission, highlighting America’s commitment to NATO and the strength of its ties with Iceland. The squadron is tasked with supplying airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its host’s peacetime preparedness needs and bolster the security and defense of allied nations.


During their rotation, the squadron will maintain an alert status 24 hours a day, seven days a week as part of their peacetime mission. This means they are ready to respond within minutes to any aircraft that may not properly identify themselves, communicate with air traffic control or have a flight path on file.

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(USAF)

Strengthening NATO Partnerships

“This deployment gives us the opportunity to strengthen our NATO partnerships and alliances and train in a different location while continuing to improve our readiness and capability for our alert commitment,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd EFS commander. “Our overall expectation is to maintain a professional presence in everything we do.”

To remain vigilant, the squadron performs daily “training scrambles” in which they simulate real-world alert notification and execute planned protocols to ensure a speedy response.

More than 250 airmen assigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and 13 F-15C/D Eagles deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, with additional support from U.S. airmen assigned to Aviano Air Base, Italy. Four of the aircraft are tasked with direct support of the Icelandic Air Surveillance mission, while the additional nine aircraft will conduct training missions, providing pilots invaluable experience operating in unfamiliar airspace.

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An F-15C Eagle flies over Iceland during a flight in support of the Icelandic Air Policing mission Sept. 15, 2010. The IAP is conducted as part of NATO’s mission of providing air sovereignty for member nations and has also been conducted by France, Denmark, Spain and Poland.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Andrew Rose)

While providing critical infrastructure and support, Iceland has looked to its NATO allies to provide airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its peacetime preparedness needs since 2008.

“Every year, we experience how qualified the air forces of the NATO nations are and how well trained they are to conduct the mission,” said Icelandic Coast Guard Capt. Jon B. Gudnason, Keflavik Air Base commander. “This is what makes NATO such a great partner.”

NATO allies deploy aircraft and personnel to support this critical mission three times a year, with the U.S. responsible for at least one rotation annually. So far, nine nations have held the reigns in support of Iceland: Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and the U.S.

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The US military may soon get an R2-D2 of its own to help fix combat equipment

With the advent of “net-centric” warfare — highly-integrated and extremely complex next-generation aircraft, warships, and even infantry soldier systems — the US military has invested a good deal of effort into finding something that eases the workload and burden on troops tasked with maintaining these processes and systems, and fixes issues as they appear.


SparkCognition, a startup in Texas with a rapidly growing funding base and ties with big-name defense contractors like Boeing, aims to put a speedy end to this search with the development of an artificial intelligence “fixer” with a broad range of functions, from diagnosing complex issues with military hardware to preventing ships from colliding at sea.

Much like everybody’s favorite Star Wars robot mechanic, R2D2, this new AI system will be able to function on its own, learning the mechanical ins and outs of warships, fighter jets and everything in-between. When something goes wrong — a glitch, a software failure, or a hardware malfunction — the AI can pinpoint the exact problem, then direct maintainers and technicians on solving the issue at hand.

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R2D2 fixing a spaceship in Star Wars Episode I (Photo Star Wars via YouTube screengrab)

Pilots, don’t get your hopes up just yet… the AI probably won’t look anything like the beeping white and blue barrel on wheels from Star Wars, nor will it come with a cattle prod that can somehow do anything from fixing a busted spaceship to picking the lock on a door. And it definitely won’t slot into a compartment behind the cockpit of your aircraft to keep you company on extended sorties.

Instead, it’ll likely be a series of servers and computers that stream information from sensors planted at critical locations around vehicles and other machines, keeping a watchful eye out for any red alerts or potential causes for concern, and reporting it back to a centralized system overseen by a maintenance team.

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A group of USAF F-35As in formation near Hill AFB, Utah (Photo US Air Force)

The US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will soon begin fully fielding a far-less involved diagnostics system for the F-35 Lightning II stealth strike fighter known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System. ALIS, for short, is designed to give ground crews and support personnel a wide range of metrics and data on the functionality of the F-35.

If new parts are needed, or something is damaged, inoperable, etc., ALIS lets support crew know quickly and efficiently in order to keep the F-35 out of the hangars and in the skies.

SparkCognition hopes that they can also put their AI to sea with the Navy’s surface warfare fleet, especially aboard Littoral Combat Ships which have been experiencing a plethora of engineering troubles over the past few years. By observing and storing information on LCS powerplants, the AI would be able to accurately predict the failure of an engine component before it even happens, allowing for preventative maintenance to keep the ships combat-ready and deployable.

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USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) pulls away from harbor in Singapore in 2016 (Photo US Navy)

Self-diagnosing and healing systems have already been predicted as an integral part of the future of military aviation, especially as the Air Force and Navy both look towards designing and developing a 6th generation fighter to begin replacing its current air superiority fleet some 15 to 20 years down the road.

By fielding AI systems and hardware which allow an aircraft to fix itself or re-optimize its configuration while in-flight after sustaining damage, fighters and other types with the technology built-in can remain on mission longer, or can promise a safe return of the pilots and other aircrew in the event that the aircraft needs to return to base. While we’re a ways off from these ultra-advanced systems, however, SparkCognition’s AI is still fairly achievable within the next five to seven years.

Let’s just hope that, should the DoD decide to pick up SparkCognition’s AI, it stays more like R2D2 and doesn’t turn into something along the lines of Skynet from the Terminator movies.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Another T-38 trainer has crashed in Texas

A T-38C Talon II trainer aircraft crashed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas on Sept. 11, 2018, marking the fourth accident for the aging aircraft in the past year.

The aircraft, a twin-engine, high-altitude supersonic jet and part of the 80th Flying Training Wing, crashed on Sept. 11, 2018, while taking off. The two pilots ejected safely and were taken to local medical facilities, the base said in a statement. Both pilots are said to be in stable condition.


Sept. 11, 2018’s incident follows another T-38 crash in mid-August 2018. The 71st Flying Training Wing aircraft crashed at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma on Aug. 17, 2018, becoming the sixth aircraft the US Air Force lost to noncombat mishaps in 2018, according to The Drive.

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A T-38C Talon used primarily by Air Education and Training Command for undergraduate pilot and pilot instructor training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Steve White)

Another trainer jet crashed in May 2018 near Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. Both pilots were able to eject safely from the plane. And all three of these incidents were proceeded by a fatal crash in November 2017. Capt. Paul J. Barbour lost his life when his plane crashed near Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, according to Military.com. The pilot’s ejection seat was not armed at the time of the crash.

The T-38 program, according to the US Air Force, is old, expensive, and outdated, a Congressional Research Service report from May 2018 explains, noting these jets are not well-suited for training future pilots for fifth-generation fighter and bomber operations.

The contract for the replacement T-X trainer has been delayed several times due to budget issues.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to counter a punch like a Marine

While the Marine Corps has developed a well-earned reputation as a fierce opponent on the battlefield, that reputation wasn’t cultivated by only recruiting tenacious warfighters. Like every branch, the Marine Corps’s new recruits represent a cross-section of the American people, with men and women of varying ages and widely diverse backgrounds funneled into a training process that can be so grueling and difficult, some have referred to it as a “meat grinder.” For the rest of us, this training process is called the “accession pipeline,” – where kids from the block enter, and occupationally proficient professional warfighters emerge.

All Marines earn a tan belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program before completing recruit training, and while that’s akin to earning a white belt in most martial arts disciplines, the Marine Corps is one place where your ability to actually use your martial arts training in a fight is considered the priority.


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This isn’t really how most self-defense classes at the mall tend to play out. (USMC Photo by LCpl Ismael Ortega)

 

Martial arts in the Marine Corps is not a means to develop one’s self-esteem, a fun way to get active, or even about learning self-defense in bar fights. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is, in many ways, an abbreviated introduction to the most brutal parts of warfare: where death is the most likely outcome, and the struggle is merely to decide which of you it comes for. While the techniques taught in the earliest belts (tan and grey) may seem simplistic, the intent is to provide all Marines with the basic building blocks required to bring others to a violent end, and of course, to try to prevent others from doing the same to you.

And if you want to win a fight, one of the first things you need to learn how to do is stop your opponent from force feeding you his fists. Hands have a nasty habit of moving faster than heads, so the boxing method of bobbing and weaving away from incoming strikes isn’t a feasible introduction to defense. Instead, the Marine Corps leans on the same approach to a rear hand strike as it would an ambush: once you see it coming, you attack into it.

The rear hand punch tends to be the most devastating of upper body strikes, and it can manifest in a number of ways. The same fundamental mechanics of using your legs and torso to swing your rear fist like a hammer at your opponent can make a right cross powerful enough to send you reeling, or give a hook the weight it needs to break a jaw. So when you see it coming, the appropriate response is to step into it at a 45-degree angle, closing the distance between your opponent and yourself, muting some of its delivery and re-orienting the point of impact on both your body and the arm of your opponent.

 

As you step into your opponent’s extending arm, your hands should already be raised to protect yourself. Make contact with the inside of your opponent’s swinging arm with the meaty portion of your left forearm while keeping your right hand up to protect your head. Once your left arm has made contact with your opponent’s right, his punch has been defused, but worse for him, his rear hand is now extended out to your side, leaving his head and torso open and undefended on that side.

At that point you can quickly wrap your left arm around your opponent’s extended arm at the elbow joint, creating a standing armbar you can use for leverage to deliver hammer strikes to your opponent’s face and head. You can also transition toward further joint manipulations, or you may maintain control of the arm and sweep your right heel as you drive your opponent to the ground, landing him face down while you maintain an armbar or basic wrist lock. For any but the most motivated of opponents, just about each of these results could feasibly be the end of the fight.

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Maintain positive control of your opponent’s wrist as you follow him to the ground to ensure he can’t scramble away. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John Robbart III)

 

The important elements of this technique to master are simple, but fast-moving. Look for your opponent to telegraph a rear hand or round punch with their dominant hand. As they begin to throw it, step forward and into that punch, meeting your opponent’s arm with your own (if they throw a punch on your left, your left arm makes contact, on the right, your right arm does). The force of that impact alone should be enough to knock them a bit off balance, and all there is left to do is follow up with at least three techniques meant to harm or subdue the attacker.

And of course, if you’re in a multiple opponent situation, it’s imperative that you maintain situational awareness and create separation from your attacker as quickly as possible to prepare for the next attack. But if it’s just you and him… feel free to wrench on that arm a bit as you wait for law enforcement to arrive–ya know, just to make sure it doesn’t do him any good in lock up.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what John McCain thinks of the VA’s Veterans CARE Act proposal

US Senator John McCain today applauded the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ proposed Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences Act, which would bolster the Veterans Choice Program and consolidate the VA’s community care network.


The proposal also includes several measures Senator McCain has strongly advocated to expand quality and timely care for veterans in their communities, such as eliminating the current 30-day/40-mile limit to permit all eligible veterans to use the VA Choice Card.

Also read: The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

It would also offer patients access to a network of walk-in clinics for minor health issues. This is modeled on a path-breaking partnership in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows Phoenix’s nearly 120,000 veterans to visit dozens of local CVS MinuteClinic locations for care.

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Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

Senator McCain released the following statement supporting the VA’s new proposal:

“The VA’s proposed Veterans CARE Act would improve access to health care by developing a consolidated community care network that places veterans first. I am especially pleased to see the VA’s proposal incorporates some of the major reforms I have long advocated, such as eliminating the 30-day/40-mile restriction in the Veterans Choice Program, and expanding the successful pilot program in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows veterans to visit local walk-in clinics nationwide.

Veteran Issues: Military veterans are twice as likely to get ALS, and no one knows why

“Over the last few years, demand for community care through the Veterans Choice Program has grown considerably. Millions of veteran appointments have been made with quality community health care providers around the country. Today, veterans no longer have to wait in long lines or drive hundreds of miles to receive care. Unfortunately, the Veterans Choice Program has also been a victim of its own success, and has outpaced the VA’s ability to accurately predict growing demand for the program. Until the VA can accurately assess demand for care in the community, Congress’ efforts to create an integrated and efficient VA health care system will continue to face difficulty.

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Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

“Those efforts must reflect the lessons learned through the Veterans Choice Program. We must set standards for care that are easy to use and understand. We must require the VA to accurately assess demand for care in the community. And we must produce a standardized and transparent system that integrates community and VA services.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Shulkin, my colleagues on the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, and veterans service organizations to build on the proposed Veterans CARE Act and deliver our veterans the timely, quality, and flexible health care they deserve.”

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