This diagnosis is a broad term that refers to having pain in the front of the knee or, specifically, the patella. It’s a common issue among those who undergo high-impact activities, like running while wearing a heavy pack. Those who have patellofemoral pain syndrome will typically have problems kneeling down and maneuvering through uneven terrain and experience soreness during long platoon runs.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is caused by the roughening or softening of the cartilage under the kneecap. The typical treatment involves giving the patient two straws (to suck it up), a decent dose of ibuprofen or naproxen, taping the kneecap in place, and getting better PT shoes.
2. Hamstring pulls
You know that muscle in the back of your thigh? That’s your hamstring and it’s one of the thickest muscles in the human body. Pulling a hammy is a common injury in grunts who have to run fast but aren’t properly warmed up.
The hamstring helps flex and straighten the knee joint. So, if an infantryman hurts this important muscle, they might be out of the fight for a while.
This medical term merely refers to pain located in the lower back. Grunts have to shift through various fighting positions, like prone and kneeling, while wearing heavy gear on their backs for several hours throughout the day, making this a common ailment for infantrymen in training.
4. Shin splints
Shin splints are likely the most common type of lower-leg ailment across the entire military — and it’s especially common among the infantry. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, the disorder is caused by putting extreme stress on the shinbone and other connective tissues in the area.
The problem develops as a result of having flat feet, not warming up with proper stretches, and weak lower-torso joints.
5. IT band syndrome
You know that pain on the side of your knee that flares up after a mandatory 12-mile run? It’s probably not a ligament — but it could be your iliotibial band. This slab of connective tissue runs down from the side of your hip and latches onto the outside part of your knee.
Straining this band will likely cause you to limp or even sideline you on crutches for an extended period of time.
Commonly known as a “twisted ankle,” this is one of the most highly diagnosed injuries to the lower leg due to inversion. This structure in the distal part of your leg can only bend and flex so far before sustaining damage. Ankle sprains can be just as nasty as some minor fractures due to the amount of time it can take to fully heal.
Since ligaments receive limited blood supply, a high-level sprain can take weeks to properly heal.
Although the Constitution states that the U.S. military is subordinate to civilian authority, presidents and top military commanders have clashed periodically throughout American history. Presidents, who often have little or no military experience, are tasked leading and providing orders to professional warfighters with decades of experience. Still, the relationship is usually respectful and both sides work together to do right by the American people.
But, when policy disputes erupt into the public eye, it can get ugly quick. The president has a few options when this happens, the most extreme of which is to either fire the officer directly or request their resignation.
Here are 7 times that presidents felt the need to fire top military officers:
1. Fremont got canned for going rogue against slavery
John C. Fremont was a famous explorer with multiple expeditions to the American west under his belt. Lincoln tapped him to administrate the west during the Civil War and had him commissioned as a major general.
That proved to be a mistake. Fremont’s department was riddled with corruption and Fremont attempted to free all slaves in Missouri whose owners wouldn’t swear allegiance to the U.S. This created a political crisis for Lincoln. When Fremont refused to rescind the order, Lincoln overruled him and began preparations to fire him.
When the Civil War broke out, the Union Army was being commanded by the 75-year-old Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott. It was obvious that he would have to be replaced quickly, and the only general racking up victories in the early days was Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan.
So, McClellan got the top job despite misgivings from Lincoln. It turned out Lincoln was right as the former railroad executive frequently failed to attack, even when he had technological and numerical advantages and the best ground. Frustrated by McClellan’s lack of progress on executing the war, Lincoln replaced McClellan on Nov. 5, 1862.
3. Richardson got sacked for arguing against the fleet staying at Pearl Harbor
Japan and the U.S. were the “Will they, won’t they?” couple of 1940-1941. Japan’s ever-growing war against China was ratcheting up tensions with America, especially after Japanese planes bombed a U.S. ship evacuating American citizens from a Chinese city. As the two powers stumbled towards war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration ordered the Pacific Fleet to stay at Pearl Harbor.
The commander of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. James O. Richardson, disagreed with Roosevelt and the chief of the Navy. He argued, forcefully, that the U.S. was not ready for a war in the western Pacific and that the fleet should return to the mainland U.S. coast. In Jan. 1941, Richardson was replaced by Rear Adm. Husband E. Kimmel.
4. Kimmel and Short were booted for not properly preparing for the Pearl Harbor attack
5. MacArthur was recalled for triggering war with China
While other officers on this list were fired for speaking out or for resisting presidential policy, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was fired for drastically expanding the scope of a war.
MacArthur was immensely popular in the U.S. as a bona fide war hero who came out of retirement to fight World War II. But Truman found him overly aggressive in his role as the supreme leader of United Nations forces in Korea, pressing his attack too far north despite Truman’s warnings and orders.
6. Fallon was retired early because he wanted out of Iraq
Adm. William “Fox” Fallon was the head of Central Command during the Surge in Iraq. As the war dragged on, Fallon became convinced that Iraq was a waste of resources. President George W. Bush’s administration continued to believe that they could salvage a victory there.
What resulted was a public debate with Fallon on one side and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Gen. David Petreaus, the commander of forces in Iraq at the time, on the other. As the last of the Surge units were leaving Iraq, Gates stated that there would be a pause in the drawdown after they left and Fallon publically contradicted him (in a cover feature in Esquire magazine). Fallon was pressured into resigning within a couple of weeks.
7. Obama fired two war commanders in two years
The public sacking of Gen. Stanley McChrystal for insulting comments he and his staff gave to Rolling Stone dominated the news for days in Jun. 2010. But McChrystal’s infamous firing was the second time the U.S. commander in Afghanistan had been fired by President Barack Obama.
Gen. David McKiernan held the job before McChrystal and was pressured into resigning by Secretary Gates in 2009 due to concerns that he was waging the war too much like a conventional military conflict instead of an anti-insurgency campaign.
Every military professional has his or her favorite war novel and picking the “greatest” is a tall order. But that’s what we do here at WATM. These are our picks for the greatest war novels ever written:
1. Catch 22
Written from several third person points of view with a circular dynamic centered around the paradox that is Catch-22, this Joseph Heller classic was in many ways years ahead of its time in that the wider audience didn’t relate to his reading of the military until well into the Vietnam War years. Beyond the biting satire and staccato pacing Catch-22 captures the personalities that populate the military to this day: inept commanders, opportunistic junior officers, and enlisted men staying sane by not taking anything around them too seriously. This is a must-read before every major deployment.
2. The Things They Carried
Tim O’ Brien’s Vietnam-era literary masterpiece is brimming with pathos. The novel’s strength isn’t necessarily in how it deals with war straight-on, but it lies in O’Brien’s atmospherics and states of mind and the resultant permanent scars of an ill-defined conflict carried out by a nation riven by it.
3. Mr. Midshipmen Hornblower
Most people think of Patrick ‘O Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series as the definitive historical fiction works around the heyday of warfighting sailing ships, but Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, the first book in C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, skips getting bogged down in technical detail and instead offers timeless lessons in military leadership at sea and amazing perspective around what 17-year olds had to tackle responsibility-wise in the fledgling American Navy.
4. The Hunters
James Salter’s poetic prose elevates this Korean War-era story about Air Force pilots to timeless art as well as a definitive reading of those drawn to that particular warfare specialty. The Hunters has it all: a burned out CO, a confused chain of command, cocky junior officers, and significant others complaining about being ignored for the glory of air combat.
5. The Hunt for Red October
Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman who couldn’t interest anyone in his manuscript until the Naval Institute Press – a publisher that had never done fiction – decided to take a chance based on the story’s level of technical detail that bordered on classified. The book’s sales were relatively flat until President Ronald Reagan was seen carrying a copy, and from that point The Hunt for Red October became the title that launched a thousand technothrillers as well as Clancy’s prolific and lucrative career.
6. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Author Ben Fountain paints an all-too-accurate portrait of what “support the troops” has come to mean a decade and a half after 9-11. “Halftime Walk” is set at the Dallas Cowboys stadium where an Army unit is feted by the team’s owner and his circle of Texas fat cats who demonstrate the distance between the American population and those sent to do their fighting. More than a novel about war, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a national indictment.
7. All Quiet on the Western Front
Remarque’s groundbreaking World War I novel was among the first to dispel any laudable mystique surrounding war through its detail about trench warfare and mustard gas attacks and the portrayal of the protagonist’s decent from idealistic recruit to member of a generation forever scarred by “The Long War.” Paul Baumer’s heartbreak is that of the hundreds of thousands of service members who followed him into battle in the decades after his war ended, many of whom certainly read the book but went anyway.
An instant classic. Phil Klay’s much heralded debut novel about the Iraq War is worthy of the praise heaped upon it. Redeployment is at once timely and timeless in capturing the nuance of the emotions and states of mind of Marines at war and back home between tours. To get to what’s honorable about service you have to face the realities of an unclear mission without end and what accepting them does to those involved. In this effort Klay emerges as the de facto spokesman for the post-9/11 cohort of warfighters.
9. Slaughterhouse Five
Kurt Vonnegut’s best-known novel if not his masterwork, Slaughterhouse Five builds off of the author’s real-life experiences as an eyewitness to the aftermath of the Dresden firebombing during World War II and adds a time-traveling protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, to create a book that deftly illustrates the pointlessness and futility of war. (Also recommended by Vonnegut: Mother Night.)
Military jobs all seem pretty similar from the outside. Everyone shoots at the range, everyone gets compensated according to the same pay tables, and everyone gets yelled at by the people with fancier symbols on their uniforms.
But some military jobs have hidden perks that just come with the territory. For example, if the mission requires that a soldier have access to the internet, then that soldier can usually use the internet for other stuff as long as they don’t abuse the privilege. So here are six jobs with hidden perks that help make life a little more bearable:
1. Corpsmen/medics usually have fridge access for medicines.
There are only a few groups of people who regularly had access to refrigeration during a deployment to the burning hot desert. The cooks (more on them later) and the medical folks — at smaller bases, this means Navy corpsmen and Army and Air Force medics.
The medical personnel need refrigeration to keep certain medicines from going bad. But whatever area of the fridge that’s left over is usually divvied up by the medics to keep drinks cold, a rare luxury on some bases.
2. The cooks also have refrigerators … and spare food.
The cooks have even greater access to fridges than the medics, and they can sometimes grab extra food and energy drinks to trade or share. Most forward operating bases with dining facilities feed hundreds of soldiers and Army recipes are usually written for batches of 100 servings.
It’s basically impossible to make and order the exact amount of food needed for any meal, so there’s always some spare servings of something left over — sometimes cooked and sometimes waiting to be cooked. Cooks will trade away those unused 15 servings of ribs or chicken to others for special favors.
3. Public Affairs has usually has Facebook access even when the rest of the base is on blackout.
The gatekeepers of the unit Facebook page, meanwhile, have their own great perk. When the rest of the base is put on communications blackout, public affairs troops are still required to keep the unit’s social media pages going to reassure family members back home and to keep up normal appearances.
This requires that the PA shop always has access to Facebook and Twitter, meaning its soldiers can exchange messages with family and update their own pages even when the base was otherwise blacked out.
4. Pilots and flight line folks have the best trading opportunities.
Anyone who is intimately involved in flight operations knows how to trade with people from other bases, ships, whatever, and they’ll take advantage of it. See, the economy on a deployment is limited to what goods are actually useful on the base. Pay sits in bank accounts while most people are trading the limited supply of available chewing tobacco and Girl Scout cookies.
But flight operations people have access to goods and services that are housed in another Navy ship or on another base. That means that they can trade items that only Kandahar Air Field or Sigonella has.
5. Combat camera is basically military tourism.
Look, combat camera is full of brave people who wade into battle to document it and share stories with the American public and military leaders. This isn’t to disparage them or the work they do, but they’re basically military tourists.
If some unit is doing a cool training operation on the beaches of Italy or special operators are breaking into a Taliban fortress, there’s a decent chance that some combat cameraman is getting flown out there to document it. And they leave the service with their own collection of unclassified photos, making them some of the only people with multimedia support for their war stories.
6. Signal guys get admin access to the computers.
This one may sound less than impressive, but it’s actually amazing. See, military computer networks have a lot of user restrictions, but the IT guys within the communications shops are in charge of implementing those user restrictions, so they get admin logins.
That means that they have more access to whatever they want on the internet even when deployed, provided that they don’t abuse the privilege. So, they’ll have Facebook access even when public affairs is locked out and can set their own internet to have priority access when bandwidth gets tight.
Recruiters are well-practiced in convincing young adults that military service is the best option to propel them into a happy, successful future. We’ve all seen the recruiting posters that show off a mighty lookin’ Marine or a tough soldier and we’ve all seen the highly polished ads on TV, but nothing beats the personal touch of a skilled recruiter.
Some recruiters will travel miles to find young prospects and get them interested in military service. However, there’s one place where you’ll find almost always youngsters in nearly any town — the freakin’ mall.
Shopping malls are the ultimate grounds for recruiters to swoop in and scoop up their next contract. Every recruiter is different, but we’re willing to bet that if you enlisted at a mall, you ran into one of these four archetypes:
That’s right, you better stand at modified parade rest.
(Photo by Andrea Stone)
The one who expects you to have some military bearing
Some recruiters are laid back, but others take a more aggressive approach and instruct potential recruits on the proper way to speak as an active service member.
You might think that being stern and strict would turn the younger crowd away, but, to our surprise, that rigid military bearing is exactly what some want.
He’s good at his
The one who is good with parents
Joining the military is a big decision. The fact is that many youngsters aren’t accustomed to making such important choices.
A smart recruiter knows that nothing is more reassuring than a parent’s good word. So, you’ll likely find a recruiter whose best work is done schmoozing with mom and dad.
If you join today, you might get to drive a government car, just like me.
The parking lot patroller
Mall recruiters aren’t just on the hunt for window shoppers. Nope! They’re out searching for you before you even step foot inside the shopping center. They pretend like they’ve met you before to strike up a conversation. It’s all a tactic to get you into their office.
Sure you could join the Air Force, but you won’t look as cool in their uniform.
The reverse psychologist
Recruiters are up against monthly quotas. In order to make their numbers, they need to use every tool in their kit. This means finding a way to beat out the other branches in the event that two are scoping the same potential recruit. Some recruiters will use reverse psychology on you, making sly like, “you probably couldn’t handle the Marines anyway.”
Some will see right through it, but others feel compelled to prove people wrong.
Tanks are a staple of ground warfare. Militaries around the world deploy a wide range of tanks, but typically they conform to some basic principals. In nearly all of them, a large turret sits on top of an armored vehicle that moves on treads.
But this wasn’t always the case. In the early 20th century, engineers around the world were scrambling to figure out how exactly to pass uneven terrain and mobilize troops. This period of innovation resulted in today’s technologically marvelous tanks, but before that, they had some truly outrageous ideas.
The Tsar Tank
Tank development was in its earliest stages when Tsar Nicholas II ruled Russia in the first decades of the 20th century. The Tsar differed from modern tanks in that it didn’t have treads, instead using two massive 27-foot-tall front wheels and a small third wheel, 5 feet in diameter, that trailed behind for steering. Reportedly, when Nicholas II saw a model of the tank roll over a stack of books he was sold on the project and gave it his blessing.
Russian engineers Nikolai Lebedenko, Nikolai Zhukovsky, Boris Stechkin, and Alexander Mikulin developed the Tsar from 1914 to 1915. The vehicle resembled a hanging bat when viewed from above, so it gained the nickname “Netopyr,” which translates to “pipistrellus,” the genus name for “bats.”
The giant bicycle-style wheels in front of the tank did prove effective for traversing a variety of terrains. But they severely limited the firing range of the 12 water-cooled machine guns situated in between the massive wheels. Thanks to two 250-horsepower Sunbeam engines powering either wheel, the Tsar could reach a respectable speed of up to 10.5 mph.
But mobility eventually doomed the Tsar.
When testing began in a forest outside Moscow, the rear wheel became mired in soft soil. Despite the Russian military’s best efforts to free the 60-ton behemoth, it remained in that spot until 1923, when it was sold for scrap.
The Boirault Machine
The French also had their own ideas about what a mobile weapons platform should look like.
In 1914, a few months before Britain began work on the “Little Willy” tank that would set the precedent for modern tanks, French engineer Louis Boirault presented the French War Ministry with plans for the Boirault Machine.
Boirault’s tank design was 26 feet high and has been described as a rhomboid-shaped skeleton tank without armor, with a single overhead track.” The machine weighed a whopping 30 tons and was powered by a single 80-horsepower motor, which enabled the craft to move at a leisurely rate of less than 1 mph.
The Boirault did have success in crossing trenches and trampling barbed wire. But more conventional tanks were taking shape around Europe by 1915, and the French War Ministry abandoned the project.
The Screw Tank
GIF: Wikimedia Commons/Бага
Before tracked wheels came into prominence as the most efficient way to traverse difficult terrain, there was some exploration into corkscrew-driven machines that could twist and crush their way through ice, snow, and mud. As early as 1899 patents were filed for agricultural machines that used auger-like wheels for work in the fields.
In the 1920s, the Armstead Snow-Motor kit made waves across the Northern US and Canada as a screw-driven tractor that could haul up to 20 tons through unwelcoming northern conditions.
Then, in World War II, the unorthodox inventor Geoffrey Pyke worked with the US military to developed a screw-driven tank to pass over ice and snow in Northern Europe.
The tank made it to a prototype stage but was never fully realized, and it died on the drawing board.
Recently, the idea of a screw tank has resurfaced, with the Russians seemingly perfecting the design as illustrated in the video below:
They may seem like they’re tying troops’ hands behind their backs — especially given that today’s wars are very different from those when the former laws of war were written — but there’s a good reason why certain rules have been imposed to protect troops in combat.
While the major laws of war are well known, there are some provisions that may surprise the average reader.
#1: Filing down your bullet. (The 1899 Hague Declaration IV,3 and Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 35)
There is always the loophole of “military necessity” — that’s why flamethrowers are okay, because they have an actual purpose if used on foliage and clearing tunnels.
So while hollow points are legal, filing down a bullet to make in improvised dum-dum round is a no no. The purpose of doing that is to cause unnecessary harm.
So that 5.56 round some jackass took a Multi-tool to to “make it hurt more” committed a serious offense.
#2: A chaplain picking up a weapon. (Geneva Convention Art. 24)
If troops become shipwrecked or parachute out of a destroyed aircraft, they now have non-combatant status. They’re technically out of the fight.
The most protected service member in the ranks is still the chaplain, who should never enter combatant status.
Regardless of their denomination, chaplains have a duty to uphold the spiritual, moral, and religious well-being of everyone on the battlefield. They will enter combat zones, but only to provide aid. To date, 419 U.S. Chaplains have died in war and eight Medals of Honor were bestowed to chaplains.
It is a part of their duty to never lose non-combatant status to help the needs of all. Picking up a weapon immediately revokes that status. If you ever wondered why armed chaplain assistants are so valuable, that’s why.
#3: Taking war trophies. (Fourth Geneva Convention. Art. 33-34)
There’s a fine line between taking a souvenir and pillaging.
Anything you take off the battlefield is pillaging — even if it belonged to an enemy combatant. It is subject to strict regulations after it’s turned over for inspection and clearance. If it’s a weapon, it must also be made unserviceable at the expense of whomever is taking it back.
Stashing it goes against tons of laws.
#4: Putting a large Red Cross on your equipment for combat operations. (Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 85)
The Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal, and Red Shield of David are all protected as the international symbol for medical aid. When it is painted on a vehicle or on an armband, it lets everyone know that they are only there to render aid. Like chaplains having protections, so too do medics if they are performing aid and evacuation.
If a combat medic takes up arms, they lose their status as a non-combatant, which has been the norm in modern conflicts. If they drop their weapon to give aid, they regain that status.
But the red cross symbol doesn’t give you noncombatant status. If the symbol is on a piece of equipment, such as a first aid kit or pack, it is only signifying that the contents are for first aid.
#5: Not protecting journalists. (Geneva Convention Protocol I Art. 79)
War corespondents are just as protected as any other civilian on the battlefield. They must never pick up arms or else they losing their status. The difference between members of the press and other non-combatants is that they are required by their job to be in the middle of a firefight to report what is happening.
In the modern era, journalists have been easier and more valuable targets than ever. If one is embedded in a unit, no matter how pesky and nosy as they seem, they are valuable assets to the war effort and still must be protected.
#6: Insulting prisoners of war. (Third Geneva Convention. Arts. 13-16)
Writer’s Note: For the final point on this list, there will not be a photograph of a prisoner of war, regardless of nationality, in reference to their mistreatment.
One of the goals of the Hague and Geneva Convention was to protect the rights of prisoners of war. They must be given medical attention (Art. 15). They keep the civil capacities they had at the time of capture (Art. 14) and must always be treated humanely (Art. 13).
The definition of humane treatment covers no physical mutilation (including torture). This also means you must provide protection from acts of violence, intimidation, and verbal insults.
It doesn’t matter who the person is or what they did before they are captured, they are now a prisoner of war.
In today’s hi-tech age of drones and stealth and computer wizardry we might have a tendency to take military capabilities for granted. So here are nine military aviation firsts to remind us of how far we’ve come over the last 107 years or so:
1. First military flight
The Wright Brothers were contracted by the U.S. Army to conduct first-ever flight trials at Fort Meyer just outside of Washington, DC in 1908. Wilbur had a business commitment in Europe, so Orville had to do the Army flights by himself, the first time the brothers worked separately since their historic flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
2. First military aviation fatality
On September 17, about halfway into the Army flight program, with Army observer Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge on board, the airplane piloted by Orville Wright experienced a mechanical malfunction involving one of the propellers and crashed. Orville was severely injured and Selfridge died, making him the first military aviation fatality.
3. First aircraft carrier ops
Eugene Ely was the first pilot to launch from a stationary ship in November 1910. He took off from a structure fixed over the forecastle of the US armored cruiser USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads, Virginia and landed nearby on Willoughby Spit after some five minutes in the air. On 18 January 1911, he became the first pilot to land on a stationary ship. He took off from the Tanforan racetrack and landed on a similar temporary structure on the aft of the USS Pennsylvania anchored at the San Francisco waterfront—the improvised braking system of sandbags and ropes led directly to the arresting hook and wires. His aircraft was then turned around and he was able to take off again. (Source: Wikipedia)
4. First strike sortie
The first real world bombing mission was flown on November 1, 1911 by Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti, against Turkish troops in Libya. Gavotti was flying an early model of Etrich Taube aircraft. It’s also interesting to note that the Turks were the first to shoot down an aircraft (using rifle fire) during that same conflict.
5. First air-to-air kill
The first conventional air-to-air kill occured on October 5, 1914, during World War I, when a gunner on a French Voisin bagged a German Aviatik reconnaissance aircraft.
6. First ace
“Vut eez theez volleyball you speak uf?”
Adolphe Pégoud shot down his fifth German aircraft in April of 1915, making him the first military ace ever. On August 31 of that same year, Pégoud was shot down by one of his pre-war flight students, Unteroffizier Walter Kandulski, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He died in the crash. Kandulski later dropped a funeral wreath over the French lines in tribute.
7. First military pilot to go supersonic
After Bell Aircraft test pilot “Slick” Goodlin demanded $150,000 ($1.6 million in 2015 dollars) to break the sound barrier, the USAAF selected Chuck Yeager to fly the rocket-powered Bell XS-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight. Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the X-1 at Mach 1.07 at an altitude of 45,000 ft. over the Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert.
8. First military pilot in space
On April 12, 1961, Senior Lieutenant Yuri Gagarin launched in the the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome, which made him the first human to travel into space and the first to orbit the earth.
9. First military pilot to walk on the moon
Most people assume that Neil Armstrong was an active duty military officer at the time of the Apollo 11 mission, but he was actually a civilian, which makes Col. “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man out of the lunar module, the first military pilot to walk on the moon.
A small nuclear weapon on the ground can create a stadium-size fireball, unleash a city-crippling blastwave, and sprinkle radioactive fallout hundreds of miles away.
The good news is that the Cold War is over and a limited nuclear strike or a terrorist attack can be survivable (a direct hit notwithstanding). The bad news: A new arms race is likely underway — and one that may add small, portable nuclear weapons to the global stockpile. Lawmakers and experts fear such “tactical” or battlefield-ready devices (and their parts) may be easier for terrorists to obtain via theft or sale.
“Terrorist use of an actual nuclear bomb is a low-probability event — but the immensity of the consequences means that even a small chance is enough to justify an intensive effort to reduce the risk,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a September 2017 article, which outlines what might happen after terrorists detonate a crude device that yields a 10-kiloton, near-Hiroshima-size explosion in a city.
As part of the planning effort, the Environmental Protection Agency maintains a series of manuals about how state and local governments should respond. A companion document anticipates 99 likely questions during a radiation emergency — and scripted messages that officials can copy or adapt.
“Ideally, these messages never will be needed,” the EPA says in its messaging document. “[N]evertheless, we have a responsibility to be prepared to empower the public by effectively communicating how people can protect themselves and their families in the event of a radiological or nuclear emergency.”
Here are a handful of the questions the EPA anticipates in the event of a nuclear emergency, parts of statements you might hear or see in response, and why officials would say them.
“What will happen to people in the affected neighborhoods?”
(Photo by Alexandr Trubetskoy)
What they’ll say:“As appropriate: Lives have been lost, people have been injured, and homes and businesses have been destroyed. All levels of government are coordinating their efforts to do everything possible to help the people affected by this emergency. As lifesaving activities continue, follow the instructions from emergency responders… The instructions are based on the best information we have right now; the instructions will be updated as more information becomes available.”
Why: The worst thing to do in an emergency is panic, make rash decisions, and endanger your life and the lives of others. However, it’s also incumbent on officials to be truthful. The first messages will aim to keep people calm yet informed and as safe as possible.
“What is radioactive material?”
What they’ll say:“Radioactive material is a substance that gives off radiation in the form of energy waves or energized particles.“
Why: Nuclear bombs split countless atoms in an instant to unleash a terrifying amount of energy. About 15% of the energy is nuclear radiation, and too much exposure can damage the body’s cells and healing ability, leading to a life-threatening condition called acute radiation sickness.
Without advanced warning, people can do little about the energy waves, also called gamma radiation, which are invisible and travel at light-speed. But the energized particles — including radioactive fission products or fallout — travel more slowly, giving people time to seek shelter. The particles can also be washed off.
“Where is the radioactive material located?”
(Brooke Buddemeier / Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)
What they’ll say:“Radiation and environmental health experts are checking air, water and ground conditions in and around the release site to locate the areas with radioactive contamination. Stay tuned to radio or television, or visit [INSERT AGENCY WEBSITE HERE] for the latest information.”
Why: If a nuclear bomb goes off near the ground (which is likely in a terrorist attack), the explosion will suck up debris, irradiate it, and spread it around as fallout. Some of this material rapidly decays, emitting gamma and other forms of radiation in the process.
Fallout is most concentrated near a blast site. However, hot air from a nuclear fireball pushes finer-grade material high into the atmosphere, where strong winds can blow it more than 100 miles away. It may take days for radiation workers to track where all of it went, to what extent, and which food and water supplies it possibly contaminated.
“If I am in a car or truck, what steps should I take to protect myself and my loved ones?”
(Flickr photo by joiseyshowaa)
What they’ll say:“Cars and trucks provide little protection from radiation… Shut the windows and vents… Cover your nose and mouth… Go inside and stay inside… Tune in.”
Vehicles don’t have nearly enough metal to meaningfully absorb radiation. You also won’t be able to outrun the danger, as fallout can travel at speeds of 100 mph in the upper atmosphere. Roads will also be choked with panicked drivers, accidents, blocked streets, and debris.
If you’re already in a car, find a safe place to pull it off the road, get out, and make a dash for the nearest building. Tuning in with a radio will help you listen for instructions on how, when, and where to evacuate a dangerous area to a shelter.
“If I am outside, what steps should I take to protect myself and my loved ones?”
(Brooke Buddemeier / Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)
What they’ll say:“Cover your nose and mouth… Don’t touch objects or debris related to the release… Go inside and stay inside.”
Why: Being outside is a bad place to be, since fallout sprinkles everywhere and can stick to your skin and clothes. Less fallout gets indoors, and materials like concrete, metal, and soil (e.g. in a basement) can block a lot of radiation from the stuff that sprinkles outside.
“If I am inside a building, what steps should I take to protect myself and my loved ones?”
(Photo by Brad Greenlee)
What they’ll say:“Stay inside. If the walls and windows of the building are not broken, stay in the building and don’t leave… If the walls and windows of the building are broken, go to an inside room and don’t leave. If the building has been heavily damaged, quickly go into another building… Close doors and windows.”
Why: The blastwave from a nuclear explosion can shatter windows for miles — and fallout can blow around, hence the need to contain yourself away from exposed areas. Be prepared to hunker down for up to 48 hours, as that’s roughly how long it takes the most dangerous fallout radiation to dissipate.
“Is the air safe to breathe?”
(Photo by CLAUDIA DEA)
What they’ll say:“Federal, state and local partners are monitoring [AREA] to determine the location and levels of radioactive material on the ground and in the air.”
Why: There could be radioactive smoke and fallout in the air, but not breathing isn’t really an option. To reduce your exposure risk, stay inside, shut the doors, and close the windows. Turn off fans and air conditioners, or set them on recirculate. If you’re outdoors, cover your nose and mouth and get inside a building as soon as possible.
“If people are told by health and emergency management officials to self-decontaminate, what does this mean?”
(Photo by Silke Remmery)
What they’ll say:“[T]ake several easy steps to remove any radioactive material that might have fallen onto clothes, skin or hair…. Remove your outer clothes… Wash off… If you cannot shower, use a wet wipe or clean wet cloth to wipe any skin that was not covered by clothing… Gently blow your nose and gently wipe your eyelids, eyelashes and ears with a clean wet cloth… Put on clean clothes… Tune in.”
Why: Fallout continues to expose you to harmful radiation if it’s stuck to you or inside your body. Anything that might be contaminated should be slipped into plastic bags, sealed off, and chucked outside (or as far away as possible from people). Showering with a lot of soap can remove most fallout, but avoid conditioner — it can cause fallout to stick to your hair.
“What should I do about my children and family? Should I leave to find my children?”
(Photo by Ann Wuyts)
What they’ll say:“If your children or family are with you, stay together. If your children or family are in another home or building, they should stay there until you are told it is safe to travel. You also should stay where you are… Schools have emergency plans and shelters.”
Why: Every parent’s instinct will scream to reconnect with his or her family, but patience is the best move. If you go outside, you’ll risk exposure to radioactive fallout and other dangers, as the route may be perilous or even impassable. Most importantly, it’s hard to help your family after the dust settles if you are injured — or worse.
“Is it safe for me to let someone who might have been affected by the radiological incident into my home?”
(Photo by Matteo Catanese)
What they’ll say:“If someone has radioactive dust on their clothes or body, a few simple steps can clean up or decontaminate the person.”
Why: You can offer safe shelter to people caught outside — just have them decontaminate themselves as quickly as possible. This will protect everyone by keeping radioactive fallout at bay. Have them remove and bag up their outer clothes, then take a shower with lots of soap and shampoo (or perform a thorough wipe-down).
“How do I decontaminate my pet?”
(Photo by latteda)
What they’ll say:“If you are instructed to stay inside, your pets should be inside too. If your pet was outside at the time of the incident, the pet can be brought inside and decontaminated.”
Why: Pets, like people, can be contaminated by fallout and bring it indoors. This can endanger them and you. To decontaminate your pet, cover your nose and mouth, put on gloves, and then wash your pet in a shower or bath with a lot of shampoo or soap and water. Rinse your pet thoroughly and take a shower yourself afterward.
“When should I take potassium iodide?”
(Photo by Falk Lademann)
What they’ll say:“Never take potassium iodide (KI) or give it to others unless you have been specifically advised to do so by public health officials, emergency management officials, or your doctor.”
Why:KI pills are among the last things people need immediately after a nuclear blast and aren’t worth a mad dash to a pharmacy during the disaster, according to Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and radiation expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“Most people seem to think of the potassium iodide, or KI, pills as some type of anti-radiation drug. They are not,” Buddemeier previously told Business Insider. “They are for preventing the uptake of radioiodine, which is one radionuclide out of thousands of radionuclides that are out there.”
Radioiodine makes up about 0.2% of overall exposure. The pills are useful for longer-terms concerns about contaminated water and food supplies, and blocking radioiodinefrom concentrating in people’s metabolism-regulating thyroid glands.
“Is taking large amounts of iodized salt a good substitute for potassium iodide?”
(Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov)
What they’ll say:“No. Iodized salt will not protect your thyroid.”
Why: Table salt, or sodium chloride, has some iodine added in to prevent deficiencies that lead to conditions like goiter. But the amount of iodine in table salt is trivial, and eating even a tablespoon or so is a great way to throw up any useful iodine.
“Is the water safe to use?”
(Photo by Daniel Orth)
What they’ll say:“[U]ntil we have drinking water test results, only bottled water is certain to be free of contamination. Tap or well water can be used for cleaning yourself and your food… Boiling tap water does not get rid of radioactive material.”
Why: Radioactive fallout can dissolve into or remain suspended in water, just like salt or dust. That’s not good, since radioactive particles can do more harm inside of your body than outside of it. Bottled water gets around this problem — though you do need to wipe containers down in case they’ve been dusted with fallout.
“Is the food safe to eat?”
What they’ll say:“Food in sealed containers (cans, bottles, boxes, etc.) and any unspoiled food in your refrigerator or freezer is safe to eat… Don’t eat food that was outdoors from [TIME, DATE] in [AREA].”
Why: Food that isn’t contained might have radioactive fallout in it. You’ll need to wipe down cans, cookware, utensils, and anything else that might touch what goes into your mouth.
“Can people eat food from their gardens or locally-caught fish and game?”
(photo by Jennifer C.)
What they’ll say:“People in [AREA] are instructed not to eat [FOOD FROM THEIR GARDENS, LOCAL FISH, LOCAL WILDLIFE].”
Why: Anything that’s outside — fruit, vegetables, and animals included — may have radioactive fallout particles on or in them after a nearby nuclear blast. Until the scope of contamination is known, food from outdoor sources should be considered potentially hazardous. Avoid food that could be been exposed to fallout. If that’s not possible, wash it to try to rinse off as much contamination as possible.
“I am pregnant. Is my baby in danger?”
(Photo by Anna Maria Liljestrand)
What they’ll say:“[M]ost radiation releases will not expose the fetus to levels high enough to cause harmful health effects or birth defects… Once dose levels to the expectant mother and fetus have been determined, your physician can consult with other medical and radiation professionals to identify potential risks (if any) and provide appropriate counseling.”
Why: There are few things more terrifying for an expectant parent than thinking something could be wrong with the baby, but a fetus is somewhat protected from radiation by the uterus and placenta, according to the CDC.
A mother could still inhale or ingest radioactive fallout, though, so doctors will need to check the mother’s abdomen to figure out a fetus’s exposure. Once a dose is determined, it’s possible to see if it’s enough to cause any health effects, including birth defects.
“Is it safe to breastfeed?”
(Photo by Maessive)
What they’ll say:“The nutritional and hydration benefits from breastfeeding far outweigh any risk from radiation.”
Why: Fallout is again the main concern here: What goes into a mother can end up in her breast milk. Officials may encourage families to temporarily switch to formula and pump-and-dump milk (to keep production going during the emergency). It’s also a good idea to wipe down formula bottles and pumping equipment to minimize fallout contamination. But if no formula is available, depriving a baby of sustenance is the worst option.
“I am seeing a lot of information and instructions on Internet blogs about what to do. Should I follow that advice?”
What they’ll say:“Check official sources first. You can find the latest information at [INSERT WEBSITE HERE].Blogs, social media and the Internet in general can provide useful information, but only if the source is known and trustworthy.”
Why: Misinformation spreads rapidly in the aftermath of disasters, and some people may intentionally distribute rumors or false information. It’s best to stick to official websites, hotlines, TV, and radio broadcasts, and use multiple sources to verify information you’re unsure about.
“How can the public help?’
What they’ll say:“Don’t abandon your car… Don’t go near the release site… Use text messaging… Don’t go to the hospital, police stations or fire stations unless you have a medical emergency… Stay tuned…”
Why: In the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, the most helpful thing most people can do is to stay out of the way. This helps first responders get to people that need help.
Cars in the middle of the road slow down emergency vehicles, and going to the release or blast site is extremely perilous, at best. Relying on text messages helps keep phone lines from overloading (and open to 911 calls), and limiting hospital visits to serious injuries or medical conditions helps free up resources for those who need the most aid.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Before my first deployment, I heard all kinds of horror stories about lettuce sandwiches, green powdered eggs, and sludge-like coffee. When I wasn’t MREating, I found myself at the DFAC, Air Force parlance for the mess tent, chow hall, or cafeteria. Although I did find green eggs (no ham) in a few remote field kitchens, the modern overseas stations had some fairly impressive meal options and, except for the atrocity that was the pasta carbonara (featuring bologna and spaghetti sauce – looking at you Camp Victory), life at mealtime was pretty good. It still is if Okinawa’s TRC means anything to you. For better or for worse, the mess is the main source of food you if were/are lucky enough to not have to live on rations.
This has not always been the case. U.S. troops of days past didn’t always fare well at mealtime. Sometimes, the only benefit from having a mess tent seemed to be that the meal was hot, and in some cases, it wasn’t even that. Here are a few of the more famous meals produced by military-grade cooks. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough.
As if anyone needed more examples of just how difficult life for a soldier in the Continental Army was, consider the main staple of troops who wintered with George Washington at Valley Forge: Firecake – a tasteless mixture of flour and water, cooked on a rock near a fire. On a good day, the makeshift bread was slightly flavored by ash from the fire or by vinegar, if one of the troops managed to secure some.
The texture and form of the bread depended on just how much of each substance the troop had. It would either be flattened on a rock or cooked in globs in the ashes, the result being a thick, dense mass of baked “goods.”
Salt or Vinegar (if available)
Mix flour and water together until the mixture is a smooth paste, but isn’t too sticky. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and either drop onto a greased cookie sheet or spread out like a tortilla. Bake until brown. Found the world’s first modern democracy. Spread freedom.
2. Creamed Chipped Beef
World War I – World War II – Korea – Vietnam
Creamed Chipped Beef, aka Chipped Beef on Toast, aka S**t on a Shingle – No mess kitchen creation will ever top this notorious meal as the number one reason for the field mess’ infamous reputation. First appearing in the 1910 Manual for Army Cooks, it actually seemed as though some accounting for taste and appearance was considered. The veterans of all 20th century American wars I spoke to seem conflicted about the “SOS” being a good thing or a bad thing – but it was likely a relief from powdered eggs and C-rations cooked over C-4 explosives.
15 pounds chipped beef
1 1/2 pound of fat, butter preferred
1¼ lbs flour
2 12-oz cans of evaporated milk
1 bunch parsley
¼ oz pepper
6 quarts beef stock
Brown the flour in the melted fat.
Dissolve the milk in the beef stock, and then add that to the pot.
Stir this together slowly to prevent lumping, and then add the beef.
Cook for a few minutes, add the parsley, and serve over toast.
By World War II, the need for appearances had disappeared entirely and the Navy was far worse off for it. The 1945 official US Navy recipe calls for:
1 3/4 gallon of dried chipped beef
5 gallons of milk
1 quart of fat (animal unimportant)
2 1/2 quarts of flour
1 3/4 tablespoon of pepper
100 slices of toasted bread
If you’re not having fifty or so 90-year-old World War II veterans over for dinner later (though we all probably should be every night), you can break it down like this:
3 c dried, chipped beef
(this will be found in the lunchmeat section, next to bologna, where it belongs)
7 1/2 c milk
1/3 c fat
(animal still unimportant, but I recommend bacon. I always recommend bacon)
1 c flour
1/2 tsp pepper
(or just pepper to taste, rationing is over. We won the war, after all)
First, chop the beef. Then melt the fat and mix with flour until it forms a smooth paste, almost like a roux. Bring the milk to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Add the fat flour, and stir until it thickens, then add the chopped beef and pepper and stir well. Simmer for ten minutes and serve over your shingles (toast). Be sure to start eating once it’s on the toast. The only thing that gets mushy as fast as toasted white bread is your will to eat it.
3. Chicory Coffee
This is actually the outlier. Chicory coffee did not win a war, but coffee comes in all forms and anyone who’s ever served knows U.S. troops will drink any coffee-resembling substance. It’s as irreplaceable as JP-8 or 550 cord. Anyone would question how could any Army fight and win without Joes drinking joe. And they’d be right to.
During the Civil War, the Confederate Army actually did without coffee due to the Union blockade of the Southern states. They attempted many substitutes for the beverage. I’m not saying it was the sole factor to their loss, but I’m not not saying that either. The legacy of the blockade lives on in the American South, most notably in New Orleans.
Dark roast coffee
Roasted chicory root
Grind equal parts coffee and chicory and brew in your preferred coffee maker.
Add heated milk (almond tastes best, though is probably not as authentic).
In the trenches of World War I-era France, hunger often gave way to good taste. There just wasn’t much around to live up to the French standards of cuisine. But as the old military adage says: “If its stupid and it works, then it’s not stupid.” Thus, Slumguillion, the most versatile of recipes, was born.
No one ever wrote the recipe down but the doughboys knew what they were in for when the “Slum” was on the fire. In the states, it would come to be called a Hobo Chili, an improvised stew made with what you had where you were. It was hot and filling, which would be good enough on a cold day in the trenches. #FirstWorldWarProblems
2 lbs. meat
4 sliced onions
2 large cans of tomatoes
1/3 c of flour
½ c water
salt and pepper (or any available seasoning) to taste
Cut meat into one-inch cubes in a large casserole of stew pot.
Add onions and salt. Add tomatoes and more salt. Add other seasonings.
Cover and bake low and long – 250-275 for a few hours.
Make a roux with flour and water.
When the meat is finished, add the roux to thicken the stew.
Stir well and serve over mashed potatoes.
5. Artillery Pie
This recipe seems like a prank for the new cooks in a military unit. Suet is the fat from a piece of beef, and they’re adding it to sugar sweetened apples. Suet was, however, a delicacy at the time of the Civil War and could be found in many recipes, including desserts like Artillery Pie. If Civil War re-enactors are faithful to the field kitchen, Artillery Pie might explain why some re-enactors need some PT.
2 lbs of bread
¼ lb of suet
1 dozen apples
¼ lb sugar
Melt suet in a frying pan, cut bread into slices ¼ in thick.
Dip bread pieces into melted fat and place in oven to dry.
Peel and boil apples then mash them into the sugar.
Line a baking dish with fatty bread and cover with apple mixture.
Cover with alternating layers of bread and fruit until it’s all used up, then bake for 20 minutes. Any kind of fruit is actually okay, it’s not like you’re making this for your health.