Corpsman and combat medics often get tasked with being quasi-detectives before, during, and after coming in contact with the enemy. Due to the Geneva Convention and a special oath we take, we’re bound to treat every patient that comes our way — regardless of what side they’re on.
After every mission or patrol, the infantry squad gathers to conduct a debriefing of the events that transpired. It’s in this moment that thoughts and ideas are discussed before squad breaks for some decompression time.
If the corpsman and combat medic took care of an enemy patient and discovered new information, everyone needs to know — the info could save lives down the line.
So, what kinds of things do we look for outside of the obvious when we treat the bad guys?
4. The importance of elbows.
Ask any seasoned sniper, “how are your elbows?” He’ll probably tell you that they’re bruised as hell. Many snipers lose superficial sensation in the bony joint after spending hours in the prone position, lining up that perfect shot.
When a Taliban fighter has sore or bruised elbows, chances are they took a few shots at allied forces in the past. The squad doc can usually check during a standard exam.
3. Scars are telling.
The Taliban are well known for seeking American treatment for minor issues, but typically to go to their own so-called “doctors” when they get shot. Medical staff commonly search for other injuries while conducting their exam. Scarring due to significant injury is immediately red flagged.
Although the bad guy will likely make up a sh*t excuse for the healed-over wound via the interpreter, moving forward, he’s a guy you probably shouldn’t trust.
Often, the Taliban shows up at the American front gates, pleading for medical attention while claiming to have been innocently shot. This claim usually earns them entry into the allied base under close guard. Next, the potential bad guy gives a statement and a time frame of when he was injured.
This information will be routed up to the intel office to be thoroughly verified. Oftentimes, the state of the wound doesn’t match up with the time frame given. As a “doc,” always recall the typical stages of healing and determine how old the really wound is, regardless of statement.
1. There’s a little hope with every patient you encounter.
Although you’re on opposing sides, there’s some good in every patient you come across. From the youngest to the oldest, your professionalism and kindness could stop a future attack down the line. Winning the “hearts and minds” isn’t complete bullsh*t, but it’s close.
When you think of men and women in uniform during the holiday season, it’s often a soldier in red from America’s Salvation Army ringing a bell in a call for aid to those in need.
But another service working to bring joy into the lives of those less fortunate has been at it for nearly 70 years, working day and night to solicit and distribute donated toys for young kids who may not have the benefit of a joyful holiday.
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program was established in 1947 by then-California Marine Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks and was formally adopted by the Marine Corps a year later.
Officially run by Marine reservists and with help from their Navy brethren, in the years since its founding, Leathernecks have been collecting donations and distributing toys to deserving children throughout the country.
In 2015, Marines distributed 18 million toys to 7 million kids in 782 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And Toys for Tots has become as much a Marine Corps tradition as its legendary warfighting capability.
To get a sense of the importance of the program to the Corps, take a look at the video below.
Legendary blues guitarist B.B. King died today at the age of 89. King was renowned for his signature playing style and his singing voice. He was also one of the first blues “crossover” artists, making a big dent on the rock music charts with his cover of “The Thrill is Gone,” which became a hit for him in 1969. Over the years King shared the stage with many major acts including Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, and U2.
King was also a military veteran, although he only served for a short time. He was inducted into the U.S. Army toward the end of World War II but released immediately following boot camp after officials ruled him as “essential to the war economy” based on his experience as a tractor driver.
Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets, and Marine Reconnaissance are just of the few forces in the U.S. military that are considered the best of the best. The Navy SEALS earn their beloved Trident, Army Green Berets proudly wear their unique headgear, and Marine Recon team members usually get their insignia tattooed onto themselves.
Each of these symbols are considered the marks of a powerful and well-trained instrument of war. But back in the World War I era, German troops had a different idea. They’d travel high up in the Alps, far above the tree line, just to pick a very small flower — one that would show others that they were true warriors.
The edelweiss, otherwise known as Leontopodium alpinum, is a flower native to the Alps and is a national icon in Switzerland. The name, in German, is a combining of the words for ‘noble’ and ‘white.’ It’s beautiful, unique, and it grows more than 10,000 feet above sea level, so finding one means you’ve made quite the hike.
Daring German troops would haul their gear straight up the mountain, reach the top of the tree line, and search for the precious little, white flower. If you saw someone who managed to bring one back down, you know they’d climbed mountains for it.
This prestigious act wasn’t for soldiers alone. Reportedly, in the 19th century, the edelweiss was associated with purity and Swiss patriotism. In fact, countless young men would risk their lives in attempts to retrieve the unique little flower and give it to their brides.
On Nov. 16, 2018, the Air Force announced the first two bases that will host its new, highly advanced bomber for testing and maintenance.
The service said in a release that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would coordinate maintenance and sustainment for the B-21 Raider and that Edwards Air Force Base in California had been picked to lead testing and evaluation of the next generation long-range strike bomber.
Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Hill Air Force Base in Utah will support Tinker with maintaining and, when necessary, overhauling and upgrading the new bomber, the Air Force said.
Personnel at those bases will be equipped to rebuild the aircraft’s parts, assemblies, or subassemblies as well as to test and reclaim equipment as necessary for depot activations.
The first B-21 is expected to be delivered in the mid-2020s.
A B-2A stealth bomber at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a visit on April 11, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)
The release noted the “deep and accomplished history” of the Air Logistics Complex of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker and said officials believe the base has the knowledge and expertise to support the new bomber.
“With a talented workforce and decades of experience in aircraft maintenance, Tinker AFB is the right place for this critical mission,” Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson said.
Edwards Air Force Base is also home to the Air Force Test Center, which leads the service’s testing and evaluation efforts.
“From flight testing the X-15 to the F-117, Edwards AFB in the Mohave Desert [sic] has been at the forefront of keeping our Air Force on the cutting edge,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Now testing the B-21 Raider will begin another historic chapter in the base’s history.”
Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, head of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards, said in 2018 that the B-21 would be tested at the base. Few details about the B-21’s development have been released, and previous reports suggested it could be tested at the Air Force’s secretive Area 51 facility.
A B-1B Lancer bomber awaits maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Jan. 27, 2017
(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)
The B-21 acquisition cycle is currently in the engineering and manufacturing-development phase, the Air Force said. The Raider’s design and development headquarters is at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Melbourne, Florida.
The Air Force expects to buy about 100 of the new bomber, with each cost over 0 million, according to Air Force Times.
The Air Force said in May 2018 that once the new bombers begin arriving they will head to three bases in the US — Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
The service said those bases were “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber, although it will likely not make a final basing decision until 2019.
The B-21 is to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers at those bases, but the Air Force doesn’t plan to retire the existing bombers until there are enough B-21s to replace them.
Using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs, the Air Force said in May. “Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Wilson said at the time.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated demands that Iranian forces and their allies leave Syria are not “realistic,” Russia’s ambassador to Israel has said.
“The Iranians are playing a very, very important role in our common efforts to eliminate the terrorists in Syria,” Anatoly Viktorov said in English on Israel’s Channel 10 broadcaster on July 30, 2018.
“That’s why, for this period of time, we see as nonrealistic demands to expel any foreign troops from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.
Viktorov said the presence of Iran’s military advisers and allied fighters in Syria is “fully legitimate, according to UN principles,” and Russia “cannot force them” to leave the country.
Syria, with help from Russia, Iran, and Tehran’s ally, the Lebanese militia Hizballah, has swiftly regained control over large swathes of territory after seven years of a civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people.
On July 30, 2018, the Syrian Army was reported to be consolidating control of its border with Israel after having ousted a last remnant of the Islamic State extremist group in the area.
Russia, which has friendly relations with both Iran and Israel, recently has sought to play a mediating role between the two sworn enemies.
Both Tel Aviv and Washington have demanded that Iranian fighters leave Syria, and Israel has repeatedly carried out deadly air strikes against Iranian facilities and positions in Syria.
Viktorov told Channel 10 that Russia is “not OK” with such use of “force” by the Israeli government, which has reportedly killed dozens of Iran-allied fighters.
But the diplomat said Russia “cannot persuade Israel how to proceed” in Syria. “It is not up to Russia to give it freedom to do anything or to prohibit anything,” he said.
The Israeli air raids have gone largely unimpeded by Russian defense systems deployed in Syria, and Israel set up a hotline with Russia in 2015 to ensure the two countries avoid accidentally clashing in the air over Syria.
While Viktorov’s comments are the first to publicly state that Russia will not try to kick Iran out of Syria, in July 2018 Israeli officials reported that Russia offered to keep Iranian forces 100 kilometers from Syria’s border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights during a Jerusalem meeting between Netanyahu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Israel has been on high alert since June 19, 2018, when Syrian government forces launched an offensive to retake southern Daraa and Quneitra provinces, next to the occupied Golan Heights.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, in a move never recognized internationally.
Since its Cold War inception, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been keeping Russian aggression in check as an increasingly fragmented Europe has shifted and moved over 70 years. Founded in 1949, the alliance started off with 12 members but has grown over the years to 29 member states. Even as the Soviet Union gave way to the Russian Federation, the alliance has cemented its status as the bulwark that keeps Western Europe free.
A lot has happened over 70 years. Political shifts in member countries caused members to rethink their role in the alliance. Russian threats kept many members out for a long time – and still does. And the mutual defense clause, Article V, was invoked for the first time ever.
There were 12 founding members.
Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States founded NATO on April 4, 1949, as a hedge against growing Soviet power in the east. The centerpiece of the alliance is Article V, which obliges member states to consider an attack on a NATO ally as an attack on itself and respond with armed forces if necessary.
The alliance is more than a bunch of disparate parts, it has a unified military command that guides its strategy, tactics, and training on land, on the oceans, and in the air, complete with its own installations and command structure.
You might know of the first Supreme Allied Commander.
An American is always at the top.
The alliance is organized almost like the United States’ command structure. A Chairman of the NATO military committee advises the Secretary General on policy and strategy. The second highest position is the Supreme Allied Commander, always an American general, who heads the operations of the alliance in Europe.
The United States, Britain, and France are currently the most powerful members of NATO, but after the U.S., only Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland, and Romania met NATO spending standards. Greece and Estonia are the second-highest spenders as a percentage of GDP.
“Paix en quittant.”
Countries actually left NATO.
Many balked at the idea of the United States leaving the alliance, as then-candidate Trump threatened to do while running for President of the United States. While the U.S. withdrawing from NATO would be a disaster for everyone, a member country leaving NATO isn’t unprecedented.
France left NATO between 1966 and 2009 because President Charles DeGaulle resented the idea that France wasn’t on an equal military and nuclear footing with the United States and wanted more independence for French troops. Greece left between 1974 and 1980 because of a conflict with NATO ally Turkey.
This is as close as they get. Right after this photo, they raided English coastal towns. Because tradition.
One member doesn’t have an Army.
Iceland doesn’t have a standing army (it has a Coast Guard though!) but is a member ally to NATO anyway. The island nation actually does maintain a peacekeeping force of troops who are trained in Denmark, but Iceland joined the alliance on the condition that it wouldn’t have to establish a standing army – NATO wanted Iceland because of its strategic position in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is protected by the Canadian Air Force.
Poland will no longer be taking Russia’s sh*t. Ever again.
Former enemies have joined NATO.
With the fall of the Soviet Union came a slew of countries who were much smaller than their former Soviet benefactor. Many of these countries were once members of the Warsaw Pact, the USSR’s answer to the West’s NATO. In order to keep former Soviet Russia from meddling in their newly-independent domestic affairs, many Warsaw Pact countries who trained to fight NATO then joined it, including Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and (after the unification of Germany) East Germany.
Pictured: Why Georgia wants to join NATO.
New NATO members could trigger the war it was designed to prevent.
The alliance is always courting new members to counter the threat posed by Russia. This means eventually NATO had to start looking east to find new partners – and many were willing. Unfortunately, pushing eastward puts NATO troops on Russia’s doorstep and there are certain countries that Russia considers a national security threat were they to go to NATO. Two of those, Ukraine and Georgia, have seen Russian invasions of their territory in the past few years in an attempt to thwart their eventual membership.
Russia warned NATO of a “great conflict” should either of them join the alliance.
“I didn’t have a normal and safe childhood,” Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum said woefully. “I did this so my kids could live, and be safe.”
Kadhum was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. Growing up, he never considered the life he lived was anything out of the ordinary, until he was an adult and attending his first year of college in 2003, when U.S. forces entered Iraq.
“It was a complicated feeling then,” Kadhum remembered. “We were happy, but it was also scary, because during the Saddam regime we had nothing. In 2003, we had hope.”
Iraq had become a warzone right in front of his eyes.
“When the coalition forces had come to Iraq to free us from Saddam, I was in college and decided I needed to help.”
Kadhum was hired by a U.S. contractor and used the time to establish himself and work on his English. When the request for translators was made from the U.S. Army, he knew he could do more.
Kadhum learned immediately that his job as an interpreter could have either a negative or positive effect based on his translations.
“If I missed one word when translating, then something could have happened,” he said.
Kadhum started his job as an interpreter working with a Military Transition Team. His team worked directly with the Iraqi army, training them and providing guidance on how to use equipment, clear rooms and other necessary tactical skills.
Being in the position he was in, Kadhum was sometimes the only connecting piece between the Iraqi forces and U.S. forces. Eventually, he would become a target of the enemy and had to start concealing his identity whenever traveling outside of his job.
“Our people think we aren’t good people because we help the U.S. Army,” he said. “They started threatening us and following us many times. They would threaten us either directly or indirectly.
Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum, an 88M (truck driver) assists in fueling vehicles during a driver’s training class, July 26, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)
I had to move my family with me from place to place. “
As a result of the threats, Kadhum felt pressured to leave the Military Transition Team and started working at a prison, still as an interpreter.
“This was another challenge for me,” he said. “To help the prisoners, and most of them were terrorists. But it was their human right.”
Kadhum said he gained experience in the proper and fair treatment of prisoners, despite the crime they committed. Ensuring the imprisoned received the right food and water in accordance with their rights was, at times, difficult for Kadhum, but despite his struggle, he continued to help facilitate the standard.
In 2007, Iraq had become a more dangerous place. Enemy forces were relentless with their attacks on the government, U.S. forces and the people of Iraq.
Kadhum’s main purpose for working with U.S. forces was to benefit the country and people of Iraq. Unfortunately, others did not feel that was the purpose of the interpreters.
“I felt like I was serving my country more than I was serving the U.S. Army,” Kadhum said. “I don’t feel like I did something wrong in my country, but other people did.
“All the time I must hide everything, even the ID I had, I had to hide in my boot. We had to travel together [the interpreters] to go home to make sure we were safe.”
Kadhum continued his support to the American forces until he determined it was no longer safe to stay in Iraq.
“I was scared for my son when he went to school,” Kadhum explained. “My wife would go with him and wait because maybe someone would kidnap him; every time he went to school my wife stayed with him.”
With the help of the program established for interpreters who assist the U.S., he was able to get a Special Immigration Visa and come to America with his wife and two children in August 2016.
“I feel like at first when I came here I felt safe,” he said. “My oldest is almost ten and my daughter is now three. Now I feel safe.
“If my son wants to go to the playground, I’m not scared someone will kidnap him. I’m not scared someone will be threatening me through him,” Kadhum continued. “Now I feel like my kids can grow up normal.”
A few months later, Kadhum was in a U.S. Army recruiter’s office looking for a way to give back to the very institution that he had already given so much.
“Right now for me the Army is not a job, it’s not a career,” he started. “I’m serving. This is what I feel because at least I can pay back what the U.S. Army did for me.
I came here and the first thing I thought was I needed to serve; because this Army has worked to help people to do better in their life. I believed it at the time even when I was an interpreter.”
In early July 2018, Kadhum recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and became an official U.S. citizen with more than 15 other soldiers during a ceremony on Fort Hood.
“I’m really happy but at the same time it is a big responsibility,” he said. “While serving in the Army it is a responsibility, but even if I get out of [the] Army as a civilian I still have more responsibility.
When you choose to get that citizenship it is different from the people who are born with the citizenship. When it’s harder to get it, it is a big commitment. I have more appreciation for it.”
Kadhum is looking ahead to the future for himself and his family.
“The best thing is because of the naturalization, I can do anything now,” he said. “My hopes are for my kids that they get to live a normal life and every thing will be perfect for them.”
In 1961, 158 Irish soldiers with no combat experience came under determined attack from 3,000-5,000 African rebels and European mercenaries, surviving five days of airstrikes, mortar barrages, and frontal assaults while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission that went horribly wrong.
An Irish soldier on duty in the Congo in 1960.
(Irish Defence Forces CC BY 2.0)
The men of Company A were sent to the Republic of the Congo shortly after the country received independence from Belgium in June 1960. A wave of violence had swept the country in the weeks and months following independence, and a local politician and businessman saw serious potential.
See, Congo is rich in natural resources, but a lot of those resources are concentrated in the Katanga region in the country’s southeast. Moise Tshombe thought he could cobble together a coalition of local forces from Katanga and mercenaries supported by European companies, and so he got Katanga to secede from the DRC.
Suddenly, the country’s racial and political unrest was a full-on civil war, and the young United Nations resolved to keep the peace. Troops were dispatched, and Congolese leaders were so happy with the first wave of troops that they asked for more, leading to the Irish deployment.
Irish soldiers manning a position in the Republic of the Congo in 1960.
As the Irish got their major weapons systems into operations, they were surprised by an enemy mortar round that shook the buildings. That was when they knew they were outgunned, and it would quickly become apparent that they were outnumbered. There were between 3,000 and 5,000 men attacking the 158 defenders.
A Fouga jet, the French two-seat jet trainer that Katanga rebels used to fire on Irish troops.
(Philippe DULAC, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Quinlan had ordered his men to stockpile water before the attack, but as the fighting dragged on day after day, it became clear that there wasn’t enough water and ammunition to sustain the defense. And the rebels had taken control of a nearby river crossing, cutting off potential reinforcements or resupply.
One brave helicopter pilot did manage to fly in some water, but it turned out to be contaminated.
So, from Sept. 13-17, the Irish suffered strafing attacks with limited ability to defend themselves, but wreaked havoc on their enemies on the ground, killing 300 of the attackers while suffering zero deaths and only five major injuries.
Yes, outgunned, vastly outnumbered, and under concerted attack, the Irish held their own for five days. But, by Sept. 17, out of water and ammunition, it was clear to Quinlan that the compound was lost. He could order is men to resist with knives as their enemy attacked with machine guns and mortars, or he could surrender.
And so, the Irishmen surrendered and were taken as hostages by the rebels who tried to use them as a bargaining chip with the U.N. in a bid for independence. But the rebels ended up releasing all 158 soldiers just five weeks later.
For decades, the men were treated as cowards and embarrassments, but a 2016 movie named The Siege of Jadotville about the battle treated the men as heroes and has helped cast a light on the men’s heroism. Before the premiere of the movie, the Irish government agreed with lobbying by Quinlan’s son to award a unit citation for Company A and individuals were awarded Jadotville medals until 1917.
The California National Guard posted a video on Facebook on July 28, 2018, from the cockpit of a C-130 as the aircraft dropped flame retardant on the Carr Fire raging in California .
The video gives a first-person perspective from the C-130 cockpit as the plane slowly approaches part of the blaze concentrated on a hilltop, eventually sweeping around the side before you can hear the retardant being released.
The Carr Fire broke out on July 23, 2018, near a small California community called Shasta. By July 26, 2018, the blaze had grown to 28,000 acres. By July 30, 2018, it had grown to over 95,000 acres, and is currently only 17% contained.
Six civilians, including two firefighters, have thus far have been killed, and according to CNN, seven more civilians are missing.
More than 3,000 firefighters have been dispatched to the scene, and about 39,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-15C Eagle from the 142nd Fighter Wing, Portland, Ore., lands at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands.
Members of the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., conduct a multi-ship C-17 Globemaster III formation during Crescent Reach 15.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG82), front, conducts a trilateral naval exercise with the Turkish frigate FTCD Gediz (F-495) and Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) destroyers Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (DDG 993) and Gang Gam-chan (DDH 979) in support of theater security operations.
NEW YORK (May 24, 2015) Sailors assigned to USS San Antonio (LPD 17) march in the Greenpoint Veterans Memorial Parade in the borough of Brooklyn as a part of Fleet Week New York (FWNY) event, May 24. FWNY, now in its 27th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, unload their Stryker vehicles during joint readiness exercise, Culebra Koa 15, May 21, 2015, at Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo, Hawaii.
Paratroopers, assigned 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct airborne operations off the coast of Athens, Greece, with the 2nd Para Battalion of the Greek Army.
Protect the Bird. A Marine with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, establishes security aboard Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii.
Night Flight. An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter taxies to be refueled on the flight deck of USS Wasp during night operations, a part of Operational Testing 1, May, 22, 2015.
Later this week we will take a look at what it’s like on an International Ice Patrol deployment! Here is a small sample of what is to come.
The United States Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard Silent Drill Team was caught performing at the Statue of Liberty this past Saturday.
Mindy N. asks: After a long run my leg muscles are tired, but my heart is not. Why doesn’t the heart need any rest?
An average of around 60 to 100 times every minute of every day of every year of your ultimately meaningless life, your heart beats… until it doesn’t. Not long after it stops, all knowledge of your having existed is rapidly forgotten. Unlike the other muscles in your body, however, your heart steadfastly rages against the dying of the light, refusing to ever get tired. But how does it manage this and why are your other muscles such slackers in comparison?
To begin with, the human body is broadly composed of three types of muscles: skeletal, smooth and cardiac. Skeletal muscles are striated (banded), and are what most of us think of when we envision a muscle — controlling pretty much all voluntary, and some involuntary, body movement.
Like cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle derives energy from ATP (Adenosine triphoweknowyoudontcare), with this being made in a few different ways. To avoid going full textbook, we’ll just briefly give the high level over simplified view here. In a nutshell, the slowest, but most efficient, method of ATP production is via aerobic respiration where mitochondria in your muscle cells draw energy from the Dark Dimension, producing ATP, a small amount of which is stored in your muscles at any given time. This stored amount is a sufficient supply to last for about 3 seconds of vigorous activity, not unlike your high school boyfriend.
Diagram of the human heart.
After this supply is taxed, with the ATP converted to ADP (adenosine diphosophate) in the process, creatine phosphate in the muscles is used to convert it back to ATP. This supply will last about 8-15 seconds.
Next up, it turns out we were totally wrong about that whole Dark Dimension thing as, in fact, your muscles continue to get ATP beyond this via a series of chemical reactions resulting in glucose being used to make the needed ATP to keep going. This glucose comes from a variety of sources, such as glycogen in your muscles, or via blood via fats, protein, stores in the liver, and from your food churning away in your intestines.
There are two high level ways this production of ATP ends up being accomplished. In the first, using large supplies of oxygen. In this case, as much as 38 ATP molecules can be produced for every glucose molecule. In the second case, via anaerobic glycolysis — not requiring oxygen — only 2 molecules of ATP are produced for each molecule of glucose. While an extremely inefficient use of the available supply of glucose, this method at least produces the ATP over two times faster than aerobic respiration and continues working for a time while you’re out of breath.
Due to glycolysis resulting in the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, ultimately if it accumulates faster than it can be gotten rid of, it will interfere with the anaerobic glycolysis process and your muscles are going to go all jelly and cease to work as well for a little bit. This is in part why, if you get out of breath when exercising and your body is relying more on anaerobic glycolysis, you get fatigued extremely quickly. In this case, you’re simultaneously creating lactic acid at a much more rapid rate and using up your available glucose molecules faster, but producing relatively small amounts of ATP for those molecules used. Do this for more than a minute or two and it will overtax your skeletal muscles’ ability to produce the needed ATP at the rate you’re using it. (Though, again, your mileage will vary based on your current fitness level.)
Back it off and so you’re relying mostly on aerobic respiration and you’re going to get the most bang for your buck, able to keep going all night long if you keep hydrated and well fed. Slow and steady wins the race.
Unsurprisingly from all of this, the more mitochondria there are, the faster ATP can potentially be produced if the needed molecules are present and the more the muscle can keep on keeping on. As for skeletal muscle, about 2%-8% of the volume of such muscle is mitochondria, though this varies somewhat from person to person depending on your level of physical fitness.
Moving on to smooth muscle, as you may have gleaned from the name, this is smooth with no striations. Found in your hollow internal organs (except the heart), smooth muscles work automatically, helping you digest food, dilate your pupils and take a wee-wee. As an example of smooth muscle in action, in digestion, the contractions themselves are really not too dissimilar to how your heart beat works — fluctuation of electrical potential in the smooth muscle cells which causes the muscle to contract in a rhythmic fashion, in this case called the “Basic Electrical Rhythm” or BER. This rhythm is about three times per minute in the stomach, and 12 times per minute in the small intestines. The sound you are hearing when your stomach and intestines make noise is the result of these muscular contractions mixing and moving chyme (the cocktail of digestive juices, food, microbes, etc.) and air along down the tube between your mouth and your waste disposal port.
As for the mitochondrial needs of these muscles, they are typically approximately that of your skeletal muscles, with mitochondria making up about 3-5% of the smooth muscle volume.
This finally brings us to the real hero of your life story — cardiac muscle. Like skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle is striated and like the other muscle in your body is primarily powered by mitochondria. The cardiac muscles, however, have as much as 10 times the density of mitochondria as your other muscles, at about 35% of the volume of your cardiac muscle.
It should also be noted that individual muscle cells in the heart actually do get regular rest thanks to how the heart beat actually works, which we’ll get into in the Bonus Fact in a bit. But the net result is that about 60%-70% of your life a given part of your heart is actually in a resting state.
Combining these micro-rests with the extreme amount of mitochondria and a large amount of oxygen from the heart’s awesome blood supply, this allows your heart all the ATP it needs to not get tired, assuming you’re not in an extreme state of starvation or doing some extreme form of exercise for extended periods well beyond your normal fitness regime.
On that note, the downside to needing so much ATP thanks to no extended downtime is that the heart really needs to rely on aerobic respiration to make sure it doesn’t run out of ATP, and thus it doesn’t take oxygen being cut off for too long from it before you’re going to have a bad time, unlike other muscles you can just stop using to help recover the needed ATP over time.
And, yes, it turns out the human heart can actually get tired and suffer damage if you’re trying to do some extreme form of physical activity outside your norm for lengthy periods, especially if in a low oxygen environment like at high altitude. In these cases, even the healthiest hearts can suffer damage, though given the other effects on your body of such extreme physical activity, typically most people will stop doing whatever before the heart is negatively impacted in a damaging way. In essence, your legs will give out before your heart does (usually), at least when talking energy supply. But that doesn’t mean in certain cases a measurable level of tiredness in the heart can’t be observed.
For example, in 2001, cardiologists studied a few dozen endurance athletes competing in a 400 km race in Scotland, which comprised of all manner of physical activities from paddling, rope climbing, running, biking, climbing, etc. and the whole event taking almost 100 hours. During this span, the athletes typically only slept about 1 hour per 24 hours during the event and otherwise soldiered on.
The results? At the end of the race, the athletes’ hearts were only pumping about 90% of the volume per beat they’d been managing before the race started.
That said, further research on endurance athletes calls into question the notion of “no permanent damage” being done. For example, researchers involved in a 2011 British study looking at British Olympians who competed in distance running and rowing (and specifically competing in at minimum a hundred events), found that as they aged they showed marked signs of heart muscle scarring, something that can lead to irregular heart function and, potentially, heart failure.
Of course, these are extreme examples, and for most people not doing ultra marathons regularly or competing professionally or semi-professionally in endurance events, this is unlikely to be a problem and the holistic health benefits of regular, vigorous exercise are likely to make up for it even then.
Ever wonder how the heart beat works? Well, wonder no more. In a nutshell, the heart is a four chambered pump. The top two chambers are called Atria, the bottom two are called Ventricles. They are separated from top to bottom by valves; the right and left sides are separated by a septum. So what makes the pump squeeze? When the hearts muscle gets “shocked”, it will contract and force the blood down its path, with the valves not allowing blood to flow back through the system, unless they are defective.
The blood’s path through the heart starts in a vein called the Superior Vena Cava. Then it enters the right atrium, flows through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle. From there it travels through the pulmonic valve into pulmonary arteries, then the lungs. Now back to the heart and into the left atrium, through the mitral valve. The blood is now in the “strongest” chamber of the heart, the left ventricle. From there it gets pumped through the aortic valve and into the aorta and out to the rest of the body!
So what causes that infamous electric shock the heart receives approximately 60-100 times a minute? Short answer: Dormammu. Long answer: The exchange of electrolytes across specialized cells within the heart build up a differing electrical potential on either side of the cell. When this electrical potential reaches a certain level, it discharges and sends a shock down another unique set of cells within the heart, causing a shock and thus the contraction.
The specific set of cells that regulates the heart rate (in most people) are called the Sinoatrial node or SA node for short. The SA node (pacemaker of the heart) sits in the upper portion of the R atria near the entrance of the superior vena cava.
When the SA node sends out and electrical shock, it immediately shocks the atria. The pulse then gets “held up” in another set of cells called the Atrioventricular node, or AV node for short. This then transmits the impulse down to the bundle of His and then to two pathways called the right and left bundle branches. Then it’s transmitted to the rest of the Ventricles through what are called Purkinje fibers. All together this “shock” causes the atria to contract, then the ventricles. You’re still alive! (For now.)
So what and how do these electrolytes cause this shock? In an attempt not to give a physiology lecture of ungodly proportion, we will simply say that the main two electrolytes involved are sodium and potassium. Potassium normally sits inside the cell, and sodium outside. Potassium slowly leaks outside of the cell and sodium then goes inside the cell. This creates the differing electrical potential that builds up until the point of discharge. Other electrolytes also help in creating this differential, and they are calcium and magnesium. All together the harmony created by this yin and yang system of electrical and mechanical systems come together to make that wonderfully thumping thing inside your chest!
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.