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Old 04-13-2009, 01:25 PM
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Default The Longer Version Part 4

Apr-Jun 1996
The Longer Version Part 4

At the beginning of the second quarter of 1996, Fort Huachuca commander MG Thomason was hunting for funding and partners. He discovered one ally in Arizona Governor Fife Symington. The Contingency Detachment commander, 1LT Walsh, learned through his Dept. of Public Safety contacts that Symington had requested updates on the readiness of Arizona to face a nuclear exchange. Walsh passed that word back up his chain of command. In short order, Thomason ensured that a summary of the CD work was on Symington’s desk, along with all substantiating documentation.

At that point in time, Symington did not believe there was a credible threat to the US as a whole or Arizona. However, he was well aware of the recent but growing public interest in contingency planning. He was equally aware that the public would perceive cooperation between the governor’s office and Fort Huachuca in a favorable light. Thomason and Symington met in Phoenix, and the two men quickly established a good working relationship.

The chief asset Symington was able to offer Thomason was access to state agencies. Among these agencies were the Dept. of Public Safety, the Dept. of Agriculture, the State Adjutant, and the University of Arizona. The Contingency Detachment, still heavily in its research phase, badly needed more manpower to conduct the wide variety of research entailed by the detachment mission. Arizona public safety agents and bureaucrats were made available to the Contingency Detachment, albeit in very small numbers.

Additionally, the CD was ready to begin field trials of a number of the semi-arid and garden-style farming techniques. Little preparation had been done in terms of site selection, crop selection, and material allocation by the time the growing season began in southern Arizona. University staff and students who volunteered to participate in the program showed great ingenuity in overcoming these obstacles. The back yards of faculty, staff, and students became the model gardens. Vacant lots in Tucson were found and cultivated. In at least once instance, a Tucson high school became involved in the project. A very substantial lot was cultivated for intensive gardening using funds provided through the University which in turn came from the state.1

Closer to Fort Huachuca, the CD arranged to lease large swaths of land currently covered in chaparral and mesquite. Large parts of southern Arizona had been good grazing land in the late 1800’s, including the southern San Pedro Valley. Although much of the soil had been eroded as a result of overgrazing during that time, the climate was right for grass and therefore for some types of grains. Somewhat different techniques were tried here, emphasizing several techniques of semi-arid agriculture practiced in several Third World countries. Students and a handful of migrant farm workers provided the labor for these experiments.

On-post, Mrs. Thomason led intensive gardening efforts by organizing the post spouse groups. Thomason supported the effort by adjusting post policy to encourage soldiers to replace the lawns in on-post housing with New Victory Gardens. Also, company and battalion commanders were instructed to include service in one of the gardens as an extra-duty option for an Article 15. A surprising number of soldiers accepted extra duty in the gardens; a surprising number of them continued to put in time in the gardens after their extra duty was complete.

Taken in context, the Huachuca agricultural efforts to date were nothing more than seeds. The total number of people involved was small: fewer than 1000 between all of the trials being conducted in Tucson backyards, empty lots, on Fort Huachuca, and in the southern San Pedro Valley. Many of the smaller gardens failed to produce anything. Nevertheless, much valuable experience was being gained. Through the University of Arizona and the Contingency Detachment, the experiences of the program participants were being compiled and recorded. The lessons learned would prove invaluable when the time came for large-scale implementation. Additionally, the efforts received support through the local media. As the year went on, other xericulture gardeners came forward to share their experiences. Tucson in particular would benefit from this knowledge.

At the federal level, the Division of Contingency Planning came into being at the beginning of April. A number of organizations throughout the US military had been conducting separate contingency planning operations. Once the inevitability of a second Soviet offensive in China became clear, the Pentagon decided to centralize contingency planning. The DCP was formed under the command LTG Daniel Bauer for the purpose of coordinating contingency planning efforts throughout the Department of Defense.

Bauer immediately began searching for a poster child. He sensed that most post and base commanders would view contingency planning and preparation as a burden. If Bauer could find an installation to serve as a model and vigorously support that installation, he might be able to overcome the reluctance of the force at large. Perhaps not coincidentally, five days after Bauer took charge of the new DCP, a summary report of Fort Huachuca’s work was on his desk. Very soon thereafter, a few dozen Arizona National Guardsmen and Reservists were called to Title 10 service and sent to Huachuca. Their orders were to assist the Contingency Detachment in conducting research and field trials.

Over the next several months, the Huachuca command worked hand-in-hand with the DCP devising schemes for diverting funds to Huachuca to improve long-term viability of the post in the event of a nuclear exchange. Funds were allocated for the purchase of photovoltaic arrays under the guise of lowering energy costs in the long run. Additional funds were allocated for the purchase and installation of a handful of wind turbines for the same purpose. In the interests of resource conservation, funds were found for refitting existing buildings for low-flush toilets, drip irrigation for landscaping, gray water reuse, and cisterns.

Across the country, state legislatures had been pondering an important question since the beginning of the new year. If the Sino-Soviet War spun out of control, US National Guard troops would be called into federal service in large numbers. If the war was big enough, the states might find themselves without troops—much as the states had found themselves during World War Two. The solution then had been the creation of State Guards: formations of troops serving the same purpose as the National Guard but without the federal mission. As the Soviets geared up for their second offensive, the Arizona legislature hotly debated the question of whether to create an Arizona State Guard.

Initially, the Arizona Army National Guard was opposed to the idea. The State Adjutant and many senior officers believed that a State Guard would draw recruits away from the National Guard. Unless a new source of funding was found, the State Guard would be financed from the same coffers as the National Guard. In a zero-sum equation, the creation of an Arizona State Guard would result in a net loss of soldiers and money for the existing National Guard. The National Guard leadership did not like the idea.

By early April, however, a solution had been hammered out. State Guardsmen would be required to put in one weekend a month and two weeks a year, but they would only be paid for half of that time. State Guardsmen would receive tuition assistance for state schools at half the rate of their National Guard counterparts. Naturally, there would be no federal benefits of any kind for state service. The age limit for the Arizona State Guard would be put at 60 with the hope that older men would volunteer.

At the same time, Congress and the Pentagon began to feel that a State Guard system would greatly aid in a public perception of stability at a time when some members of academia and the media were questioning the ability of the United States to maintain internal order and cohesion in the event of a nuclear exchange. Volunteerism might help keep the public engaged and buoyant. Additional funding was made available for the purpose of expanding National Guard training facilities with the understanding that the expanded facilities would be made available to State Guard units in the future. Fort Huachuca received an entirely disproportionate share of the funding due to the post’s connection with the DCP and the unexpectedly high level of early participation in the nascent Arizona State Guard (AZSTAG).

In May, the Soviets launched a Spring Offensive in Manchuria. Unlike the previous year’s offensive, this operation was a multinational effort. Formations from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, and Bulgaria participated in a Warsaw Pact operation. The Kremlin attempted to cast its efforts in the Far East in the same light as the US had cast Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, executed by a superpower-led Coalition. For the most part, the world was unconvinced.

The new Pact offensive made good initial gains with a massive expenditure of lives and materiel. The Chinese defenders had spent the months since the New Year preparing defenses along the most likely Pact thrust lines. Extensive earthworks and minefields greeted the Pact forces moving forward from their jump-off points. The Soviet leadership was prepared to tolerate heavy losses during the opening stages of the operation under the assumption that a breakthrough, once achieved, would enable the mechanized Pact forces to complete the conquest of Manchuria, capture Beijing, and force Communist China to negotiate a settlement favorable to the Soviet Union. However, the Pact offensive foundered as the sheer depth of Chinese defenses served as a shock absorber to mitigate the force of the Soviet blow. By the end of June, Pact forces had once again stalled short of victory.

One effect of the ongoing bloody stalemate in the Far East on American thinking was an increased awareness that the Soviets might yet resort to nuclear weapons. Chemical weapons had reappeared on the battlefield, but the Soviets had not been able to use them to force a decision. Operations Tchaikovsky and Tchaikovsky II had wrecked enormous damage on China’s infrastructure and economy, but the Soviet aerial onslaught had failed to break China’s will or capacity to resist. As the Sino-Soviet war approached its first anniversary, signs of strain on the Soviet Union were appearing everywhere. The Soviet nuclear advantage remained enormous. High-level planners in Washington agreed that a Sino-Soviet nuclear exchange might cause enough damage to the Soviet Union as to convince the Soviet leadership that the East-West balance was in danger of being altered. MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), though still the centerpiece of deterrence, might not protect the US from some level of nuclear attack if the Soviets came to feel that the alternative was a slow Soviet strangulation by the West as a result of damage done by even a limited Sino-Soviet nuclear exchange. Certain preparations, couched in terms of civil defense or long-term cost reduction, could be prudently undertaken in the immediate future.

1 Symington exploited the high school and collegiate gardening projects for political capital, calling them “New Victory Gardens” in a clear reference to the victory gardens of WW2. When asked whether this label meant that Symington believed that the US would be drawn into the Sino-Soviet conflict, Symington replied that the “victory” was over drop-out rates, indolence, and a lack of involvement among Tucson high school students. Publicly, he hoped that the New Victory Gardens would give some of Tucson’s at-risk high school students productive activities and engagement with peers.

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