The first one was received well enough that I figured it wouldn’t hurt to post another.
“Gas rationing has made the Great American Road Trip a thing of the past. But even in unincorporated areas, the interstates are still open. They may get only a fraction of the traffic they did in years past, but the federal government considers them vital. In today’s segment of On the Georgia Road, our Sean McKinzie has more.”
Cut to: Sean McKinzie, exterior, freeway overpass. Below, an occasional car or motorcycle passes by. “Thanks, Marcia. It’s a little-known fact, but the interstate system was built partly as a defense project. It’s official name is the ‘Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.’”
Cut to: infographic. INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM / Construction began in 1956 / About 47,000 miles long / Nearly 60% of the system lies in Unincorporated Areas. “Officially, the Interstate Highways are considered incorporated areas of the country. But in practice, while you might drive safely from Atlanta to Chattanooga and back, you aren’t likely to find any open gas stations along the way — and if your car breaks down, you’re on your own.”
Cut to: Sean in front of boundary sign. “In late 2015, a modern-day version of the highwayman began to plague the freeway system. Makeshift barricades caught unwary travelers, who lost their fuel — and sometimes their lives — to banditry. Stories have a way of growing in the telling, and recent polls show that three out of four people living inside the Georgia Quadrangle believe that venturing into Unincorporated areas is likely to be fatal.”
Cut to: Sean, exterior, military convoy. “But the military, charged with keeping the system open, has been patrolling since the spring of 2016. I-85 and I-185, the route from Atlanta to Columbus, get special attention. Captain James Galloway, of Fort Benning’s 75th Ranger Regiment, recently invited us to ride along with the patrol — On the Georgia Road.”
Cut to: Capt. Galloway, interior, office. “The biggest battle was in Congress. Representatives of Unincorporated Areas blocked our initial efforts, citing the Posse Comitatus Act, then made it very difficult to get the Act modified to specifically allow us to do our jobs. It took an Executive Order from the President to cut the red tape. After that, we began clearing the highways under strict rules of engagement. Those made life difficult at first, but by fall of 2016 we had re-opened all but the most remote sections of the system.
“At first, we would simply remove barricades by whatever means necessary. Then the bandits began using portable barricades, and we resorted to satellite surveillance to locate trouble spots until they caught on and used overpasses to conceal their activities.
“Nowadays, we use a vehicular version of the naval ‘Q-ship.’ Those were naval vessels disguised as merchant ships, intended to draw the enemy out from ambush. A decoy car takes the point position, usually with a crew of four: driver, data logger, and two armed guards. The car is specially modified with armor and gun ports, but is indistinguishable from a civilian vehicle until you’re right on top of it.
“Behind the decoy is one or more reinforcement vehicles, again indistinguishable from a civilian vehicle, carrying more troops. The banditry problem has all but disappeared since we began using this tactic.”
Cut to: Sean, exterior, roadside. Camera angle very low, showing a blimp far above. “In fact, this section of freeway is so secure, the Army now has tethered blimps to old billboard posts to do most of the watching for them. This has several advantages over satellites, including constant surveillance of the areas in question. While it is possible for a determined bandit to climb up and cut the tether, or punch holes in it from the ground with a high-powered rifle, the blimps have certain non-lethal defenses that were not explained to us for security reasons — and tampering with a blimp is certain to draw a forceful response. ‘De-tethering’ a blimp, as Captain Galloway describes it, does not disable it right away. It will attempt to hold its position and altitude as long as possible, usually long enough for a maintenance crew to arrive on-site.”
Cut to: Sean, interior, in vehicle, surrounded by soldiers. In the background, military radio traffic can be heard. “We are now in a reinforcement vehicle, on the way to Columbus. While this is officially a combat mission, the atmosphere is relaxed. Of course, that can change in an instant, depending on what the decoy vehicle sees.”
Cut to: exterior shot from moving vehicle. Several burned-out vehicles scattered on either side of an overpass, another nearly covered by weeds. “This is the site of the last action seen along I-85, over a year ago. Since then, we’re told, there have been only isolated incidents, usually after someone breaks down or runs out of gas — in other words, the same kind of thing that can happen along I-16 or I-20. Night patrols occasionally run into races, which are usually dispersed with warnings unless they run across contraband or repeat offenders.”
Cut to: Sean, exterior, Fort Benning. “We safely arrived at Fort Benning, so we’ll stay in Columbus for some amount of time before hitching a ride back to Atlanta with the next convoy. The patrols happen at random intervals, but always at least twice a week. We’ll bring you news from Columbus in separate segments until we head home. On the Georgia Road, at Fort Benning, I’m Sean McKinzie.”