There's about 10 millimeters of movement between you and potential traumatic brain injury - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

There’s about 10 millimeters of movement between you and potential traumatic brain injury

This article is sponsored by MIPS, pioneers in brain protection systems.

There’s no amount of science that will protect you from a .50 cal round to the head. As of today, that’s a simple fact.

Here’s another simple fact: There have been over 350,000 documented cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among post-9/11 veterans as of 2017. Very, very few of those cases have been as extreme as a bullet to the brain (less than 7%). Over 45% of those injuries were the result of blunt force — either debris colliding with a helmet or the result of a fall — not a bullet.

Unfortunately, the helmets we put on our troops are not protecting them from these types of collisions as well as they could. Why? We have the technology and it’s ready for implementation today. Truly, it’s just a matter of understanding.

So, let’s fix that problem.


Here are the two most important words in understanding why we’re not protecting our brains in the right way: rotational movement.

Let’s illustrate this. First, imagine your skull is a snow globe — your cerebrospinal fluid is the water contained therein and your brain is the collection of floaty bits. Now, watch what happens when we bring that snow globe straight down onto a flat surface.

Linear Movement — Well, about as linear as my imperfect, human brain could get it.

Not that interesting. Now, watch what happens when we give that same snow globe a light twist.

Rotational Movement — Come on, baby. Do the twist.

Looks a little more like New Year’s at Times Square, right? But this isn’t a cause for celebration — it’s a cause of traumatic brain injury.

That first example is a demonstration of linear force. The amount of linear force a helmet can withstand is currently the primary standard to which the helmets we put on our troops are held up against — and, if you think about it, how often does a troop fall directly onto the top of their head? Not very often.

A much more likely scenario is that force comes at you from some sort of angle. Whether it’s a piece of concrete blasting toward you from an exploded building, getting ejected from your seat and into the roof of the Humvee after running over an IED, or even something as simple as tripping and eating a nasty fall. When your helmet comes in contact with something from an angle, rotational movement is sent from the shell of the helmet, through the protective layers of Kevlar and foam, through your skull, and what’s left is absorbed by the brain – the snow globe’s floating bits. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t very good at handling the shearing movement caused by rotation.

A look at the effects of linear (left) and rotational (right) movement on the brain. The images above were generated using the FE Model, a computational model that represents the most critical parts of the human head. Learn more about the model here.

(MIPSProtection.com)

But technology exists today that is designed to diffuse some of that rotational force within the helmet before it reaches your most important organ — yes, we’re still talking about the brain.

Recently, I took the trek out to Sweden to meet the people dedicated to putting that technology in today’s helmets — they’re called MIPS, named after their technology: the Multi-directional Impact Protection System.

As I walked into the building (the whole thing is shaped like a helmet, by the way), the passion for creating protective headwear was palpable. These people are doers — whether it’s mountain biking, skiing, motocross, or battling it out on the gridiron. They know that all good things come with an inherent level of risk, and they’re passionate about doing what they can to mitigate that risk; especially when something like a TBI can cause a lifetime of complications for both the afflicted and their loved ones.

There, I spoke with MIPS founders Dr. Hans von Holst and Dr. Peter Halldin. Between the two of them, they boast an impressive 60 years of experience in neuroscience and biomechanics — which they distilled down into an hour-long frenzy of science, analogy, and visuals. That one-hour lesson didn’t make me a neurosurgeon, but it certainly highlighted a fundamental problem in the way we evaluate (and later, equip troops with) head protection.

The current U.S. Army blunt impact test methodology is borrowed from the U.S. Department of Transportation Laboratory Test Procedure for Motorcycle Helmets. To break it down Barney-style, we test helmets by dropping them from various, set heights at various angles onto a flat surface and measuring the results of impact. These tests are designed to be repeatable and cost effective — the problem is, however, that all of these tests are very good at measuring linear impact — and if you think back to the snow globes, that impact isn’t always very eventful.

MIPS twists the formula here in a small but very important way. Instead of dropping a helmet onto a flat surface, they drop it on to an angle surface. This small adjustment to the test methodology allows them to analyze collisions more in-line with real world examples — ones that involve rotational motion.

(MIPSProtection.com)

But enough about types of force — what does MIPS’ technology actually do to protect your brain? Well, the genius is in the simplicity, here — and it’s best described with visuals.

In short, MIPS is a low friction layer that sits between the inner side of the helmet and the comfort padding, custom fit to each helmet shape and size. That low friction layer lives somewhere between the helmet’s shell and your head and allows for a 10-15mm range of motion in any direction. This relatively tiny movement allows your head to move independently of your helmet, acting like a second layer of cerebrospinal fluid when it comes to protecting your brain in the crucial milliseconds of impact.

(MIPSProtection.com)

This technology hasn’t been introduced into military helmets just yet, but it’s coming soon. In fact, right now, MIPS is partnering with a Swedish manufacturer, SAFE4U, to better equip special operators that need lightweight protection. The two companies worked together to create a helmet that is stable enough to work with attached NVGs, but still protects from oblique impacts.

Check out the brief video below to learn a little more about the multiple layers of protection involved:

While the technology is sound (and proven to work), here’s the thing that really impressed me: When I finished talking with the team about their product, I asked them what they were looking to get out of the article you’re reading right now. They wanted just one thing: to educate. They want you, our readers, to know why you’re not getting your brain the protection it needs and what you can do to rectify that problem.

Yes, one way is to find yourself a helmet that’s equipped with MIPS’ technology (currently, you’ll find MIPS’ protection system in 448 different models of helmets), but it’s not the only way. Whatever you do, make sure that the helmets you use (when you have a choice) are equipped to deal with the dangers of rotational movement and protect your thinkin’ meat.

This article is sponsored by MIPS, pioneers in brain protection systems.

Humor

9 epic ways you can troll your radio guy

Messing around with your fellow Joes is always good fun. It’s a lighthearted way of letting them know that they’re one of the guys.


If you didn’t care about someone, you wouldn’t mess with them, right?

Every unit, from combat arms to support, has a communications (commo/comms) person. They range from being tasked to operate the radio systems to being a full specialization, from grunt AF to fobbit. These guys are there for us, but that doesn’t mean they’re not above some playful ribbing every now and then.

Doing any of the things on this list should always come from a place of mutual friendship. Don’t be a dick about it. Basically, don’t anything that would get you UCMJ’ed, impede the mission, or lose your military bearing.

1. Yell that you can’t hear anything on channel “Z”

Zeroize is a neat tool. It is designed to wipe out all of the information on the radio in case the worst happens. It’s also coincidentally very easy to access. Watch as their eyes grow big and run to your vehicle to set your radio back up.

2. Say “is this chip thingy supposed to come out of the SKL?”

For some reason, you get your hands on the most protected piece of equipment of a radio guy.

A quick explanation of what that key does is that it allows you to load Comsec. Ripping it out would essentially zeroize it. Don’t actually rip it out. But saying that you did will make commo guy sh*t himself.

3. During radio checks, say “Lickin’ Chicken” instead of “X this is Y, Read you Loud and Clear, over.”

Radio checks are boring. And it’s usually the last thing before rolling out on the 0900 convoy that we all arrived at 0430 to prep for.

When one person starts saying “Lickin’ Chicken,” it spreads like wildfire. Before you know it, everyone will say it during radio checks. On the commo guy’s end, it’s like hearing the same joke 100 times over and over again.

“uh… roger, over…” via GIPHY

4. Say that the antenna is still lopsided

Most commo dudes are perfectionists (emphasis on most). If the SKL was their baby, the OE-254 (cheap ass FM antennae) is the bane of their existence.

Theoretically, just attaching it will make it work. But that won’t stop radio operators from trying to get it juuuust right.

5. “Hotkey” your mic

Everything is set up. Everything is green. Things are finally working. Then someone leaves their hand mic under something that pushes the button down.

“No problem!” thinks the radio operator. Just double tap on their own mic to mute that person until they release the mic.

But if you intentionally hold down the push-to-talk button after they mute you to keep messing with them…?

6. During a convoy, ask why we don’t have any music playing

Different type of radio system. And there’s totally no way to solder an aux cable onto a cut up W-4 cable to connect your iPhone up to the net, blasting music out to everyone in the convoy.

Nope, never done it…

7. Ask us to fix your computer

Not all Signal Corps soldiers are the same. Radio operator/maintainers are the less POG-y specialization. They only pretend to be POGs to get out of Motor Pool Mondays or bullsh*t details.

Ask the other S-6 guys for that. If they do know how, it’s not their main task. It’s the computer guy’s.

“Sure, F*ck it. Whatever. Case of beer and I’ll look at your personal computer” (Photo credit Claire Schwerin, PEO C3T)

8. “Run out” of batteries

Batteries weight around 3 lbs each. A rucksack full of them surprisingly runs out faster than you’d think. So it’s fairly often that comms troops have to run back and forth to get more batteries.

Tell your radio maintainer that you’re running low and then just stockpile them for later, making them run around the convoy with a full ruck.

9. Tell them that a drop test does nothing

This one is how you really dig into the saltier, more experienced radio guys.

A comms guy’s bread and butter is a fully-functioning radio. In most cases, the problem is simply putting the correct time in the radio. Others is making the radio work with their “commo magic.” That magic is almost always just kicking the damn thing or picking it up a few inches off the ground and dropping it. Ask any radio operator and they’ll tell you it works.

There’s no explanation — it just works. Saying that “It’s a bunch of circuits, why would that work?” will just have them bullsh*tting you on why they went all caveman for no reason and miraculously having things work.

Is there anything that we missed? If you have any ideas on how to mess with other job specialties?

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

It might surprise the casual student of history to learn that the United States was not alone in supporting South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. America’s traditional list of allies joined us in trying to contain the spread of Communism in South East Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia. Each one of them brought the pain to the enemy in their own way.

South Koreans were so zealous in their fight against Communism that everyone else actually had to restrain them at times. Aside from the powerful bombing campaigns, America employed precision special operations units, which North Vietnamese called “the men with green faces.” It was the Australians they feared most, however.

At any given moment, everything would be fine and then, suddenly, you’d see all your men killed in the blink of an eye. That’s how they knew the Aussies were in the area.


Even though Aussies had been in Vietnam since 1962, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment first arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 with the mission of conducting long-range reconnaissance patrols in the dense Vietnamese jungles.

They were so effective in the field, the NVA called the Australians the “Ghosts of the Jungle.” They even provided instructors to the United States’ Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol school. They would operate on 24-hour missions in the areas surrounding friendly bases.

Related: You had to bet your life to graduate from the Vietnam-era ‘Recondo’ school

Small fire teams of four to six men moved much more slowly than any other unit, even other special operations units. But once in contact with the enemy, the Australians unleashed a barrage of fire, designed to make the enemy believe there were more men on the opposing side than there really were.

The slow, quiet movement and hellish raking fire the Australians brought to the NVA and VC made them the most feared enemy unit in the areas of South Vietnam. Even the most quiet VC infiltrators could easily walk into a devastating Aussie ambush.

An SASR patrol during Operation Coburg, South Vietnam 1968.

(Australian Defense Ministry)

Each Aussie SASR unit operated with an attached New Zealand SAS trooper and each of the three “Sabre” squadrons did, at least, a one-year tour in Vietnam, operating throughout Phuoc Tuy province as well as in Bien Hoa, Long Khanh, and Binh Tuy provinces. They also deployed with American Special Forces and Navy SEALs throughout the country.

The Australian SASR first came in contact with the enemy in May, 1966, when they met a Viet Cong force in the area around Nui Dat. It did not go well for the VC. From there, the Aussies spread their recon patrol range by several kilometers. By the end of their time in Vietnam, the unit performed 1,200 combat patrols with one killed in action, one dead from wounds, three accidentally killed, one missing, and one death from illness. Another 28 men were wounded in action.

Before leaving in 1971, the ANZACs killed 600 enemy troops, the highest kill ratio of the entire war.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ trailer takes on the Reagan era

After defeating Ares — the god of war himself — during World War I, you’d think Wonder Woman’s job would be complete but luckily for us, mankind still needs a hero.

This time, it’s 1984 and the Cold War — and big hair — is at full max.

(Did you catch my Maxwell Lord pun there? No? Okay, let’s jump to the trailer.)


Wonder Woman 1984 – Official Trailer

www.youtube.com

Wonder Woman 1984 – Official Trailer

The flawless Gal Gadot, a military veteran herself, returns as Diana of Themyscira, a warrior empowered by love. Wonder Woman 1984, directed by Patty Jenkins (the woman who helmed the highly successful 2017 film), also brings back Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor (who has been presumed dead since 1918).

This trailer also introduces Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal as classic DC villains Cheetah and Maxwell Lord respectively.

Set to a remix of New Order’s Blue Monday, the trailer gives us mystery, 80s glam, and plenty of badass Diana.

“Nothing good is born from lies and greatness is not what you think,” declares Diana, probably to Lord, a power-hungry businessman known for tampering with questionable technologies and powers.

He should probably listen to her because that lasso doesn’t just force people to tell the truth — it can literally Spider-Man her across lightning.

Looks like she’s also upgraded her armor. I can already see the cosplayers gathering up their gold…

The long-awaited trailer premiered at Brazil’s Comic Con Experience and the film will hit theaters June 5, 2020.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Coast Guard’s largest loss of life in a single event

“I felt and saw two flashes after which only the bow of the ship was visible. The rest had disintegrated and the bow sank soon afterwards.” – Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson, USS Serpens commanding officer

The quote above refers to the Coast Guard-manned USS Serpens. Nearly 73 years ago on Jan. 29, 1945, a catastrophic explosion destroyed the transport. In terms of lives lost, the destruction of the Serpens ranks as the single largest disaster ever recorded in Coast Guard history.


In March 1943, an EC-2 class “Liberty Ship” was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract as “Hull #739” by the California Shipbuilding Corporation of Wilmington, California. It was launched less than a month later as the SS Benjamin N. Cardozo. Two weeks later it was transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated AK-97. The transport was 442 feet in length, displaced 14,250 tons and had a top speed of 11 knots. For defense it carried one 5-inch gun, one 3-inch gun, two 40mm and six 20mm anti-aircraft cannons. Its crew consisted of 19 officers and 188 enlisted men. In late May, the Navy renamed the transport Serpens, after a constellation in the Northern Hemisphere, and commissioned the vessel in San Diego under the command of Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Magnus Johnson.

USS Serpens at anchor somewhere in the Pacific islands with derricks extended to take on cargo.
(U.S. Navy photo.)

Following a shakedown cruise off Southern California, Serpens loaded general cargo at Alameda, California, and, on June 24, set sail to support combat operations in the Southwest Pacific. It steamed between the supply hub of New Zealand and various Pacific islands, such as Tonga, Vitu Levu, Tutuila, Penrhyn, Bora Bora, Aitutaki, and Tongatabu. In early December, Serpens moved its operations into the southern Solomons, re-supplying bases and units on Florida Island, Banika Island, Guadalcanal and Bougainville. In February 1944, its crew was ordered back to New Zealand for dry-dock and, for another four months, they delivered materials to bases in the New Hebrides and Solomons.

An aerial view of Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, during World War II showing the airfield captured by the U.S. Marines early in the campaign.
(U.S. Navy photo)

In late July 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson assumed command from Johnson. From that time into the fall of 1944, Serpens resumed operations carrying general cargo and rolling stock between ports and anchorages within the Solomon Islands. In mid-November, it loaded repairable military vehicles from the Russell Islands and Guadalcanal and sailed for New Zealand. After offloading in New Zealand, three of its holds were converted for ammunition stowage. Late in December 1944, Serpens commenced loading at Wellington, completed loading at Auckland, New Zealand, and returned to the Solomons in mid-January 1945.

Monday, January 29, found Serpens anchored off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. Lunga Point had served as the primary loading area for Guadalcanal since the U.S. military’s first offensive of World War II began there in August 1942. Serpens’s commanding officer, a junior officer and six enlisted men went ashore while the rest of the crew loaded depth charges into the holds or performed their usual shipboard duties. Late in the day, in the blink of an eye, the explosive cargo stowed in Serpens’s holds detonated. An enlisted man aboard a nearby Navy personnel boat gave the following eyewitness account:

“As we headed our personnel boat shoreward, the sound and concussion of the explosion suddenly reached us and, as we turned, we witnessed the awe-inspiring death drams unfold before us. As the report of screeching shells filled the air and the flash of tracers continued, the water splashed throughout the harbor as the shells hit. We headed our boat in the direction of the smoke and, as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects. The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating. This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete.”

A chart of Iron Bottom Sound, located north of Guadalcanal, showing the numerous ships lying on the seafloor, including the remains of USS Serpens at Lunga Point.

After the explosion, only the bow of the ship remained. The rest of Serpens had disintegrated, and the bow sank soon after the cataclysm. Killed in the explosion were 197 Coast Guard officers and enlisted men, 51 U.S. Army stevedores, and surgeon Harry Levin, a U.S. Public Health Service physician. Only two men on board Serpens survived–Seaman 1/c Kelsie Kemp and Seaman 1/c George Kennedy, who had been located in the boatswain’s locker. Both men were injured, but were later rescued from the wreckage and survived. In addition, a soldier who was ashore at Lunga Point was killed by flying shrapnel. Only two Coast Guardsmen’s bodies were recovered intact and later identified out of the nearly 250 men killed in the explosion.

USS Serpens crew’s caskets arrive at Arlington National Cemetery from Guadalcanal in 1949.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At first, the loss of Serpens was attributed to enemy action and three Purple Heart Medals were issued to the two survivors and posthumously to Levin. However, a court of inquiry later determined that the cause of the explosion could not be established from surviving evidence. By 1949, the U.S. Navy officially closed the case deciding that the loss was not due to enemy action but an “accident intrinsic to the loading process.”

Retired Coast Guard officer Richard Stoud plays taps at the Serpens Memorial in November 2013.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Today, all that remains of the Serpens is the bow section sitting upside down on the sea floor off Lunga Point. The dead were initially buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Cemetery at Guadalcanal. The crew’s mortal remains were later exhumed and shipped to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. On June 15, 1949, Serpens’s Coast Guardsmen were interred on Arlington Cemetery’s Coast Guard Hill. A monument to the Serpens listing all of the lost crewmembers was erected over the gravesite and dedicated on Nov. 16, 1950.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

Humor

6 more Share-a-Coke cans they could also use

Coca-Cola, the USO, and Dollar General have teamed up to run a special “Share a Coke” campaign this summer in support of the military community. It was designed with the best of intentions, but it’s caught a bit of backlash for not including a few branches.

You can find 16-oz cans of Coke labeled with ‘Sailor,’ ‘Airman,’ and “Coast Guardsman,” which accounts for three of the five branches, but you’ll notice that both ‘Solider’ and ‘Marine’ are missing. Instead, you’ll find cans marked ‘hero’ and ‘veteran’ respectively.

So, if they’re going to swap out two branch-specific terms in favor of something more widely applicable, that opens the door for plenty of other possibilities! Try these on for size:


For that no-drag specialist in your squad.

High Speed

With all due respect, they’ve kinda missed the mark by using “Hero” as the label for soldiers — this isn’t exactly a compliment in some contexts. In the Army, the term ‘Hero’ is a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Basically, it’s another term for ‘idiot.’

Why not go all the way and label one “High Speed?”

Boot

Every Marine was, at one point in their career, a dumb boot. It’s only after a young boot has made enough mistakes and has had the stupid smoked out of them enough times that they’re finally accepted by their fellow Marines. It’s a rite of passage.

Since boots are also the most likely to remind everyone in the outside world of their service, they should have their own can.

Caw caw, mother f*cker.

Blue Falcon

No one likes the blue falcon — it’s no coincidence that the first letter of each word in this term is shared with another, less polite label: Buddy F*cker.

Blue falcons work hard to keep up their game and getting your buddies in trouble is thirsty work. Why not celebrate them with a nice, cold middle finger?

Perfectly mixes well with whiskey.

C.O.B

The C.O.B. (or the Crabby Ol’ Bastard) is the Chief of the Boat and is more often than not the oldest person on the ship.

You’ll never know how these salty sailors made it so long without being forced into retirement, but you have to respect their amazing ability to hold a ship together using only pure hatred.

They can get a Coke and a Bronze Star as an End of Tour award.

Powerpoint Ranger

Rangers are some of the hardest badasses in the Army. The Powerpoint Ranger, however, is on the very opposite side of the coolness spectrum.

All these guys do is sit on the FOB and craft the perfect Powerpoint presentation on the complexities of connex cleaning. These guys probably haven’t seen the range in years, but they do have a direct line to the Colonel.

The one and only universal truth that every service member can agree on is: “F*ck Jodie.”

Jodie

A Coke isn’t the only thing Jodie wants to share with you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What would happen in a fight between an old battleship and a new destroyer

The past versus the future is always an interesting debate. One of the biggest naval hypotheticals centers around the Iowa-class battleships, which have often been featured in “what if” match-ups with anything from the Bismarck and Yamato to the Kirov. The Iowas are now museums, supposedly replaced by the Zumwalt-class destroyers.


USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) emerges past a point. (US Navy photo)

Could the Zumwalt-class ships really be a replacement? Could they measure up to an Iowa? This could be a very interesting fight, given that the two ships were commissioned slightly over seven decades apart.

USS New Jersey (BB 62) fires her main guns. (Photo: US Navy)

The Zumwalt is perhaps the most high-tech ship to sail the seven seas. MilitaryFactory,com notes that this ship has two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, and it can carry two helicopters. The vessel displaces about 14,500 tons, and has a top speed of 30 knots. In short, this destroyer is a little smaller than a World War II-era Baltimore-class heavy cruiser.

USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) (Photo: U.S. Navy)

An Iowa, on the other hand, comes in at 48,500 tons, per MilitaryFactory.com. She could reach a top speed of 35 knots, and was armed with nine 16-inch guns in three turrets, each with three guns. When modernized in the 1980s, she added 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and still kept six twin five-inch gun mounts. This is still one of the most powerful surface combatants in the world, even though it is old enough to collect Social Security and Medicare.

The massive cannons of the USS Iowa. (US Navy photo)

A fight between an Iowa and a Zumwalt would be very interesting. The Zumwalt would use its stealth technology to stay hidden and then rely on helicopters and UAVs to locate the Iowa. Its biggest problem would be that none of its weapons could do much against the heavy armor on the battleship. If the Iowa gets a solid solution on the Zumwalt, on the other hand, it can send its own gun salvos at the destroyer – which won’t survive more then one or two hits.

USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. (DOD photo)

In short, the Iowa would likely demonstrate why so many people want to see them back in service at the expense of the ship that was intended to replace it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the weapon NASA will use to fight Earth-ending asteroids

It has nothing to do with oil-rig workers, but it has a lot to do with America’s biggest nuclear weapon; NASA has a plan to deflect asteroids that could end all life on earth. It starts with an enormous, experimental, developing launch vehicle and ends with a massive six-shooter of America’s largest nuclear weapons.

The “Cradle,” as it is called, is out to target any near-Earth object that might get too close. And the first test could come in 2029.


Behold the quintessential devil in these matters, the asteroid Apophis.

On Friday, Apr. 13, 2029, the 1,100-foot asteroid Apophis is going to pass just 19,000 miles away from the Earth. That may not seem very close, but in terms of space stuff, that’s a hair’s breadth away, uncomfortably close. Scientists are pretty sure it won’t hit Earth, but it will be close enough to knock out some satellites. What the close call does bring into question is this: what if there are other near-Earth objects out there that definitely will hit Earth?

That’s where NASA started wargaming with the cosmos. Assuming the asteroid has a mass of a million kilograms and was headed directly for Earth’s center mass, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided to figure out what it would take to deflect – not destroy – such a mass.

That’s where nukes come in to play, specifically these B83 nuclear weapons.

Anywhere from two to five years before the projected impact, NASA would send a probe to the asteroid’s surface to read the effects of a possible impact with the another object, test its possible trajectory, and determine the best method of rerouting the celestial projectile from Earth. When the best course of action was determined, the U.S. would launch a series of missiles aboard one of its spiffy new Ares V rockets. There would be three kinds: kinetic, nuclear and solar.

The solar option would be fired into the asteroid’s orbit with a parabolic collector membrane that would focus the sun’s energy onto the object, acting as a kind of thruster to disrupt its path or destroy it into smaller, less destructive versions of itself. The kinetic war head would have an inert warhead on it, and would be designed to literally push the object away using force. The nuclear option would send the largest warhead America has, a 1.2 megaton device in a B83 warhead that can produce a mushroom cloud taller than Mount Everest. They would be detonated close to the object but not right on it or into it.

The idea is to turn its surface into an expanding plasma to generate a force to deflect the asteroid.

There’s the boom.

The reason NASA can’t just outright destroy a near-Earth object was the discussion of a report from NASA and was explored in the early stages of developing this planetary defense.

“The Hollywood scenario solution of shooting several intercontinental ballistic missiles at the incoming rock is fraught with danger. It probably would not be sufficient to prevent impact, raising the additional hazard of radioactive materials from the blast being introduced into the atmosphere,” the report reads.

Hence, the plan is to give it a little push instead.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA prepares to test ‘Gremlins’ with C-130s next year

US Air Force F-22s and F-35s will soon launch and control recoverable attack drones from the cockpit of the plane to expand air-combat operations, test enemy air defenses, conduct long-range ISR, and even deliver weapons.

This fast-approaching technology, which calls upon advanced levels of autonomous navigation, is closer to reality due of DARPA’s Gremlins program which plans to break new ground by launching — and recovering — four drones from an in-flight C-130 in 2019.

Air recoverable drones, slated to become operational over just the next few years, will bring a new phase of mission options enabling longer ranges, improved sensor payloads, advanced weapons, and active command and control from the air.


“The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate Gremlins in higher risk areas,” a DARPA statement said.

For years, it has been possible to launch expendable drones from the air, without needing a ground control station, provided they do not return to an aircraft. Gremlins, by contrast, is a technical effort to engineer specially configured aerial drones able to both launch and return to a host aircraft.

The program is now moving into a phase three, according to DARPA statements, which cite a new demonstration and development deal with Dynetics to execute the upcoming launch and recovery C-130 flight.

A C-130E Hercules from the 43rd Airlift Wing, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., flies over the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Howard Blair)

“DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or “Gremlins,” a DARPA announcement said in early 2018

This technology, which hinges upon higher levels of autonomous navigation, brings a wide swath of improved mission possibilities. These include much longer attack and mission reach, because drones can begin missions while in the air much closer to an objective, without having to travel longer distances from a ground location or forward operating base. Furthermore, perhaps of even greater significance, air-launched returnable drones can be equipped with more advanced sensor payloads able to conduct ISR or even attack missions.

A flight test at Yuma Proving Ground in early 2018 provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.

“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a written statement in early 2018.

Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, DARPA statements said.

Artist’s concept.

(Dynetics)

Maturing a full-scale operational capability for this technology has force engineers to confront a range of technical challenges, Dynetics engineers told Warrior Maven. Safely docking a returning drone aboard a moving C-130 requires an as-of-yet unprecedented level of technical sophistication.

“The key technological advance is achieving increased safety through software redundancies to be able to operate a vehicle of this size in close proximity to a C-130 and tether it to stabilize the vehicle,” Tim Keeter, Deputy Program Manager and Chief Engineer, Gremlins, Dynetics, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.

Once stabilized, the drone can then be stowed safety in the cargo bay of the C-130, Keeter added.

“This certainly involves precision navigation and we need the structure of the airframe to bear the burden,” he said.

In preparation for the upcoming drone air-recovery demonstration, Dynetics conducted a safe separation flight test from a mock air vehicle.

“We are ready to fabricate,” Keeter said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Marines replaced the SAW with the beloved M27

The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon has been on the front lines for the United States for over 30 years. It’s easy to see why when you look at the specs: It fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round and can use a box with 200 rounds in a belt, or it can use the same 30-round magazines from M16 rifles and M4 carbines.


So, why would the Marines drop it from their front-line fire teams? Well, the specs have an answer for that, too. All weapons have compromises built in, and the firepower that the M249 brings to the front has a price: the SAW weighs in at 17 pounds. Compare that to the M16 rifle’s weight of just under eight pounds, four ounces and the difference is clear.

A US Marine fires an M249 light machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Despite the heft, Marines still want to have an automatic rifle in their fire teams. M16s and M4s have settings for single-shot and three-round bursts. They don’t allow for full-auto fire to avoid excessive wear and tear and wasted ammo.

Heckler and Koch have offered a solution in the form of a variant of the HK416. The HK416 is a 5.56x45mm NATO assault rifle that has a 30-round magazine. Importantly, it weighs under eight pounds. Just like the M249, it can use the same magazines as the M16 and M4 and offers full-auto fire. It’s harder to distinguish at a distance from other rifles than the M249, meaning enemy snipers will have a harder time singling out machine gunners.

Lance Cpl. Corey A. Ridgway, a Marine with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle from the kneeling position at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales/ Released)

 

The Marines have designated their modified HK416 as the M27 Individual Automatic Rifle, and they’ve fallen hard for it. In fact, Yahoo News reported that the Marines are thinking about buying more, so that every grunt has an Infantry Automatic Rifle. That’s a lot of firepower. Learn more about this light-weight, automatic rifle in the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s next move in the trade war could threaten US F-35s

China is threatening the US with the possibility that it may withhold rare earth elements critical to the production of a number of different US products, including missiles and stealth fighters.

The US has been turning up the heat on China in the ongoing trade war. Now, Chinese media is warning that China can up the stakes.

“United States, don’t underestimate China’s ability to strike back,” the People’s Daily, the paper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, wrote May 29, 2019, according to Reuters.

“Will rare earths become a counter weapon for China to hit back against the pressure the United States has put on for no reason at all? The answer is no mystery,” the newspaper explained in a commentary, ominously adding, “Don’t say we didn’t warn you!”


Other Chinese media outlets released similar articles.

Rare earth elements, of which China produces the overwhelming majority, play an important role in the production of defense systems. For example, a US Navy Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine requires 9,200 pounds of rare earth metals, while an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer needs 5,200 pounds.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class RJ Stratchko)

US defense contractors like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin use rare earth metals to make high-end guidance systems and sensors for missiles and other military platforms, Reuters reported.

An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth jet built to give the US an edge over rivals like China, requires 920 pounds of rare earth materials, according to Asia Times, which reported that the US has an almost nonexistent ability to produce rare earth materials.

“The US side wants to use the products made by China’s exported rare earths to counter and suppress China’s development,” the People’s Daily argued May 29, 2019. “The Chinese people will never accept this!”

The paper’s rhetoric suggests that China would intentionally take aim at the US defense sector, which Beijing believes is working to contain China’s rise.

An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The US relies on China for as much as 80% of its rare earth materials, according to Bloomberg. “Rare earths are a niche specialty and critical to the Defense Department,” Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, told the outlet.

“Rare earths are essential to the production, sustainment, and operation of US military equipment,” a 2016 Government Accountability Office report explained, adding that “Reliable access to the necessary material, regardless of the overall level of defense demand, is a bedrock requirement for DOD.”

Were China to pull the plug, it could certainly lead to complications, although there is the possibility that the department could turn to alternative sources given that its requirement is only 1% of the total US demand for rare earth elements.

Beijing has not yet said that it will take this step, but is certainly troubling that Chinese media is threatening this move as a potential response to US actions in the trade war.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What could 5,000 troops do in the Venezuela crisis?

Venezuela has descended into a political crisis after years of economic turmoil and a note from National security Adviser John Bolton has floated the idea of sending 5,000 U.S. troops there to help end the political standoff by backing one of the claimants to the presidency, Juan Guaidó. So, what’s exactly going on? And what could 5,000 troops actually accomplish?


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, seen here while not allegedly killing his political opponents.

(Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0)

Recent history

Let’s start with the recent history of the country. If you vaguely remember a lot of protests on your TV as well as a lot of social media commentary around whether or not socialism was bad, chances are you’re remembering Venezuela.

Basically, Venezuela was a U.S.-aligned democracy for much of the Cold War, but a movement towards socialism was championed by populist Hugo Chavez (you’ve likely heard of him) who was elected president in 1998 and took office in February 1999. Chavez’s populist priorities immediately ran into trouble as low oil prices and other economic problems made his socialist overhaul of the country unaffordable.

Chavez cemented his hold by training up a paramilitary loyal to him, issuing decrees, and spreading propaganda, all of which eventually triggered protests and uprisings against him. Chavez survived a coup attempt in 2002. Allegations that the U.S. assisted in the coup persist to this day, even though Chavez, senior coup leaders, and the U.S. have all either denied it or said it was unlikely.

After the coup, rising oil prices allowed Chavez to finally follow through on many of his campaign promises and buy loyalty.

So, the Chavez era was rocky, to say the least, but it became worse when he died in 2013 and Nicolás Maduro took over.

Nicolás Maduro. The usage rights for this photograph require that it not be used in a way that would disparage the coat of arms or flag, so we can’t comment on how humorous it would or would not be for a chubby man, famous for eating on public TV while his country starved, dressed up in the Venezuelan colors and posed in front of a lean Simón Bolívar.

(Government of Venezuela)

Maduro lacks the charisma and the political history that Chavez enjoyed, and he ran right into the same fallen oil price problems that had plagued Chavez. His attempts to hold onto power amid growing unrest and economic scarcity failed, and uprisings, extreme scarcity, and starvation have plagued the country in recent years.

And all of that has led up to the 2018 elections which resulted in Maduro carrying all 23 states and about 68 percent of the vote; but there were tons of irregularities in the election, and less than a third of the population trusted the government to hold a free and fair election.

After the elections, continuing protests led to National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaidó declaring himself acting president. America reportedly voiced support for the move secretly ahead of time, but the U.S. definitely voiced public support after the fact, with Vice President Mike Pence recording a video addressing the Venezuelan people.

March for peace in 2015. Peace has struggled a bit in the years since.

(Carlos Díaz, CC BY 2.0)

So, yeah, people have different ideas of who the proper president of Venezuela is, but the U.S. is officially backing Guaidó as interim president, and National Security Adviser Bolton showed off a legal pad with a note about sending 5,000 troops to the country, ostensibly to back up Guaidó.

We won’t get into the politics of the discussion, but what could 5,000 troops do successfully in the country when the actual military has 515,000 personnel, counting the national guard and militia? After all, America sent 26,000 troops to Panama to oust Noriega, and Panama had around 15,000 troops at the time. Fewer than 4,000 were actual soldiers.

A RAND report from 1996 pointed out that the U.S. enjoyed massive advantages in Panama, from public support to ample training to little real resistance, and that soldiers and leaders in future contingency operations should not expect such an easy path. So, what will 5,000 troops be able to accomplish in Venezuela?

U.S. Marines are less welcome on some doorsteps than missionaries. Our guess is that Maduro would rather see the missionaries.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker)

The quick answer is: not much. 5,000 troops would be more a show of support than an actual military deterrent. At most, the troops could secure a few buildings or key locations. But, given the political fracturing in the country, that actually might be enough to tip the scales in Guaidó’s favor, hopefully without triggering a major conflict.

First, Maduro’s control of the military appears to be quite fragmented. There are still supporters of democracy and capitalism in the country as well as a larger base of support for true socialism instead of the crony socialism under Maduro, who has eaten pies on TV while his people starved. The Venezuelan military seems to have a quiet minority that would support a change in leadership even though most high-level military leaders are in place due to appointments made by Maduro.

So, 5,000 U.S. troops combined with the hollow support in the ranks for Maduro might give Maduro supporters pause before they use force to put down Guaidó’s bid.

You really don’t want these guys to show up in the plains near your capital city.

(U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Hall)

Next, there is currently an unofficial supreme court in exile known as the Supreme Tribunal of Justice for Venezuela in exile. It has 33 jurists who hold court every 15 days via Skype. It has sentenced Maduro to 18 years in prison, referred Venezuelan leaders to the Hague, and even supported Guaidó before he announced. And the Lima Group, a consortium of 12 Latin American countries plus Canada, supports the court.

If the U.S. followed up its recognition of Guaidó by recognizing the tribunal, it could bolster support for Guaidó and give legitimacy for the court. And 5,000 troops are more than enough to protect the court if it returned to Venezuela.

(A quick note about the court, though: The court may be one reason why the military hasn’t moved against Maduro already. Some of those leaders referred to the Hague are military leaders, and plenty of leaders and soldiers could face charges if Guaidó takes the presidency and doesn’t grant amnesty.)

Finally, the presence of 5,000 U.S. troops, regardless of their deployment and stated mission, always ups the ante. Attacking the 5,000 risks American retaliation from warships and submarines that could be lurking off coast or quickly deployed nearby. Fun fact: the U.S. Navy could hit wide swaths of Panama from the Atlantic or the Pacific, provided the ships firing from Pacific side have the permission of Panama and/or Colombia.

And the U.S. Air Force could quickly muster planes for strikes out of Puerto Rico if necessary. The U.S. has an Air National Guard base only 560 miles from Caracas, meaning F-22s could hit the capital as long as they could top off on gas from a tanker flying over the Caribbean Sea.

But, the best thing could be 5,000 troops as a sort of threatening token never deployed. Bolton can exert pressure on Maduro and his government just by showing up at a press conference with two lines of ink on a legal pad. If that gives National Assembly supporters enough ammo to push Maduro from power without more violence, great.

But it does raise the specter that the threat of a U.S. troop deployment will make an actual deployment more necessary.