So, the time for you to go to your first Marine Corps Birthday Ball came and went. Everyone got together to celebrate that time a bunch of drunks gathered at a bar in Philly and started a world-class war-fighting organization. And yet here you are, a couple hundred years later, so disillusioned by your command that you didn’t spend the $80ish on the ticket.
The Marine Corps has a long-standing history of warfare and professionalism. Our fighting spirit has been recognized by forces all over the world, both those we’ve fought against and those that’ve fought at our side. The Birthday Ball is a celebration of this history; that’s why we wear those sexy dress blues that the first Marines wore into battle.
Just because you don’t like your command or the politics of the military doesn’t mean you should skip out. Here’s why you should buy a ticket next year.
It’s an exclusive event
Sure, you have to buy your ticket, but those tickets aren’t for everyone. The event is only open to Marines and sailors attached to the unit. It doesn’t matter how rich or how famous you are, if you’re not in the Corps and you haven’t been invited by someone who is, you’re not getting in.
There’s tons of tradition
How much tradition? Precisely 243 years’ worth. And at the Ball, you genuinely feel it. From the cake cutting to the commandant’s birthday message, you truly feel like you’re a part of an organization that’s been kicking the asses of America’s enemies since before there was a USA.
Dress blues are sexy AF
Everyone and their grandmother knows that Marine dress blues are top-shelf sexy. They suck to wear and they’re hot as hell, yeah, but once you look in a mirror, you kind of stop caring about the details. Walking around in them makes you feel like a member of an elite organization. Plus, it feels great to take them off when it’s all over.
It’s not that time consuming
The ceremony typically only lasts a couple of hours and no one forces you to stay for the dancing after. If nothing else, show up out of respect for your uniform. After the ceremony is done, you’re usually allowed to go out and have a night on the town.
You’ll be on working party otherwise
Your command kind of tricks you into going by giving you a false choice: buy a ball ticket or be on the clean-up crew. Honestly, it’s much easier and way better to buy the ticket and be at the ball for a couple hours than to have to be there until the dancing is over.
U.S. Army soldiers descending on a field outside Mont Saint Michel.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avery Cunningham)
The jump celebrated the 75th anniversary of jumps by three-man “Jedburgh” teams ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy during WWII. Around 300 Allied troops dropped behind enemy lines to train and equip local resistance fighters.
The “10th SFG(A) draws [its] lineage from the Jedburghs. We’re celebrating their combined effort to liberate Western Europe with local forces,” a senior enlisted soldier assigned to 10th SFG (A) said in a statement.
A US soldier collecting his parachute after landing.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexis K. Washburn)
“Overall it was a great jump. It was smooth and went as planned,” one soldier who made the jump explained, adding, “It’s an outstanding experience to be able to honor the paratroopers who jumped into France during World War II.”
R. Lee Ermey doesn’t need to be wearing a uniform for you to know that he’s a legend. His entire demeanor shouts Badass, from his squared shoulders to his commanding voice. There’s nothing about Gunny that’s not full-on epic.
As with all GunnyTime videos, this episode is one half fun and one half history lesson. Army sniper Ed Eaton talks with Gunny about the history of snipers in the Army, how the training has changed for the military and what kinds of weaponry today’s snipers are using.
BLUF – Gunny wants to remind us that there’s nothing better than being out on the range on a gorgeous day. He’s totally right – it doesn’t get much better than that … except when you get to talk shop with one of the most decorated Army snipers of all time.
Ed Eaton brought along his M 14 rifle and the M 21. During Vietnam, Eaton used the XM 21. It’s hard to believe, but the entire Army started out with just 55 XM 21 rifles at the beginning of the Vietnam War. What made the XM 21 stand out was in the details.
Not only was the stock coated with epoxy, but the rifle weighed about two pounds more, and the rifle featured camo. Reworking the trigger helped separate this rifle from others, too. As Gunny notes, that modification helps “take the drag out and lighten it up a little bit.”
Two scopes allowed for day and night missions to be completed.
Gunny and Eaton discussed the benefits of using the XM 21 versus the other version that the Army and Marine Corps used during the conflict. The weight difference aside, Eaton said he preferred to use the XM 21 because it was more accurate.
Eaton was one of the first 55 snipers to be trained in the Army with the 9th Infantry Division. In the early days of sniper training, soldiers had to be combat infantrymen for a specific amount of time. There was no active recruiting for snipers, making it all the more elusive of a position.
Gunny reminds us that today’s snipers are using the best weapons in the world and that their training is bar none, the best in the world. Modern era warfighting snipers are using M2010s. One major change is in the round size, which is now a .300 round.
As Gunny so eloquently puts it, that round can “really reach out and touch someone.” Well said, Gunny. Well said.
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”
Troops are often told that there are a handful of people that they should always keep in their back pocket. The cooks, the medics, and the supply guys are the most obvious choices — but they shouldn’t count out support from the congressperson who serves their home of record.
That’s right, soldier. All of those people arguing in Washington are there to hear what you have to say. Holders of public office are obligated to answer letters sent by their constituents serving in the military. If you write them with a concern, best case scenario, they’ll come to the aid of the troops without having to navigate the necessary red tape.
Think of them as having the ultimate “open door” policy for the troops.
While there are many veterans serving in politics, most civilians — including politicians — can be intimidated by abject outrage. Be polite.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. April Campbell)
In the military, every problem should be addressed at the lowest possible level. Is your immediate superior abusing their power? The first step should be their superior. But if the problem is systemic in nature and you feel like you’ve got nowhere to turn, don’t worry, you’ve still got options.
One of the most effective ways of getting a situation resolved is by writing simple letter to your congressperson. It might feel like using a sledgehammer to do a flyswatter’s job, but it’ll get things done.
The best way to get the attention of your congressperson is through a short, to the point, and professionally worded letter that offers possible solutions. That last bit in important; simply writing, “this is bullsh*t” on a piece of paper and sending it out will land your concerns in the trash.
Aiding the troops is, thankfully, a nonpartisan issue. It may not feel like it at times, but they, for the most part, have the well-being of troops in mind.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Lenhardt)
Congressmen can help with a wide variety of topics, ranging from pay or tax issues, immigration concerns, social security problems, terrible accommodations, or trouble with a toxic chain of command. In the past, this has lead to many great outcomes, such as troops receiving better tents while deployed or having an unjust court-martial investigated.
When the 2013 federal government shutdown was looming overhead, an unprecedented amount of troops and veterans wrote their respective members of Congress with concerns about their military pay being affected. Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, a retired Major of the Marine Corps who spent his enlisted years in the Army, sponsored the aptly-named “Pay Our Military Act,” which ensured that Congress’ fighting over federal spending will never affect the pay of all members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Following the suicides of Private Danny Chen and Lance Corporal Harry Lew, the “Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act” was put into place by Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. Both men were the subjects of extreme, racially-motivated hazing and mistreatment by their units and were pushed into suicide. The situation was awful; but the concerns of service members and veterans reached lawmakers directly and had an impact.
If you can manage to bring them out to your installation, prepare for the impending dog and pony show.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael B. Keller)
But if you write, know that it may not help immediately — a typical response takes around six weeks. Members of Congress receive hundreds of letters and emails every single day, but they’ll take special notice if you mention that you are serving (or have served) in the military.
Keep the letter polite — you don’t want any reason for their aides to avoid putting your letter on their desk. If you don’t feel like your voice is being heard, you can always write to one of your two senators, though their offices are considerably more busy.
Regardless of how you personally feel about their politics, they are still beheld to their constituents — troops included.
Dr. Laura Sidari is speaking out because her family suffered a horrendous loss on Christmas Day 2017.
The Air Force psychiatrist at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and her husband, Dr. Anthony Sidari, a rheumatologist, lost their 4-year-old son, Leon, to complications of influenza. He passed away at a medical facility elsewhere from bacterial pneumonia following the flu, two days following onset of symptoms on Dec. 23, 2018.
Although the Sidari family had vaccinated for the flu in prior seasons, Leon died prior to receiving his flu shot that season, Sidari said. He had been scheduled to be vaccinated Jan. 3, 2018.
“Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the flu shot differently,” she said. “As a physician, even I was unaware of the significant risk that the flu posed to my healthy child. Through reaching out to others, including other physician parents, I have discovered that I am not alone in that misconception.”
“Leon’s story places a name and a face — a beautiful and loved and special human being — behind the numbers that are often buried in databases and scattered across headlines,” Sidari said. “As difficult as it is for me as a mother, I share Leon’s story so that someday other families may not have to. As I have devastatingly learned through Leon, flu-related complications are often aggressive and difficult to treat.”
Healthy children may be more at risk for suffering a flu-related death. Research of flu-related deaths provides evidence for the flu shot providing a 65 percent reduction in risk for flu-related mortality in healthy children, and a 41 percent reduction in mortality risk for children with pre-existing medical issues. Approximately 80 percent of children who pass away each season from flu-related complications did not have their flu shot that season.
Four-year-old Leon Sidari passed away from bacterial pneumonia following the flu two days after the onset of symptoms on Dec. 25, 2017.
“Being healthy is a risk factor for rapid death,” Sidari said. “I didn’t even know that as a physician. Compared to other pediatric populations, they die more quickly.”
As of Oct. 6, 2018, there have been more than 180 children lost to the 2017-2018 influenza season, according to online information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these children died before reaching the hospital.
Sidari is quick to point out that she is speaking only from her perspective as a mother — not a pediatric specialist — who made sure her children received every vaccination recommended. After Leon’s death, she tried to learn as much as she could about influenza in the hope that the Sidari family’s then 2-year-old son, Tristan, and 7-week-old son, Cameron, would not also pass away.
“I really wanted to understand the likelihood that we were going to lose our other children,” she said. “That’s how I found this information.”
The mother, with the full support of her husband, now wants to dispel the common misconception that good health affords protection against the flu, and the entire Sidari family received flu shots at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center immunization clinic the first week of October 2018.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend the flu shot for everyone older than the age of 6 months with few medical exceptions.
The Sidari family faces this holiday season without their first-born, who loved Christmas. His mother remembers him as good big brother who was kind and sensitive, loved cats and gave compliments. Small things are what mattered to him.
“Nothing prepares you as a parent for coming home and having to unwrap Christmas presents for a child who never can,” she said.
“As parents, there are many demands on our time and energy, particularly around the holidays,” Sidari said. “The flu shot can too easily and understandably slip through the cracks due to busy schedules.
“In my experience, it is worth prioritizing this time of the year. This is a necessary appointment. Bringing awareness to the flu shot will not bring Leon back. I do, however, believe in the healing power of connecting with others,” she said.
She also encourages people to explore multiple options if flu shots are unavailable through their usual source.
“It is my hope that Leon’s story can help save lives,” Sidari said. “Especially for children like Leon, I encourage other families to consider making the flu shot a priority, this season and every season. It’s the best way of reducing risk we have. #FluShotsForLeon.”
China’s state-run news organization is being shamed for flaunting its “incredibly strong soldier morale” in a video showing a People’s Liberation Army service member participating in what appeared to be an obstacle course.
“This is the incredibly strong soldier morale of China’s PLA,” the People’s Daily tweeted in the caption, referring to China’s People Liberation Army. “They fear nothing.”
The service member, wearing a combat helmet and a load-bearing vest, could be seen dunking himself into a hole filled with water amid sounds of gunfire.
People on Twitter, some of whom are former US service members, mocked the People’s Daily’s characterization of the PLA troops:
In its latest report on the Chinese military, the US Defense Department said China continues to reform their armed forces in an effort to become a “world-class” military by 2049.
“In 2018, the PLA focused its training on war preparedness and improving its capability to win wars through realistic combat training during numerous smaller force-on-force exercises and skills-based competition exercises,” the Defense Department said in its annual report to Congress.
The art of sniping is more than just proper cover, concealment and sight alignment; it demands vigilant situational awareness, flawless timing and solid arithmetic skills.
U.S. soldiers had a five-day Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan, in October 2019. The Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard; in collaboration with Jordan Operational Engagement Program (JOEP) soldiers; 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard.
“As a group, we [MET-J, JOEP] were able to collaborate and come up with a good exchange,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Johnny Vidrio, with MET-J, 158th MEB, AZANG, “The sniper field is a perishable skill so you have to use it a lot to retain it. We are working with the JAF to keep our exchanges going.”
A U.S. Army soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, adjusts the scope of a Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers’ rifle during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Snipers are known for their specialization in shooting targets from long-range distances with a modified weapon, as well as their reconnaissance abilities. Vidrio, who served as the Sniper SMEE team lead, has more than 20 years’ experience with various weapons systems through his civilian and military occupations.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, discusses a mathematical equation with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Vidrio explained how the MET-J shared information on how the U.S. Army executes sniper tasks and in turn, the Jordanians shared their way of doing the same task. The exchange not only reviewed basic sniper skills but incorporated different approaches to instruct the material to other soldiers. The two nations were able to work through the Jordanians’ Basic Sniper Manuel which provided a platform for the Jordanian snipers to hone their basic skills and enhance their teaching techniques.
A rifle faces downrange during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“The more you teach with a group, the more comfortable you will feel teaching by yourself,” explained Vidrio, “That’s what we were doing, helping them feel comfortable about teaching.”
MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships.
A Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) sniper looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Areas covered during the Sniper SMEE included setting up a comfortable firing position, weapons maintenance, correcting malfunctions, zeroing and determining wind values, to name a few. The snipers discussed how half value, full value, tail and headwinds affect the drift of a bullet. They examined techniques to find the directional movement of wind, such as observing the path of dust, smoke, trash or mirage waves, that are near an intended target. Target range estimation was calculated through a mathematical equation, but each nation used a different formula.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers practice setting up firing positions during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“They [JAF] have a different calculation for range estimation, this was new to American snipers,” said Vidrio “We learned a whole new way of estimating distance and ranges.”
SMEEs allow open information flow and an opportunity for coalition soldiers to work together, learn and grow from one another, which is beneficial to both counties. The United States is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with the JAF to meet common security challenges.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers hold certificates of appreciation given to them by U.S. Army Soldiers after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
One soldier who expressed favor in ongoing SMEEs with U.S. Army was JAF Sgt. 1st Class Ghareeb Alaomary, sniper instructor and logistics coordinator. He too specifically found value in the transfer of knowledge with the arithmetical equation calculations for target distance and range. “The mathematic equation formulas given [by the U.S.] were new information for us,” explained Alaomary, “It added to their [JAF snipers] knowledge to help make more accurate calculations.”
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers pose for a photo after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at Joint Training Center-Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
According to Alaomary, the exchange between the two countries was engaging and an abundance of wisdom was shared, which resulted in a successful exchange. They plan to take the knowledge gained through the Sniper SMEE back to their individual units to cross-train with their comrades.
“I would like to give a special thanks for the effort you [U.S. Army] have dedicated to the students and the valuable information you have provided,” said Alaomary.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) and Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region but in the world as a whole. This isn’t going to change.
This weekend, comic book fans all over the world were saddened by the terrible news that the father of superheroes had passed — and veterans lost a brother-in-arms who dedicated his life to the arts. This week, the Army Signal Corps says farewell to its most prominent member.
Stan Lee, WWII veteran, comic-book author, and editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, passed away on the morning of November 12, 2018. As painful as this news is to his family, friends, and fans around the world, we can all appreciate the fact that his life was a very accomplished one. The only way to truly honor a man so great is by reflecting on his storied life and “rise ever upward.” Or, as he’d put it, in it’s Latin form, “excelsior!”
Captain America Comics #3 (1941)
Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, began his career in the comic book world in 1939 when he took on a position as an assistant at Timely Comics under Joe Simon. It wasn’t an easy job, but it needed doing. He’d get people lunch, make sure everyone’s inkwells were full, and even do some proofreading — these weren’t glamorous duties, but they kept the wheels turning. When he finally touched the comic book world directly, he changed it forever — he was given a small amount of creative control over Captain America #3, and he used it to give Cap his signature shield ricochet.
Many years later, and troops doodling things to pass the time hasn’t changed one bit.
What was nothing more than a small writer’s credit at the time gave rise to immense goals. From that moment forward, Lee set out to create the next “Great American Novel.” As we all know, this ambition eventually morphed and developed into the greater Marvel Universe, a web of fictions that has today touched the lives of millions across the globe. But this lofty goal wasn’t outside of the scope of reality for a 19-year old Stan Lee — he believed in himself.
By then, World War II was heating up and Lee found himself enlisted in the Army by early 1942. Soon after that, he was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, learning to string and repair communication lines. In his downtime, he’d continue to draw and write to help pass the time.
It wasn’t long until the Army realized that they needed to create training films to onboard the massive influx of new troops. Because of the highly-sensitive nature of the process, they couldn’t trust just anyone to create them — they needed soldiers. The Army began its Signal Corps Photographic Center at Fort Monmouth, which, coincidentally, was where Lee was stationed.
Lee’s superior officers recognized his creative talents from his hobbies and his earlier work with Timely Comics. So, they more or less hey-you’d him into using his talents for the Army. This was exactly the break he needed. He was laterally transferred to the Fort Monmouth Film Production Laboratory and worked side by side with some of the other greatest artistic visionaries of the U.S. Army.
He stood in formation with Frank Capra, the three-time Academy-Award-winning director for films like It’s a Wonderful Life, cartoonist Charles Addams of The Addams Family fame, and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Lee was one of nine soldiers to ever earn the position of “playwright” for the U.S. Army.
Lee didn’t have any notoriety before then, unlike many of his famous fellow soldiers. He was, simply, that guy who wrote for comic books, but that didn’t phase him one bit. He kept giving the Army his all — and it showed. He was so good and so fast at what he did, in fact, that he was asked to slow down many times because it made everyone else look bad.
This scene in Avengers 2 will always bring joy to my heart.
(Walt Disney Studios)
Lee’s service concluded in 1945 and he went back to Timely Comics. No longer was he just some kid grabbing coffee; he was a war hero. The skills he developed while quickly chugging out quality content for the Army was exactly the type of tempo needed in the comic world.
Lee used his Army experiences to perfect comic book making. He turned the process into a creative assembly line. Lee would write the captions in the bubbles, another artist would pencil in the scene, another would color it, and another would finalize the lettering. This style became known as the “Marvel Method.” It distributed the workload evenly and it gave everyone equal creative input.
Stan Lee may not have written the next Moby Dick as he planned while a bright-eyed 19-year-old, but there’s no denying that his life’s work — the Marvel Universe — stands tall as the most enduring, relevant collection of fiction of his era.
Rest easy, Mr. Lee. You made True Believers out of all of us.
Forget three square meals a day. Fasting may be the ultimate recipe for long-term health.
This is a piece of advice that cultures and religions around the world have been taking for centuries.
In recent years, a version of this practice called intermittent fasting, where people skip eating anywhere from several hours to several days in a row, has started taking off. Hugh Jackman once said he only eats for a strict 8 hours each day, and Silicon Valley biohackers are embracing a 36-hour water-only “Monk fast,” as they call it, which some perform once a week.
Another popular version of the plan, the 5:2 fast, lets people eat normally most of the week, but then requires a strict limit of around 500 calories per day on the remaining 2 days.
There’s clear evidence that fasting, when done right, can reduce a person’s chances of developing long-term health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). And it helps some people lose weight, too.
Dr. Miriam Merad, director of the Precision Immunology Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said the typical modern diet of constant eating is making our immune system cells work overtime, and it’s not good for long term health. Her team’s small study (in both people and mice) out in the journal Cell today provides some of the first essential clues about why letting our guts spend many hours of the day without food can do a body good.
(Photo by Toa Heftiba)
Eating food turns on inflammatory cells in the body
The reason why fasting is good for us has to do with a type of immune cell called a monocyte, which our bodies typically release to fight off infections and wounds.
Monocytes are inflammatory, and the white blood cells can cluster to heal the body when we’re injured. But any time we eat food, monocytes are also standing guard in case we ingest any threatening microorganisms. This is especially true when we eat (and drink) sugar. Monocytes also accumulate in fat tissue, contributing to chronic disease.
Merad’s new study provides some of the first evidence that intermittent fasting can help calm these inflammatory cells, making them less active. By taking blood samples from 12 healthy adults who were asked to fast for 19 hours in a day (and performing similar experiments with similar results on mice, too), Merad’s team of scientists discovered that the subjects’ circulating monocyte levels were astonishingly low while fasting.
“That scared us, because we thought maybe when you diet like this, if you have an infection, this monocyte won’t be able to react to it,” Merad said. This turned out not to be the case.
Her hunch is that by being well-fed every day, we are creating a perfect storm of inflammatory monocytes running on overdrive in the body, setting people up for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and liver issues, especially if we run on lots of sugar.
When we fast, though, we deprive our bodies of glycogen, a simple energy source that often comes from carbohydrates like sugar.
“Usually the number of monocytes that we have circulating is pretty high because, in America especially, we eat all the time, Merad said. “We snack. I don’t know whether you snack, I snack all the time.”
Don’t start a fasting plan without expert advice
Merad cautions that her study should not serve as dietary advice on its own.
“All fasting has to be done in discussion with a dietitian, with a nutritionist, with your general practitioner,” she said.
She said it’s important to understand the difference between fasting and starving, which can cause long-term brain damage or even be deadly. People who are particularly sensitive to glucose levels (like diabetics) and other at-risk groups, including pregnant women, likely should not fast.
Fasting is not 100% safe for anyone when taken to extremes.
“If you start fasting for too long you destroy your immune system,” Merad said. “You become very susceptible to infection. So fasting is not a trivial thing. It’s good to fast, but you cannot starve yourself.”
Fasting has so many health benefits, they’re hard to count
Researchers have known for a long time that caloric restriction is tied to a host of health benefits. Periodic fasting can help people steer clear of long-term health problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. It can also can boost the production of a protein that strengthens connections in the brain and serve as an antidepressant. Some scientists even think fasting can help people live to a ripe old age by keeping cells healthy and youthful longer.
Merad now tries to eat dinner a few hours earlier than she used to, and she said other researchers in her lab (as well as her husband) are also experimenting with their own versions of intermittent fasting plans, like skipping breakfast.
“Often we eat because we want some social time with family and friends, but do we need to eat three times a day?” she asked. “Maybe eating two times a day would be entirely sufficient and very beneficial, in fact, in terms of health.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Quick: Name all the things you miss about active duty. (If you still are active duty, then list all the things that make your life bearable as well as all the things you most hate.) Well, Mat Best and Jarred Taylor want to take you on a quick nostalgia trip through those memories of PT belts, buddies marrying strippers, and policing brass at the range.
You might remember Mat Best from his T-shirt company. Or the coffee company. Or that epic rap battle. Now, he’s dropped a new, soulful music video about how much veterans find themselves missing even the crappy parts of active duty, from the hot portajohn sessions to the mortar attacks to the PT belts. Turn it up loud in whatever cubicle you’re in.
Their new single Can’t Believe We Miss This is all about, well, the things you can’t believe you miss after getting that coveted DD-214. A quick note before you hit play: It’s not safe for younger viewers and only safe for work if your boss is super cool. There’s not nudity or anything, but they both use some words picked up in the barracks.
Oh, and there are a few direct references to how crappy civilian jobs with suit and ties can be, so your boss might not like that either.
But, yeah, the song is like sitting in an ’80s bar sipping drinks with buddies from your old unit, swapping stories about funny stuff like getting stuck on base after someone lost their NVGs and the serious, painful stuff like dudes who got blown up by mortars and IEDs.
And if you think Mat Best and Jarred Taylor skimped on production, then you’ve never seen their epic rap battle. So, yes, there are plenty of drone shots, weapons, and big military hardware like the HMMWV, aka humveee. It’s got more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams marathon and more explosions than Michael Bay’s house on Fourth of July.
And speaking of Independence Day, they dropped the video just in time for you to annoy the crap out of your family and friends with it wherever you’re partying. If you really want to do that but might not have good YouTube access, you can also watch the video on Facebook or buy it on iTunes.
There was a study conducted recently by the CDC and the Delphi Behavioral Health Group that concluded that the U.S. Military beats out literally every other profession in days per year spent drinking. If you roughly equal out the days spent with the total number of troops, that puts us at 130 days on average, compared to the 91 day average for every other profession.
And, I mean, it makes absolute sense. No other profession has a culture around drinking like the military. It’s not “drunk like an interior designer” or “drunk like a software developer.” Toss a bunch of them into a barracks with nothing to do but drink after a long and stressful day, and you’ll see their numbers rise too.
So raise a glass, folks! I’m damn sure we’ve managed to keep that number one position since 1775 and won’t let go of it until the end of time!
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via United States Veteran’s Network)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales, meme by Justin Swarb)
The chance that a nuclear bomb would strike a US city is slim, but nuclear experts say it’s not out of the question.
A nuclear attack in a large metropolitan area is one of the 15 disaster scenarios for which the US Federal Emergency Management Agency has an emergency strategy. The agency’s plan involves deploying first responders, providing immediate shelter for evacuees, and decontaminating victims who have been exposed to radiation.
For everyday citizens, FEMA has some simple advice: Get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned.
But according to Irwin Redlener, a public-health expert at Columbia University who specializes in disaster preparedness, these federal guidelines aren’t enough to prepare a city for a nuclear attack.
“There isn’t a single jurisdiction in America that has anything approaching an adequate plan to deal with a nuclear detonation,” he said.
That includes the six urban areas that Redlener thinks are the most likely targets of a nuclear attack: New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. These cities are not only some of the largest and densest in the country, but home to critical infrastructure (like energy plants, financial hubs, government facilities, and wireless transmission systems) that are vital to US security.
Each city has an emergency-management website that informs citizens about what to do in a crisis, but most of those sites (except for LA and New York) don’t directly mention a nuclear attack. That makes it difficult for residents to learn how to protect themselves if a bomb were to hit one of those cities.
“It would not be the end of life as we know it,” Redlener said of that scenario. “It would just be a horrific, catastrophic disaster with many, many unknown and cascading consequences.”
Cities might struggle to provide emergency services after a nuclear strike
Nuclear bombs can produce clouds of dust and sand-like radioactive particles that disperse into the atmosphere — what’s referred to as nuclear fallout. Exposure to this fallout can result in radiation poisoning, which can damage the body’s cells and prove fatal.
The debris takes at least 15 minutes to reach ground level after an explosion, so a person’s response during that period could be a matter of life and death. People can protect themselves from fallout by immediately seeking refuge in the center or basement of a brick steel or concrete building — preferably one without windows.
“A little bit of information can save a lot of lives,” Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Business Insider. Buddemeier advises emergency managers about how to protect populations from nuclear attacks.
The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.
“If we can just get people inside, we can significantly reduce their exposure,” he said.
The most important scenario to prepare for, according to Redlener, isn’t all-out nuclear war, but a single nuclear explosion such as a missile launch from North Korea. Right now, he said, North Korean missiles are capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii, but they could soon be able to reach cities along the West Coast.
Another source of an attack could be a nuclear device that was built, purchased, or stolen by a terrorist organization. All six cities Redlener identified are listed as “Tier 1” areas by the US Department of Homeland Security, meaning they’re considered places where a terrorist attack would yield the most devastation.
“There is no safe city,” Redlener said. “In New York City, the detonation of a Hiroshima-sized bomb, or even one a little smaller, could have anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 fatalities — depending on the time of day and where the action struck — and hundreds of thousands of people injured.”
Some estimates are even higher. Data from Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear-weapons historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology, indicates that a 15-kiloton explosion (like the one in Hiroshima) would result in more than 225,000 fatalities and 610,000 injuries in New York City.
Under those circumstances, not even the entire state of New York would have enough hospital beds to serve the wounded.
(Photo by jonathan riley)
“New York state has 40,000 hospital beds, almost all of which are occupied all the time,” Redlener said.
He also expressed concern about what might happen to emergency responders who tried to help.
“Are we actually going to order National Guard troops or US soldiers to go into highly radioactive zones? Will we be getting bus drivers to go in and pick up people to take them to safety?” he said. “Every strategic or tactical response is fraught with inadequacies.”
Big cities don’t have designated fallout shelters
In 1961, around the height of the Cold War, the US launched the Community Fallout Shelter Program, which designated safe places to hide after a nuclear attack in cities across the country. Most shelters were on the upper floors of high-rise buildings, so they were meant to protect people only from radiation and not the blast itself.
In 2017, New York City officials began removing the yellow signs that once marked these shelters to avoid the misconception that they were still active.
Redlener said there’s a reason the shelters no longer exist: Major cities like New York and San Francisco are in need of more affordable housing, making it difficult for city officials to justify reserving space for food and medical supplies.
“Can you imagine a public official keeping buildings intact for fallout shelters when the real-estate market is so tight?” Redlener said.
‘This is part of our 21st-century reality’
Redlener said many city authorities worry that even offering nuclear-explosion response plans might induce panic among residents.
“There’s fear among public officials that if they went out and publicly said, ‘This is what you need to know in the event of a nuclear attack,’ then many people would fear that the mayor knew something that the public did not,” he said.
(Photo by Henning Witzel)
But educating the public doesn’t have to be scary, Buddemeier said.
“The good news is that ‘Get inside, stay inside, stay tuned’ still works,” he said. “I kind of liken it to ‘Stop, drop, and roll.’ If your clothes catch on fire, that’s what you should do. It doesn’t make you afraid of fire, hopefully, but it does allow you the opportunity to take action to save your life.”
Both experts agreed that for a city to be prepared for a nuclear attack, it must acknowledge that such an attack is possible — even if the threat is remote.
“This is part of our 21st-century reality,” Redlener said. “I’ve apologized to my children and grandchildren for leaving the world in such a horrible mess, but it is what it is now.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.