Meet the Sims … and Shoot Them

P.W. Singer -

The rise of militainment.

The country of Ghanzia is embroiled in a civil war. As a soldier in America’s Army, your job is to do everything from protect U.S. military convoys against AK-47-wielding attackers to sneak up on a mountain observatory where arms dealers are hiding out. It is a tough and dangerous tour of duty that requires dedication, focus, and a bit of luck. Fortunately, if you get hit by a bullet and bleed to death, you can reboot your computer and sign on under a new name.

America’s Army is a video game — a “tactical multiplayer first-person shooter” in gaming lingo — that was originally developed by the U.S. military to aid in its recruiting and training, but is now available for anyone to play. Among the most downloaded Internet games of all time, it is perhaps the best known of a vast array of video game-based military training programs and combat simulations whose scope and importance are rapidly changing not just the video-game marketplace, but also the way the U.S. military finds and trains its future warriors and even how the American public interfaces with the wars carried out in its name. For all the attention to the strategic debates of the post-9/11 era, a different sort of transformation has taken place over the last decade — largely escaping public scrutiny, at modest cost relative to the enormous sums spent elsewhere in the Pentagon budget, and with little planning but enormous consequences.

These “games” range from the deadly serious, like programs designed to train soldiers in cultural sensitivity or help veterans overcome the trauma of combat, to the truly outlandish, like a human-sized hamster wheel that makes virtual-reality software feel more realistic. There are even video-game modules that teach soldiers about the perils of sexual harassment. All told, the U.S. military is spending roughly $6 billion each year on its virtual side, embracing the view, as author Tom Chatfield put it, that “games are the 21st century’s most serious business.”

From "Gung-ho" to "Woke"

Isidro Ortiz |  Draft NOtices | October - December 2017

Editor’s Note: For this article, Isidro Ortiz interviewed Juan Perez, a Marine veteran majoring in sociology at San Diego State University. Juan will be graduating in May 2018 and plans to pursue a career in social justice activism.

Anti-militarism is often associated with the Baby Boomer generation. Thus, as the generation begins to pass, it might appear that anti-militarism does not have a future. Missed in such an observation is the emergence of a new crop of activists in generations X and Y. Juan Perez is one of those new activists.

Juan describes himself as “woke.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “woke” is defined as being “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” When Juan describes himself as “woke” he is light years away from where he was at the time he enlisted in the Marine Corps during his senior year in high school. Juan grew up as an undocumented immigrant in one of the poorest communities, City Heights, in San Diego. In this community he attended some of the city’s lowest-performing schools. By his own admission Juan was not socially or politically conscious at that time. Indeed, he gave little thought to societal conditions and was “gung-ho” about joining the Marines.

How did Juan become woke? The roots of Juan’s woke lie in an incident during his tour of duty in Helmut Province in Afghanistan. While on patrol Juan’s unit spotted what appeared to be an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). In keeping with protocol, the unit communicated to headquarters, which in turn informed the specialized team charged with IED disposal. Within a short time, Juan’s unit was instructed to verify that the suspicious item was indeed an IED. Verification would require a physical inspection of the item.

Juan and a fellow Marine volunteered to fulfill the verification task. While this at first seemed to be the appropriate action for a couple of gung-ho Marines, it turned out to be more momentous than Juan had expected.

Juan and his fellow Marine approached the suspicious item. Verification, of course, required that the item be physically lifted and inspected.  Without stopping to think about the wisdom of such hazardous and possibly deadly actions, but in keeping with his tendency to follow orders, Juan lifted and inspected the item. He then returned to his post.

The Missing Link in the Gun Debate

Greta Zarro -

Members of the Patch High School drill team compete in the team exhibition portion of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps drill meet at Heidelberg High School April 25. (Photo: Kristen Marquez, Herald Post/flickr/cc)America is up in arms about guns. If last month’s “March for Our Lives,” which attracted over one million marchers nationwide, is any indication, we’ve got a serious problem with gun violence, and people are fired up about it.  

But what’s not being talked about in the mainstream media, or even by the organizers and participants in the March for Our Lives movement, is the link between the culture of gun violence and the culture of war, or militarism, in this nation. Nik Cruz, the now infamous Parkland, FL shooter, was taught how to shoot a lethal weapon in the very school that he later targeted in the heart-breaking Valentine’s Day Massacre. Yes, that’s right; our children are trained as shooters in their school cafeterias, as part of the U.S. military’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) marksmanship program.  

Nearly 2,000 U.S. high schools have such JROTC marksmanship programs, which are taxpayer-funded and rubber-stamped by Congress. Cafeterias are transformed into firing ranges, where children, as young as 13 years old, learn how to kill. The day that Nik Cruz opened fire on his classmates, he proudly wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the letters “JROTC.” JROTC's motto? "Motivating Young People to Be Better Citizens." By training them to wield a gun?  

Perhaps what’s key above all, however, is that JROTC, and U.S. militarism as a whole, is embedded in our sociocultural framework as Americans, so much so that to question it is to cast doubt on one’s patriotic allegiance to this nation.

First-person Shooter Games, the US Military, and Serial Killers

Pat Elder - May 23, 2018 - 

Both Nik Cruz, the Parkland shooter, and Dimitri Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the Santa Fe shooter, were emotionally distraught because of girls who rejected their advances. They were both outcasts in their respective high schools. They both played video games that simulated war.  In his Facebook bio, Dimitri showed interest in joining the US Marine Corps “starting in 2019.” Nik Cruz felt more at home with the Army.

This is not a cheap shot. The military recruits gamers from the virtual world.

The America’s Army(link is external) video game, a vicious first-person shooter game, has millions of avid fans. It is one of the world’s most frequently downloaded games. According to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “the game has more impact on recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined.”

The military exploits the visceral appeal of virtual killing.  More than that, the Pentagon seeks virtual shooters who have developed surprisingly complex strategic and tactical skills learned through thousands of hours of gaming experience. These skills are like those commanders on the battlefield use in real combat.

The U.S. Army Com­bined Arms Center-Training has its own Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games (MMRPGs) to train new recruits. The system, similar to World of Warcraft(link is external), allows in­dividual soldiers around the world to log into the Army MMRPG and play as individuals or as units.

Thanks to the great defender of freedom, Edward Snowden, we know about a 2013 NSA Document(link is external), “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Vir­tual Environments.” The NSA and the CIA have teamed up with the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ to deploy real-life agents into the virtual World of Warcraft and has infiltrated Xbox Live with tens of millions of players worldwide. The world’s two top spy agencies can identify a labyrinth of social networks of those with the inclination for virtual killing. The targets of the espionage may be in Syria or Venezuela; Florida or Texas.

In World of Warcraft, players everywhere on earth share the same virtual world, walking, running, travelling around, and killing a variety of computer-generated monsters, along with custom-designed human avatars made by shooters 10,000 miles away.  Build your own here!(link is external)

Pro Publica, a recipient of Snowden’s release, describes, “killing computer-controlled monsters or the avatars of other players, including elves, animals or creatures known as orcs. Players create customized human avatars that can resemble themselves or take on other personas — supermodels and bodybuilders are popular — who can socialize, buy and sell virtual goods, and go places like beaches, cities, art galleries and strip clubs.”

Real and virtual are blurred.

SAIC, the defense contractor behemoth, has studied MMORPG’s and concludes they can be used for a variety of purposes by America’s enemies, from recruiting members, training fighters, and spreading propaganda –  like the US does with The America’s Armyvideo game.

It is ironic to consider the NSA may well have data on both Cruz and Pagourtzis who likely played MMORPG’s.

Youth camps shape new generations with patriotism, pushups and prayer | Reveal News | Will Carless | March 9 2018

Youth camps shape new generations with patriotism, pushups and prayer



Students in the Young Marines program in Hanover, Pa., attend a ball at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in October 2017. They wear their finest dresses and suits. Their eyes fix on a large American flag as the national anthem falls from their lips.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

In rural central Florida, a group of children sit on a jetty, their reflections dappled in water the color of iced tea. It is quiet. Stifling, peaceful. The
children pray over the breakfast they’re about to eat and ask for blessings for those whose hands prepared it. And they ask for safety during their
upcoming weapons training, during which they will learn how to disarm a knife-wielding attacker, load a rifle and properly handle a handgun.



Jasmine Burke, 17, and Joseph Chubb, 17, spend an evening around a campfire in northern Florida in July 2017. The high school sweethearts are students of the North Florida Survival School, where young people are trained in firearm and knife safety and learn basic survival skills in the woods.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

In Harlingen, Texas, young boys loll on the grass in the sunshine, swapping their families’ war stories.

“My uncle killed Taliban in Afghanistan,” one boy says nonchalantly.

Another shares a tale about a relative who tried to sneak an AK-47 back to the U.S. The boys will spend a few more weeks at this private quasi-
military camp, where they will engage in physical, mental and weapons training. Some of them dream of a career in the armed forces.



Young Marines sing “Yellow Submarine” on a karaoke machine at a ball with their families and fellow students in Hanover, Pa., in October 2017.
The Young Marines is a nonprofit organization with about 10,000 students enrolled nationwide. Enrollment begins at the age 8.Credit: Sarah
Blesener for Reveal

In the small town of Herriman, Utah, children as young as 6 learn the Declaration of Independence by putting it to song. Over a few hot summer
days, they will learn about “Americanism,” a blend of patriotism and history that casually mixes in some of the basic tenets of radical libertarianism.
During one lesson, they’ll pretend to overturn a boat full of tea into Boston Harbor. In another class, these elementary school children will be taught
that it is wrong for the government to force them to pay for social programs in the form of taxes.



Elizabeth Nelson, 17, dons stripes of black paint on her face in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, in August 2017. She enlisted in the Army the summer before her senior year of high school and will ship out to boot camp three days after she graduates. “I feel like Omaha is not really the place for me,” she says. “So I do kind of want to get the hell out of here.”Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal



In a Home Depot parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, 17-year-old Elizabeth Nelson challenges an acquaintance to a pushup contest. She yells, “15,” without her arms shaking. The boy next to her is breathing heavily and begins to fall slowly to the ground.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal



  • Visit: An exhibition of this work in New York City, through April 1, 2018 or in San Francisco, May 3-30 with other Catchlight fellows at SF Camerawork.
  • Read: What Sarah Blesener learned during her fellowship year.
  • Learn: More about Blesener and the funding behind this project.


New York-based photographer Sarah Blesener spent the past year traveling the United States visiting youth summer camps and events. She has
photographed and interviewed dozens of children, from 8-year-old Utahns to teenagers in the Bronx borough of New York. She has camped in
sweltering, bug-infested central Florida with religious survivalists and hiked the dusty frontier of the U.S.-Mexico border with 12-year-olds – most
of them Latino – who want to “take down illegals.” Along the way, Blesener gained insight into not only how America’s youth think, but also the
ways adults guide these children onto philosophical, religious and political paths.

The camps Blesener visited – a slice of hundreds, if not thousands, of similar camps – fall into three general categories: patriotic camps, which
aim to instill a love for America and a deep knowledge of the religious roots of the country’s founding; military camps, where children undergo
rigorous physical training and are taught the discipline and skills crucial to a career in the armed forces; and survivalist camps, where kids learn
skills such as building shelters and identifying edible plants in preparation for an apocalypse, natural disaster or the Second Coming.



Lunch has been served at the Young Marines program in Hanover, Pa., but the students stand and anxiously scan the room. They all had attended
a morning meeting on drug awareness education. But until their commander arrives and says a prayer for the meal, no one is allowed to eat. The
Young Marines focuses on youth development in areas such as citizenship, patriotism and drug-free lifestyles.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

It would be tempting to assume that interest in the camps is directly related to recent shifts in U.S. society, the 2016 presidential election and a
renewed spirit of American nationalism and patriotism.

But there are myriad reasons why these children attend camps. Some are keen to get a taste of military life, eager to see whether they can survive
“boot camp light.” At the Utah patriot camps, most kids have been brought by parents who want them to experience unfiltered American pride they
are unlikely to find anywhere else. And then there are the reluctant campers: the teenagers who lament losing half of their summers to patriotism,
pushups and prayer, but attend because their parents make them and they don’t really have a say.

Many of these camps, especially the military ones, enforce strict dress codes. Taking care of your uniform is one of the primary rules at several camps
Blesener visited. Even the patriot camps have their own uniform – bright red T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “I Love America.”

The less formal camps are run and staffed primarily by volunteers, with paid professionals sometimes brought in to lead firearms safety or self-defense
training. But the organized military camps, most of which form part of sprawling national organizations, have legions of paid staff, many of them veterans.
Increasingly, these bigger camps look more like offshoots of the military than private enterprises, with their uniforms, ex-military staff and weapons –
much of which are paid for indirectly by U.S. taxpayers.

“Overall, I wanted to look at how, as a culture, we pass down patriotic and military traditions to children,” said Blesener, who spent the year as a fellow
at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting with support from CatchLight and the Alexia Foundation. “And I think this is an extraordinarily
interesting time to do this. America is so divided, and I wanted to speak to youth and see if they are as divided and what their worldview is and how
they are being shaped as young adults.”



A group of Young Marines lingers near the karaoke machine during a ball in Hanover, Pa., in October 2017. It’s about 9 p.m., and the evening is
starting to wind down. Older high school students sit texting on cellphones, younger siblings begin to nod off, and a few parents check their watches.
Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

Forging a new ‘Americanism’

President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “make America great again” is a message Julie Knudsen has been propagating for years: Not only
should America reclaim a proud past, but it also desperately needs to regain pride in the greatness of the American experiment itself.

Back in 2011, Knudsen co-founded the Utah Patriot Camp. Aimed at children ages 5 to 12, the camp was a reaction to Obama-era American apologizing,
she said. It was designed to be a safe place where children could learn the glories of the American republic – the beatific nature of this country’s birth.

“We teach the miracle that happened during the Revolution, that God’s hand was involved in the creation of America,” Knudsen said. “A lot of people
come for that sort of stuff.”



JROTC students from Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Ky., practice for an upcoming national drill competition in Daytona Beach, Fla., in May 2017.
Pressure is high for the students to keep their reputation. Fern Creek has a history of high rankings, particularly its women’s team, which has placed
first for 15 consecutive years.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

Without knowing it, Knudsen had tapped into a sentiment that would, five years later, help propel Trump to the presidency. The ethos of the Utah
Patriot Camps (she said there are now 15 across three states catering to more than 850 children) represents a new era of patriotism that closely
aligns with messages and policies being crafted in Washington, D.C.

The messages of “America first” and “Americanism” can be found at the forefront of far-right political movements such as the one driven by Steve
Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, as well as in the pages of literature handed out at camps such as Knudsen’s.

“After the war, everybody wanted George Washington to be the king, because he was such a great leader,” a teacher told the class at the Utah
camp Blesener attended in June. “And Satan tried to tempt him. Did you know that?”

A small boy interrupted: “What does ‘tempt’ mean?”

“ ‘Tempt’ means a kind of trick,” the teacher said. “Do you think he could have done a lot of good? He could have. But that’s not what God wanted,
was it? He wanted this country to be free, right?”

The class took place in the shade of trees in a public park in Herriman. The park had been adorned with dozens of American flags, and they fluttered
in the light morning breeze as the children moved from session to session.



Uniforms dry on the bleachers at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, in July 2017. After spending the 105-degree day doing physical
drills, crawling in mud and sprinting through obstacle courses, the boys spend the evening swimming in a pool across the campus. The academy’s
summer camp hosts boys ages 12 to 18, with about 300 cadets in attendance.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

Knudsen’s camp is inspired by the 9/12 Project, a now largely defunct organization launched in 2009 by conservative radio host Glenn Beck. Its
motto was “Restoring America.”

Everything Knudsen heard and read about the project appealed to her. So she sent away for a copy of a Patriot Camp Handbook, written in 2010
by a group of Pennsylvania moms as “our attempt to generate enthusiasm in our communities about teaching children what makes America unlike
any other nation.”

The manual became Knudsen’s blueprint for her camp. She expected a few applicants. She got more than 100.

“I think it filled a void,” she said.



On an obstacle course at West Camp Rapid in Rapid City, S.D., a frustrated team tries for the fourth time to correctly build a makeshift bridge
across a fort. Students from five states around the Midwest spend a week at the Civil Air Patrol Joint Dakota Encampment. It’s a 100-degree day
in July 2017, and some students already have given up and retreated into the shade.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal



Most days end in the parking lot at the Civil Air Patrol camp in Rapid City, S.D., in July 2017. The smell of fast food from Arby’s drifts in the hot
wind as students perform drills in unison, wearing matching navy uniforms with Civil Air Patrol decorations.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

The camps feature sessions during which kids sing the Declaration of Independence and include visits from actors dressed as the Founding Fathers.
But there are also sessions such as a “redistribution of wealth” activity, during which half of the children do jumping jacks to earn Tootsie Rolls.
The candy is then distributed evenly among all the kids – including those who did no “work.”

The manual gives guidance on what should happen next: “Emphasize that it is our own individual responsibility to be charitable,” it reads, “not the
government’s job to redistribute our wealth, or take our money to give to others.”

While there are hints like this of right-wing politics in the manual and the lessons, Blesener was most struck by the camp’s overall ethos of
unabashed American glorification and a focus on the U.S. as being founded directly by a higher power.



Ryan Dunlavy (from left), 19; Nerisa Garcia, 17; and Jeremy Cabral, 19, walk slowly and steadily down a hallway, practicing a room-clearing drill
at a Border Patrol station in Kingsville, Texas, in July 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Boys Scouts of America sponsor the co-ed
Explorer Program, which allows teenagers to explore law enforcement career options.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

A group of small children Blesener interviewed told her proudly that they were being taught how to become “modern patriots.” The children said
they were learning “how God protected the soldiers against the Indians” and how “George Washington was protected by God to not be killed in



Students pray in June 2017 at the Utah Patriot Camp, a weeklong day camp, in Herriman, Utah. The camp for elementary school-aged children teaches lessons on the Constitution, American values, military history, the Bible and more. Camp co-founder Julie Knudsen says the camp was launched in 2011 as a reaction to Obama-era American apologizing.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

“There was a lot of fun educational stuff – making popsicles, that kind of thing – but there was also this really kind of intense theory they were
teaching,” Blesener said. “At one point, they were talking about the Declaration of Independence, and they said it was the first time in history
that anybody had ever stood up to their king or queen, which obviously is just not true.”



High school seniors Joseph Chubb (left) and Jasmine Burke search the woods for kindling while taking part in the North Florida Survival School in July 2017. The school holds a weekend training event in Keysville, Fla., in partnership with 10 CAN, a nonprofit organization for families of those in the U.S. military.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

Public money for private boot camps

At a South Dakota camp run by the Civil Air Patrol – a quasi-military organization primarily funded by Congress – students discussed how best to
display their American pride with a teacher brought in to instruct them on flag etiquette.

“In our generation, we obviously see that people don’t treat the flag with the respect it deserves,” one student said. “What should we do when
we see a group of people disrespecting that?”

The instructor responded, Blesener recalled, by saying the children should intervene and share their knowledge of how to properly handle and
respect the flag with their peers.



Garett Brauning, 17, dances nervously with his girlfriend, Ariana Grabowicz, 17, at the Young Marines ball in Hanover, Pa., in October 2017. Brauning’s mother had just given a tearful speech about his dedication to the Young Marines, his character as a son and his future. Now, it seems as though every eye in the room is focused on the high school senior.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal



Students at the Civil Air Patrol Joint Dakota Encampment in Rapid City, S.D., wait for a critical thinking and self-management class to begin. While most activities are physical, such as drills and firearms training, educational courses take place every afternoon.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

At a camp run by another quasi-military organization, the Young Marines, Blesener watched children as young as 8 go through an initiation ritual
that included dressing and undressing as quickly as possible. Most of the kids broke down in tears, Blesener said, only to be built back up again by their instructors.

As the drills ended, the children were comforted and told that they had succeeded where others had failed. They were now part of a family, an
elite unit.

“Afterward, I was talking to the camp leaders and they were saying, ‘Nowadays, everyone is so politically correct. … Not everyone can take this
kind of initiation, everyone is apologizing for their behavior,’ ” Blesener said. “We just want to be one of those groups that is proud of who we are
and won’t apologize for it.”

Many of the quasi-military youth camps are privately run and funded, with some camps costing thousands of dollars to attend. Other camps are
staffed by volunteers and are free to all. Young Marines camps lie somewhere in the middle, with some charging a nominal registration fee while
the bulk of the costs are borne by the organization.



JROTC students from Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Ky., practice for an upcoming national drill competition in Daytona Beach, Fla., in May
2017. JROTC is one of the largest youth organizations in the world, with more than 300,000 youth enrolled.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

According to Young Marines’ tax filings, the nonprofit received more than $4 million of its about $7 million in funding from “government grants” in
2014. The tax records offer no additional detail about which grants the organization received. Bill Davis, Young Marines’ executive director, wrote
in an email that the funds are from a federal grant in part for drug demand reduction efforts, administered by the Department of Defense.



The Warrenton Rifles team, in its eighth year as a program, participates in a marksmanship competition in April 2017 in Warrenton, Va. National Rifle Association grants provide the team with state-of-the art equipment and rifles. Nationwide, about 15,000 students as young as 8 participate in the program.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal



Members of the Young Marines, usually boisterous and chatty, are quiet and focused in September 2017 as they prepare for an airsoft competition in Hanover, Pa. Airsoft is a team sport in which competitors use replica weapons that fire plastic pellets to eliminate opponents.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

“It’s a quasi-military recruitment program,” said Rick Jahnkow, an anti-militarist activist who founded two organizations aimed at preventing
children from becoming “militarized” in schools. “It’s intended to plant seeds in kids as young as elementary school, so that eventually they either
become recruitable or, at a minimum, their minds have been recruited.”

Jahnkow and other activists keep a close eye on the military’s attempts to recruit in schools. Traditionally, their campaigns have focused on
programs such as the junior ROTC and military-funded shooting ranges in schools, with some success. They’re extremely concerned about programs –
some funded by the National Rifle Association – that bring guns into schools.

These programs made national news recently after it was revealed that Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old charged with killing 17 people in a mass
shooting at a Florida high school, had participated on a JROTC air rifle team supported by the NRA. Cruz was wearing a T-shirt with the shooting
program’s logo when he was arrested.

But the uptick in recent years of private military youth camps funded with public money has opened a new front in the activists’ work, and it has
them concerned.



Members of the Young Marines in Hanover, Pa., run through physical fitness drills in September 2017. Drills include pushups, situps, pullups and a mile run. The group meets weekly throughout the year, as well as for some weekend boot camps.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal



As part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Explorer Program in July 2017, a student practices arrest tactics in a vacant Kingsville, Texas, parking lot. Participants as young as 14 use fake weapons that weigh the same as guns used by active Border Patrol agents.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

“It’s a creeping plague,” said Libby Frank, a member of the steering committee for the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth.

“It’s all geared toward getting people used to the idea that the military is a major part of their life.”

Blesener, too, said she was concerned by how these camps exploit children’s vulnerabilities by instilling them with notions of America’s military

might and moral exceptionalism.

“There is absolutely zero criticism of what the American military does overseas at these camps,” Blesener said. “Every single leader you talk to

will deny that these are recruitment camps, but of course, they are. Introducing a child to an activity or a worldview at such a young age is clearly

a way to steer them in that direction.”

One of the children Blesener met over the summer, 17-year-old Elizabeth Nelson, went on to enlist in the Army. Nelson said she learned at the

camp that, on enlistment, she would get credit for her time spent there if she reached a certain rank at camp.

“I was like, ‘Wowzer!’ ” Nelson said. “I had always wanted to enlist, but when I heard about Civil Air Patrol, I was like, ‘This could really help

me in my career.’ ”



As the sun sets behind Mount Rushmore in July 2017, Civil Air Patrol campers Thomas Dillon (from left),16; Kayla Wayman,14; and Julia Lair, 15, watch a patriotic film describing the history of the United States and the making of the national memorial in South Dakota. Many of the 60 students in attendance have never visited the historical site before.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal



Young campers get ready for a bed and room inspection in July 2017 at the Civil Air Patrol Joint Dakota Encampment in Rapid City, S.D. About 60 students from the Midwest, ages 12 to 18, attend the camp.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

Prepping for the ‘zombie apocalypse’

Children attending the North Florida Survival School talked a lot about the zombie apocalypse. They were joking, but for the older kids, the term

was a sort of code – an analogy for a coming catastrophe that could be around the next corner.

“The zombie apocalypse is just the fun, easy way to look at it, but the reality is that at any point, an apocalypse could start, whether it is the

economy or a nuclear attack,” said 17-year-old Jasmine Burke.



avier Velasquez, 18, a student in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Explorer Program, shoots during a firearm training class in Nogales, Ariz., in June 2017. Velasquez’s shot is steady, and he is one of the top shooters in the program.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal



In an empty parking lot of a Border Patrol station in Kingsville, Texas, a small group of high school students practices stop-and-search arrests on one another in July 2017. The exercise is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Explorer Program. In the background, officers correct the students’ form and tactics and yell instructions.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

Many street-smart teenagers in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago probably would sneer at their devout, well-behaved counterparts in rural Florida,

who spend their weekends learning how to build shelters, start fires and find edible plants, as well as holding prayer sessions and singing hymns

by the lake.

Kids such as 17-year-old Joseph Chubb acknowledge this. He is well aware that city kids find it odd that teenagers might want to learn how to

collect clean water or hygienically dig a latrine. But to teenagers attending the North Florida Survival School in late August, the ones who should

be mocked are the teens sitting in their apartments in the big cities, assuming that their lights will always turn on, the Wi-Fi will never go out and

the pizza guy will always deliver.



In 100-degree heat, elementary school-aged students rest during a July 2017 paintball competition at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen,

Texas. They share stories about video games, war and their families. Their camouflage paintball uniforms, made for children twice their size, hang

loosely over their bodies.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

“Most people in America don’t even know how to light a fire,” Chubb said. “The shelter of the indoors, the increase in modern technology – it’s

obvious we’ve become more dependent on that. When you don’t need to go outside and make a fire, you forget how to do it.”

The three-day midsummer camp outside Ocala culminated in an afternoon session firing rifles at a target by the lake. One by one, the kids donned

ear protection and shooting goggles and learned how to properly load, aim and fire two different rifles.



Isaac Guevara, 16, dances with another student in May 2017 at the end of the seventh annual Junior ROTC Military Ball at the Villa Barone Manor

in the New York borough of the Bronx.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

For several of the children, who had been shooting for years, the training session was merely a refresher of the rules they had long committed to

memory. But for 9-year-old Austin Gerthe, the afternoon offered some valuable lessons.

“One time, I shot my dad’s shotgun secretly,” Austin confided before the session. By the end of the training, however, the skinny, freckled boy

had yet to master the rules of handling weapons. The instructors decided he was better off just watching.



Children bow their heads as a speaker at an October 2017 Young Marines ball in Hanover, Pa., booms with gratitude – for God for the meal that

is about to be served, for Pennsylvania, for the Young Marines and for America. Younger children in the corner open their eyes and shut them

quickly. Giggles are hushed by adults.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

There are no reliable statistics showing whether demand for survivalist training camps is growing or waning. Steven Claytor, owner of the North

Florida Survival School, said he has seen demand increase over the last few years, but suggested it had more to do with a flood of survival-themed

TV shows than with Trump’s election or increased global geopolitical tension.

Other survivalist camps reported a more recent boost directly related to the 2016 presidential election.



Civil Air Patrol students visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum near Ellsworth Air Force Base in July 2017. Among its exhibits, the museum features vintage military aircraft, a modern B-1 bomber and a Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile.Credit: Sarah Blesener for Reveal

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Dumpy Trumpy took office,” said Shane Hobel, owner of the Mountain Scout Survival School in New York’s

Hudson Valley. He said potential customers are “freaking out” about the possibility of Trump pulling the U.S. into a nuclear war. And they’re worried

his leadership could cause the economy to collapse.

But Eric Giles, who owns the Texas Survival School in North Texas, had a different experience.

“It’s kinda slowed down,” he said. “It slowed down after the election. A certain group of people were worried about (Hillary) Clinton getting in,

but they’re not worried anymore.”


Source: https://www.revealnews.org/article/youth-camps-shape-new-generations-with-patriotism-pushups-and-prayer/


Connecticut Peace Group Engages Students with a Peace Wheel

Peter G. Anderheggen | Originally published in Draft NOtices - August/September, 2017

Winsted Area Peace Action has been visiting high schools in northwestern Connecticut for at least ten years. The purpose of our visits has been to introduce and discuss with students alternative methods of service to the country and non-military means of earning money after high school. Our goal is to bring some contrast to the appeal of the military, which spends many millions of dollars in its recruiting efforts. We make information available on such organizations as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Peace Brigades International and Heifer International, all of which take people who are age 18 or older.

We are usually invited during the lunch periods, often with a table set up in the vicinity of the cafeteria. There are several lunch sessions and invariably the students arrive in droves, hungry and eager to visit with friends. Our challenge is to present something that catches their eyes and engages them.

About five years ago, one of our members who was carrying out research for a book, Seth Kershner, went to Austin, Texas, and visited a high school along with Sustainable Options for Youth (SOY). He saw how a peace wheel could be effectively used to attract students to a table. The wheel intrigued our members and we ordered one from Thomas Heikkala, a Vietnam veteran and skilled carpenter who was one of the founding members of SOY.

NNOMY at the 2017 VFP Education Not Militarization Convention in Chicago

Education Not Militarization

The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth will be participating in the 2017 Veterans For Peace National Convention in Chicago August 11th, 2017. Located at the beautiful and historic Palmer House Hotel, veterans and allies will gather to discuss "Education Not Militarization". Registration begins on Wednesday, August 9th and ends on August 13th with a benefit concert by Jackson Browne. The week will be filled with amazing workshops, discussions, community and music. 

NNOMY will be presenting a Mini Plenary workshop between 1:30 and 3:00pm in the Spire meeting room on Friday, August 11th 2017 with the theme, Education Not Militarization: The Nuts and Bolts of Pursuing Policy Changes to Counter Recruitment and Demilitarize Schools. 

In the Hancock room, at 3:15 to 4:45pm NNOMY will conduct the workshop, Education Not Militarization: Educating students and countering military recruitment inside the schools, with multiple presenters. Please be on time so we can cover all the materials and have time for questions.


The NNOMY Opinion section is a new feature of our articles section. Writing on youth demilitarization issues is quite rare but we have discovered the beginning articles and notes being offered on this subject so we have decided to present them under an opinion category.  The articles presented do not necessarily reflect the views of the NNOMY Steering Committee.

General David Petraeus' rocky first days as a lecturer at the City University of New York Though the United States of America shares with other nations in a history of modern state militarism, the past 65 years following its consolidation as a world military power after World War II, has seen a shift away from previous democratic characterizations of the state.  The last thirty years, with the rise of the neo-conservative Reagan and Bush administrations (2), began the abandonment of moral justifications for democracy building replaced by  bellicose proclamations of the need and right to move towards a national project of global security by preemptive military force .

In the process of global military expansion, the US population has been subjected to an internal re-education to accept the role of the U.S. as consolidating its hegemonic rule internationally in the interest of liberal ideals of wealth creation and protectionism.

The average citizen has slowly come to terms with a stealthly increasing campaign of militarization domestically in media offerings; from television, movies and scripted news networks to reinforce the inevitability of a re-configured society as security state. The effect has begun a transformation of how, as citizens, we undertand our roles and viability as workers and families in relation to this security state. This new order has brought with it a shrinking public common and an increasing privatization of publicly held infrustructure; libraries, health clinics, schools and the expectation of diminished social benefits for the poor and middle-class. The national borders are being militarized as are our domestic police forces in the name of Homeland Security but largely in the interest of business. The rate and expansion of research and development for security industries and the government agencies that fund them, now represent the major growth sector of the U.S.economy. Additionally, as the U.S. economy continually shifts from productive capital to financial capital as the engine of growth for wealth creation and development, the corporate culture has seen its fortunes rise politically and its power over the public sector grow relatively unchallenged by a confused citizenry who are watching their social security and jobs diminishing.

How increasing cultural militarization effects our common future will likely manifest in increased public dissatisfaction with political leadership and economic strictures. Social movements within the peace community, like NNOMY, will need to expand their role of addressing the dangers of  militarists predating youth for military recruitment in school to giving more visibility to the additional dangers of the role of an influential militarized media, violent entertainment and play offerings effecting our youth in formation and a general increase and influence of the military complex in all aspects of our lives. We are confronted with a demand for a greater awareness of the inter-relationships of militarism in the entire landscape of domestic U.S. society.  Where once we could ignore the impacts of U.S. military adventurisms abroad, we are now faced with the transformation of our domestic comfort zone with the impacts of militarism in our day to day lives.

How this warning can be imparted in a meaningful way by a movement seeking to continue with the stated goals of counter-recruitment and public policy activism, and not loose itself in the process, will be the test for those activists, past and future, who take up the call to protect our youth from the cultural violence of militarism.

The "militarization of US culture" category will be an archive of editorials and articles about the increasing dangers we face as a people from those who are invested in the business of war. This page will serve as a resource for the NNOMY community of activists and the movement they represent moving into the future. The arguments presented in this archive will offer important realizations for those who are receptive to NNOMY's message of protecting our youth, and thus our entire society, of the abuses militarism plays upon our hopes for a sustainable and truly democratic society.



The Resources section covers the following topics:

News reports from the groups associated to the NNOMY Network including Social Media.

Reports from counter-recruitment groups and activists from the field. Includes information about action reports at recruiting centers and career fairs, school tabling, and actions in relation to school boards and state legislatures.

David SwansonDavid Swanson is the author of the new book, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, by Seven Stories Press and of the introduction to The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush by Dennis Kucinich. In addition to cofounding AfterDowningStreet.org, he is the Washington director of Democrats.com and sits on the boards of a number of progressive organizations in Washington, DC.

Charlottesville Right Now: 11-10-11 David Swanson
David Swanson joins Coy to discuss Occupy Charlottesville, protesting Dick Cheney's visit to the University of Virginia, and his new book. -  Listen

Jorge MariscalJorge Mariscal is the grandson of Mexican immigrants and the son of a U.S. Marine who fought in World War II. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego.

Matt GuynnMatt Guynn plays the dual role of program director and coordinator for congregational organizing for On Earth Peace, building peace and nonviolence leadership within the 1000+ congregations of the Church of the Brethren across the United States and Puerto Rico. He previously served a co-coordinator of training for Christian Peacemaker Teams, serving as an unarmed accompanier with political refugees in Chiapas, Mexico, and offering or supporting trainings in the US and Mexico.

Rick JahnkowRick Jahnkow works for two San Diego-based anti-militarist organizations, the Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities and the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pat ElderPat Elder was a co-founder of the DC Antiwar Network (DAWN) and a member of the Steering Committee of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, (NNOMY).  Pat is currently involved in counter-recruitment projects in a dozen jurisdictions in the DC metropolitan area.  Pat’s work has prominently appeared in NSA documents tracking domestic peace groups.



audio Pat Elder - National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth

NNOMY periodically participates in or organizes events(e.i. conferences, rallies) with other organizations.

The Counter-recruitment Essentials section of the NNOMY web site covers the issues and actions spanning this type of activism. Bridging the difficult chasms between religious, veteran, educator, student, and community based activism is no small task. In this section you will find information on how to engage in CR activism in your school and community with the support of the knowledge of others who have been working to inform youth considering enlisting in the military. You will also find resources for those already in the military that are looking for some guidance on how to actively resist injustices  as a soldier or how to choose a path as a conscientious objector.

John Judge was a co-founder of the Committee for High School Options and Information on Careers, Education and Self-Improvement (CHOICES) in Washington DC, an organization engaged since 1985 in countering military recruitment in DC area high schools and educating young people about their options with regard to the military. Beginning with the war in Viet Nam, Judge was a life-long anti-war activist and tireless supporter of active-duty soldiers and veterans.


"It is our view that military enlistment puts youth, especially African American youth, at special risk, not only for combat duty, injury and fatality, but for military discipline and less than honorable discharge, which can ruin their chances for employment once they get out. There are other options available to them."

In the 1970's the Selective Service System and the paper draft became unworkable, requiring four induction orders to get one report. Boards  were under siege by anti-war and anti-draft forces, resistance of many kinds was rampant. The lottery system failed to dampen the dissent, since people who knew they were going to be drafted ahead of time became all the more active. Local draft board members quit in such numbers that even I was approached, as a knowledgeable draft counselor to join the board. I refused on the grounds that I could never vote anyone 1-A or eligible to go since I opposed conscription and the war.

At this point the Pentagon decided to replace the paper draft with a poverty draft, based on economic incentive and coercion. It has been working since then to draw in between 200-400,000 enlisted members annually. Soon after, they began to recruit larger numbers of women to "do the jobs men don't want to". Currently recruitment quotas are falling short, especially in Black communities, and reluctant parents are seen as part of the problem. The hidden problem is retention, since the military would have quadrupled by this time at that rate of enlistment, but the percentage who never finish their first time of enlistment drop out at a staggering rate.

I began bringing veterans of the Vietnam War into high schools in Dayton, Ohio in the late 1960s, and have continued since then to expose young people to the realities of military life, the recruiters' false claims and the risks in combat or out. I did it first through Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization, then Dayton Draft & Military Counseling, and since 1985 in DC through C.H.O.I.C.E.S.

The key is to address the broader issues of militarization of the schools and privacy rights for students in community forums and at meetings of the school board and city council. Good counter-recruitment also provides alternatives in the civilian sector to help the poor and people of color, who are the first targets of the poverty draft, to find ways to break into the job market, go to a trade school, join an apprenticeship program, get job skills and placement help, and find money for college without enlisting in the military.

John Judge -- counselor, C.H.O.I.C.E.S.


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