The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

If you’ve ever wanted to be a space shuttle door gunner, pay attention: the weapon you might be operating could look something like this monster – the only projectile weapon designed for and fired in orbit around the Earth. Of course, it was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, who else would do that?


The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

These are the people who taught terrorists to hijack planes just to be dicks to the West.

Despite some initial successes, the Soviet Union ended up losing the Space Race in a big way. Their loss is exemplified by the fact that the same day the Americans put men on the moon, the Soviets failed to land a probe there. So after a while, the disparity in technology irked the Soviet Union.

Most important to the USSR was the idea of American spacecraft being able to literally get their hands on Soviet satellites. Anti-satellite operations were something both powers prepared for, but the idea that the satellite itself would need protection up there all alone prompted the Soviets to arm one of theirs, just to see how that would go.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

This is how that would go.

The Soviets built a station code-named “Almaz,” a space station that held spy equipment, radar, and the R-23M, a 37-pound 14.5mm automatic cannon that could fire up to 5,000 rounds per minute that was accurate up to a mile away. There was just one problem: aiming the cannon. The cosmonauts in the station would have to rotate the entire space station to point the weapon.

It was supposed to be the first manned space station in orbit, but the Russians were more concerned with developing the weapon than they were other aspects of the capsule, like sensors and life support. So instead of building their grand space station, they slapped together what they had with the R-23M and a Soyuz capsule, called it the Salyut before launching it into space in 1971.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

All this space station and not one Death Star joke.

The CIA knew about every iteration of the Soviet Salyut spy stations, but what they – and much of the world – didn’t know is that they actually fired the R-23M while in orbit. On Jan. 24, 1975, Salyut 3 test fired its weapon before the station was supposed to de-orbit. The crew had not been aboard for around six months at this point. While the Soviets never released what happened during the test, the shots and the station were all destroyed when they re-entered the atmosphere.

Firing a gun in space would be very different from firing on Earth. First, there is no sound in the vacuum of space, so it would not go bang. Secondly, the Soviets would have had to fire some kind of thruster to balance out the force exerted on the capsule by the weapon’s recoil; otherwise the Salyut would have been pushed in the opposite direction. The weight of the projectile fired would determine how fast you would fly in the opposite direction.

Not to mention that shooting the weapon into Earth’s orbit could cause the bullets to hit the station itself from the opposite direction.

Articles

Take a look at these historic French military weapons

Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.


In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Seventeenth century armor from both France and Germany is on display. Much of the museum’s Medieval collection is in the open, outside of glass cases. (All photos by Kenda Lenseigne, Recoil Magazine)

The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.

It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
French cuisine is rightly famous worldwide. A couple of meat tenderizers illustrate why.

Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Carbide-powered sporting rifle from the 19th century.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Exquisitely engraved sporting rifle from the golden age of French gunsmithing.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Gallic Buntline Special. Revolving carbines were developed around the same time on both sides of the Atlantic.

Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Early breech-loading percussion pistol.

While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.

Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Chamelot-Delvigne, 1887.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
An 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne cutaway next to its replacement, the Model of 1887.

Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.

The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.

Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.

At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Eighty years of French service rifles: MAS-36, MAS-49/56, and FAMAS.

As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.

While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Case showing the progressive development of the French service revolver. They were replaced in general service in 1935 by the forerunner to the SIG P210.

The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.

As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?

MIGHTY HISTORY

This monstrosity was probably Germany’s worst plane

I would write an intro about how, in the end days of World War II, Germany was short on manpower, territory, and resources, but nearly every article about Germany’s failed super weapons starts that way. So, just, you know, remember that Germany was desperate at the end of World War II because Hitler was high on drugs and horrible at planning ahead when he invaded his neighbors.


Natter Assault! Germany’s Vertical Launch Fighter

youtu.be

So, on the list of harebrained schemes that the Nazis turned to in order to stave off their inevitable defeat, the Natter has to be one of the craziest. Basically, because they were low on metal and airstrips and they thought rockets seemed awesome, the Nazis made a single-use, vertically launched, rocket-powered plane that only fired rockets. These were supposed to be “grass snakes” that rose from the forests of Germany and slaughtered Allied bombers.

Oddly enough, the Germans were also critically short of the C-Stoff fuel for the more conventional Me-163 rocket fighter, but they went ahead and used the same fuel for the Natter anyway, leading General of Fighters Adolf Galland to tell a colonel that:

…because of a special SS initiative, a defensive surface-to-air rocket aircraft is supposed to be forced into production. And they will be propelled by C-Agent as well. That is the height of stupidity, but it’s also fact.
The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

“Eh, needs more rockets.”

(Anagoria, CC BY 3.0)

Oh, and, worst of all, the planes couldn’t land without breaking apart.

The Natter, officially designated the Ba-349, was made primarily of wood. It would be strapped to a tree or, in its test flights, a special but cheaply built tower. They would then fire four solid boosters to get the aircraft into the sky before the main rocket motor could kick in.

Assuming everything didn’t go to hell during that not-at-all-dangerous process, the pilot could then maneuver onto incoming bombers and fire up to 24 rockets at them. Since the Natter flew at over twice the speed of a B-17’s max, the pilots really needed to fire their rockets accurately and quickly before they overshot their target.

Once they were out of ammo, the pilot would release the nose and deploy the parachutes. The nose would fall separately from the rest of the plane and, hopefully, the parts would land safely. The parts and the pilot would be recovered and ready for another round.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

“This will save the war.”

(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

It, uh, did not work properly. On the second unmanned test flight, the flight components hit the ground with fuel remaining. That fuel blew up, destroying the plane. But because the blast wouldn’t have—necessarily—killed the pilot, they went ahead with a manned flight.

That flight went worse. No offense to the Nazi test pilot. On March 1, 1945, Lothar Sieber took off in a Ba-349, but it immediately started flying inverted and climbed into cloud cover. It emerged from the clouds a few minutes later and crashed into the ground, miles away.

The pilot was dead, either from the shock of takeoff, the canopy flying off in flight, or the crash. The plane was destroyed. And everyone finally gave up on the idea of the Natter.

Not that it would have changed much if it had been controllable. The western Allies crossed into Germany about two weeks later, and a few rocket-powered fighters wouldn’t have stopped the advance. But, hey, “Grass Snake” at least looks cool on a T-shirt.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The IRA created a massive propane tank cannon to fight the British

For almost 40 years, the Irish people endured a constant state of fear stemming from a low-level war that killed thousands of Irish civilians, British troops, and Irish fighters – all in a stunningly understated conflict called “The Troubles.” While British and U.K. loyalist forces were well-equipped and armed for the task, the Irish Republican Army, fighting for a united Ireland, had to improvise a little.


The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

This is why “Irish Car Bombs” are a thing.

The Irish Republican Army was a homegrown paramilitary organization that was at best outlawed, and at worst, designated a terrorist organization. They were committed to a fully united Ireland by any means necessary and resisted the United Kingdom’s occupation of Northern Ireland, also by any means necessary. This usually meant improvised guns, bombs, and even mortars. That’s how they created what British troops called the Mark 15. The IRA called it the “Barrack Buster.”

Barrack Busters first started to appear in the IRA arsenal in the 1990s and was an improvised 36-centimeter mortar capable of firing three-foot-long propane tanks filled with high explosives. The Mark 15 was usually made of a cooking gas container created for use in rural areas of Ireland. It was capable of launching one of these powerful explosive containers nearly a thousand feet.

The IRA improvised mortars of various sizes and power, and hit not only military barracks, but bases and even 10 Downing Street.

The Mark 15 was described as having the effect of a flying car bomb, that has taken down barracks, helicopters, and even Royal Air Force planes. It was the fifteenth in a line of development that stretched as far back as the early 1970s. It was the largest homemade mortar developed by the Irish Republican Army. The development does stretch to a Mark-16, but that weapon was more of a recoilless rifle than it was a traditional mortar.

Introduction of the giant mortar did have an impact on British forces. The United Kingdom was forced to pull its checkpoints away from the Irish border after the introduction of the Mark 15 mortar. It was so effective as a weapon it was adapted for use by paramilitary forces in other countries and conflicts, including the FARC in Colombia and the Free Syrian Army in Syria.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What is the USPHS and what does it do?

If you watched the White House press briefing on COVID-19 today, you might have wondered what the Coast Guard folks were doing on tv for a Presidential Address about a global pandemic. And then, upon further inspection of their uniforms and seeing the “USPHS” and a cross embroidered over the left breast pocket where it usually says, “U.S. Coast Guard,” you might have been wondering, “Who are these people and what do they do?”

Introducing the U.S. Public Health Service.


WATCH: Trump gives coronavirus update at White House

www.youtube.com

What is the USPHS? 

According to their website, “Overseen by the Surgeon General, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a diverse team of more than 6,500 highly qualified, public health professionals. Driven by a passion to serve the underserved, these men and women fill essential public health leadership and clinical service roles with the Nation’s Federal Government agencies.

For more than 200 years, men and women have served on the front lines of our nation’s public health in what is today called the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. The Commissioned Corps traces its beginnings back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service protecting against the spread of disease from sailors returning from foreign ports and maintaining the health of immigrants entering the country. Currently, Commissioned Corps officers are involved in health care delivery to underserved and vulnerable populations, disease control and prevention, biomedical research, food and drug regulation, mental health and drug abuse services, and response efforts for natural and man-made disasters as an essential component of the largest public health program in the world.”

And, fun fact: they wear uniforms.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Uniforms 

According to their site, “Few things inspire pride and esprit-de-corps more than the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) uniform. By wearing the uniform, Commissioned Corps officers display a profound respect for their country, their service, and themselves. Uniforms promote the visibility and credibility of the Commissioned Corps to the general public and the Nation’s underserved populations whom officers are devoted to serving.

The PHS uniform traces its roots back to 1871 when John Maynard Woodworth, the first supervising surgeon (now known as the Surgeon General), organized the service along military lines. The uniforms reflect the proud legacy and tradition of the more than 200-year-old service. Uniforms link today’s officers to their heritage and connect them to past officers. Since they represent the Commissioned Corps history and tradition, rigorous standards apply to wearing the uniform and every officer upholds those standards with pride.

Similar to the other services, the Commissioned Corps has several uniforms including the Service Dress Blues, Summer Whites, Service Khakis, and Operational Dress Uniform (ODU) Woodland Camouflage. Each uniform reflects the great responsibility and privilege that comes with being a commissioned officer.

View how the ranks and grades of the Commissioned Corps compare to the other six uniformed services of the United States.”

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

U.S. Public Health Services Lt. Cmdr. Angelica Galindo, conducts a patient assessment at the Escuela Elemental Urbana in Cidra, Puerto Rico. U.S. Air Force photo/Larry E. Reid Jr.

So are they in the military? 

Nope. They’re non-military uniformed service that is not trained in arms. But they are trained in health care. In fact, Corps officers serve in 15 careers in a wide range of specialties within Federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In total, Corps officers have duty stations in over 20 federal departments and agencies.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

KOYUK, Alaska – United States Public Health Service Veterinarian Doctor Mary Anne Duncan examines one of two dogs owned by Koyuk residents. Duncan and USPHS Veterinarian Doctor Wanda Wilson walked through the community of 350 to examine 48 dogs and three cats. Coast Guard photo/Walter Shinn

But what do they actually do? 

Careers are available in the areas of disease control and prevention; biomedical research; regulation of food, drugs, and medical devices; mental health and drug abuse; and health care delivery. USPHS has physicians, dentists, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, health services, environmental health, dietitians, engineers, veterinarians and scientists.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is developing exoskeletons that will save your knees

David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.

“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.


“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.

(RDECOM Soldier Center)

Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.

As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.

Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.

Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.

“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”

“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.

“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Podcast

How to stay fit and not get fat after you get out of the military


In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. speak with Army veteran and fitness expert Jennifer Campbell on what veterans can do during their busy day to stay in shape — especially when going to morning PT isn’t an option.

“Veterans have a 70 percent higher chance of developing obesity than the general public,” Jennifer Campbell says.

The reason for this statistic is due to the dramatic change in a veteran’s daily habit. The majority of the veteran community have been known to cease fire on their work out plans, which creates a negativity jolt the body’s system.

In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:

  • [2:00] The daily regiment of a fitness instructor to maintain a healthy lifestyle while still staying “loose.”
  • [2:40] Information about “Merging Vets & Players,” the growing fitness organization that connects troops and professional athletes.
  • [4:50] Some positive traits of working out versus taking certain medications.
  • [6:20] What “Overtraining Syndrome” consists of and how to avoid it.
  • [10:00] How structured dieting and workouts are necessary for those looking to get into the fitness industry.
  • [11:40] How to properly test your genetic makeup.
  • [13:25] If you want to cheat on your diet — a.k.a. cheat days — here’s how to do it the right way.
  • [18:20] What you can learn about yourself from your genetic markers.
  • [19:20] Important tips how to stay in shape while working in an office space setting.
  • [23:20] Some dietary buzz words that freak everyone out.
  • [30:25] How we can stay looking young using our new health and fitness tools.
  • [34:45] What type of alcohol we should be drinking if you’re trying to stay in shape.

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran

This episode originally ran in November 2017.

Articles

4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

Not all deployments are created equal. Some troops primarily work at a desk performing critical operational tasks, while others are out and about undertaking various missions in the bush. Regardless, both schedules usually consist of long hours and a heavy workload which can run anybody down.


No matter the nature of the mission, staying in the fight and being alert is the key for any personnel deployed.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Cpl Daniel, a fire team leader, 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, posts security while members of the Afghan Narcotics Interdiction Unit search a compound during Operation Speargun in Urmuz, Afghanistan.

So if you’re worried about falling asleep when you need to be at your best, check out these simple tricks of the trade to stay awake whole on deployment.


1. Bangin energy drinks

May seem obvious to the average population that drinking a Redbull or pounding a Monster will get their minds firing on all cylinders. But in most cases, deployed troops just don’t sip a single energy drink — they take it to a whole new level by chugging multiple cans of the all mighty Rip-it.

Splashing water on your face works well too — but that’s no fun.

2. Coffee lip

One ration the military never seems to ever run off of is coffee.

When you’re occupying a patrol base or sitting in a fighting hole, coffee machines will be scarce. So instead of filtering water through the grounds, pack a solid pinch of instant coffee from the ole handy dandy MREs into your lip. It tastes like sh*t, but it can help you keep shuteye at bay.

3. “Spicy eyes”

This doesn’t refer to “the look” that civilian reporter who came by the FOB to interview the colonel gave everyone. It means sprinkling a small amount of Tabasco sauce onto your finger and rubbing the contents under your eyes. Spicy!

If it burns a little and wakes you back up, you’re doing it right.

4. Pain

There’s nothing worse than drifting off while on post.

In fact, if you get caught sleeping, that’s a crucial offense. The human body has a natural way of rejuvenating itself by excreting adrenaline into the blood stream. You can accomplish this by pinching yourself, or if that doesn’t work, delivering a light love tap across your cheek.

It might seem a bit extreme, but it could also save your life and the lives of your comrades.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.


MIGHTY FIT

Here’s why the heart doesn’t need to rest like other muscles

Mindy N. asks: After a long run my leg muscles are tired, but my heart is not. Why doesn’t the heart need any rest?

An average of around 60 to 100 times every minute of every day of every year of your ultimately meaningless life, your heart beats… until it doesn’t. Not long after it stops, all knowledge of your having existed is rapidly forgotten. Unlike the other muscles in your body, however, your heart steadfastly rages against the dying of the light, refusing to ever get tired. But how does it manage this and why are your other muscles such slackers in comparison?

To begin with, the human body is broadly composed of three types of muscles: skeletal, smooth and cardiac. Skeletal muscles are striated (banded), and are what most of us think of when we envision a muscle — controlling pretty much all voluntary, and some involuntary, body movement.


Like cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle derives energy from ATP (Adenosine triphoweknowyoudontcare), with this being made in a few different ways. To avoid going full textbook, we’ll just briefly give the high level over simplified view here. In a nutshell, the slowest, but most efficient, method of ATP production is via aerobic respiration where mitochondria in your muscle cells draw energy from the Dark Dimension, producing ATP, a small amount of which is stored in your muscles at any given time. This stored amount is a sufficient supply to last for about 3 seconds of vigorous activity, not unlike your high school boyfriend.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Diagram of the human heart.

After this supply is taxed, with the ATP converted to ADP (adenosine diphosophate) in the process, creatine phosphate in the muscles is used to convert it back to ATP. This supply will last about 8-15 seconds.

Next up, it turns out we were totally wrong about that whole Dark Dimension thing as, in fact, your muscles continue to get ATP beyond this via a series of chemical reactions resulting in glucose being used to make the needed ATP to keep going. This glucose comes from a variety of sources, such as glycogen in your muscles, or via blood via fats, protein, stores in the liver, and from your food churning away in your intestines.

There are two high level ways this production of ATP ends up being accomplished. In the first, using large supplies of oxygen. In this case, as much as 38 ATP molecules can be produced for every glucose molecule. In the second case, via anaerobic glycolysis — not requiring oxygen — only 2 molecules of ATP are produced for each molecule of glucose. While an extremely inefficient use of the available supply of glucose, this method at least produces the ATP over two times faster than aerobic respiration and continues working for a time while you’re out of breath.

Due to glycolysis resulting in the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, ultimately if it accumulates faster than it can be gotten rid of, it will interfere with the anaerobic glycolysis process and your muscles are going to go all jelly and cease to work as well for a little bit. This is in part why, if you get out of breath when exercising and your body is relying more on anaerobic glycolysis, you get fatigued extremely quickly. In this case, you’re simultaneously creating lactic acid at a much more rapid rate and using up your available glucose molecules faster, but producing relatively small amounts of ATP for those molecules used. Do this for more than a minute or two and it will overtax your skeletal muscles’ ability to produce the needed ATP at the rate you’re using it. (Though, again, your mileage will vary based on your current fitness level.)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Annie Spratt)

Back it off and so you’re relying mostly on aerobic respiration and you’re going to get the most bang for your buck, able to keep going all night long if you keep hydrated and well fed. Slow and steady wins the race.

Unsurprisingly from all of this, the more mitochondria there are, the faster ATP can potentially be produced if the needed molecules are present and the more the muscle can keep on keeping on. As for skeletal muscle, about 2%-8% of the volume of such muscle is mitochondria, though this varies somewhat from person to person depending on your level of physical fitness.

Moving on to smooth muscle, as you may have gleaned from the name, this is smooth with no striations. Found in your hollow internal organs (except the heart), smooth muscles work automatically, helping you digest food, dilate your pupils and take a wee-wee. As an example of smooth muscle in action, in digestion, the contractions themselves are really not too dissimilar to how your heart beat works — fluctuation of electrical potential in the smooth muscle cells which causes the muscle to contract in a rhythmic fashion, in this case called the “Basic Electrical Rhythm” or BER. This rhythm is about three times per minute in the stomach, and 12 times per minute in the small intestines. The sound you are hearing when your stomach and intestines make noise is the result of these muscular contractions mixing and moving chyme (the cocktail of digestive juices, food, microbes, etc.) and air along down the tube between your mouth and your waste disposal port.

As for the mitochondrial needs of these muscles, they are typically approximately that of your skeletal muscles, with mitochondria making up about 3-5% of the smooth muscle volume.

This finally brings us to the real hero of your life story — cardiac muscle. Like skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle is striated and like the other muscle in your body is primarily powered by mitochondria. The cardiac muscles, however, have as much as 10 times the density of mitochondria as your other muscles, at about 35% of the volume of your cardiac muscle.

It should also be noted that individual muscle cells in the heart actually do get regular rest thanks to how the heart beat actually works, which we’ll get into in the Bonus Fact in a bit. But the net result is that about 60%-70% of your life a given part of your heart is actually in a resting state.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Giphy

Combining these micro-rests with the extreme amount of mitochondria and a large amount of oxygen from the heart’s awesome blood supply, this allows your heart all the ATP it needs to not get tired, assuming you’re not in an extreme state of starvation or doing some extreme form of exercise for extended periods well beyond your normal fitness regime.

On that note, the downside to needing so much ATP thanks to no extended downtime is that the heart really needs to rely on aerobic respiration to make sure it doesn’t run out of ATP, and thus it doesn’t take oxygen being cut off for too long from it before you’re going to have a bad time, unlike other muscles you can just stop using to help recover the needed ATP over time.

And, yes, it turns out the human heart can actually get tired and suffer damage if you’re trying to do some extreme form of physical activity outside your norm for lengthy periods, especially if in a low oxygen environment like at high altitude. In these cases, even the healthiest hearts can suffer damage, though given the other effects on your body of such extreme physical activity, typically most people will stop doing whatever before the heart is negatively impacted in a damaging way. In essence, your legs will give out before your heart does (usually), at least when talking energy supply. But that doesn’t mean in certain cases a measurable level of tiredness in the heart can’t be observed.

For example, in 2001, cardiologists studied a few dozen endurance athletes competing in a 400 km race in Scotland, which comprised of all manner of physical activities from paddling, rope climbing, running, biking, climbing, etc. and the whole event taking almost 100 hours. During this span, the athletes typically only slept about 1 hour per 24 hours during the event and otherwise soldiered on.

The results? At the end of the race, the athletes’ hearts were only pumping about 90% of the volume per beat they’d been managing before the race started.

Showing the resilience of the heart and its mitochondrial baddasery, Cardiologist Euan Ashely, who was involved in the study, stated that “the athletes’ hearts that showed signs of cardiac fatigue did return to normal fairly quickly after the race and no permanent damage was done.”

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Boris Stefanik)

That said, further research on endurance athletes calls into question the notion of “no permanent damage” being done. For example, researchers involved in a 2011 British study looking at British Olympians who competed in distance running and rowing (and specifically competing in at minimum a hundred events), found that as they aged they showed marked signs of heart muscle scarring, something that can lead to irregular heart function and, potentially, heart failure.

Of course, these are extreme examples, and for most people not doing ultra marathons regularly or competing professionally or semi-professionally in endurance events, this is unlikely to be a problem and the holistic health benefits of regular, vigorous exercise are likely to make up for it even then.

Bonus Fact:

Ever wonder how the heart beat works? Well, wonder no more. In a nutshell, the heart is a four chambered pump. The top two chambers are called Atria, the bottom two are called Ventricles. They are separated from top to bottom by valves; the right and left sides are separated by a septum. So what makes the pump squeeze? When the hearts muscle gets “shocked”, it will contract and force the blood down its path, with the valves not allowing blood to flow back through the system, unless they are defective.

The blood’s path through the heart starts in a vein called the Superior Vena Cava. Then it enters the right atrium, flows through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle. From there it travels through the pulmonic valve into pulmonary arteries, then the lungs. Now back to the heart and into the left atrium, through the mitral valve. The blood is now in the “strongest” chamber of the heart, the left ventricle. From there it gets pumped through the aortic valve and into the aorta and out to the rest of the body!

So what causes that infamous electric shock the heart receives approximately 60-100 times a minute? Short answer: Dormammu. Long answer: The exchange of electrolytes across specialized cells within the heart build up a differing electrical potential on either side of the cell. When this electrical potential reaches a certain level, it discharges and sends a shock down another unique set of cells within the heart, causing a shock and thus the contraction.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

The specific set of cells that regulates the heart rate (in most people) are called the Sinoatrial node or SA node for short. The SA node (pacemaker of the heart) sits in the upper portion of the R atria near the entrance of the superior vena cava.

When the SA node sends out and electrical shock, it immediately shocks the atria. The pulse then gets “held up” in another set of cells called the Atrioventricular node, or AV node for short. This then transmits the impulse down to the bundle of His and then to two pathways called the right and left bundle branches. Then it’s transmitted to the rest of the Ventricles through what are called Purkinje fibers. All together this “shock” causes the atria to contract, then the ventricles. You’re still alive! (For now.)

So what and how do these electrolytes cause this shock? In an attempt not to give a physiology lecture of ungodly proportion, we will simply say that the main two electrolytes involved are sodium and potassium. Potassium normally sits inside the cell, and sodium outside. Potassium slowly leaks outside of the cell and sodium then goes inside the cell. This creates the differing electrical potential that builds up until the point of discharge. Other electrolytes also help in creating this differential, and they are calcium and magnesium. All together the harmony created by this yin and yang system of electrical and mechanical systems come together to make that wonderfully thumping thing inside your chest!

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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Articles

Rob Riggle doubled-down on his USMC service while clearing rubble at Ground Zero

Comedian Rob Riggle accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 with the intent of earning a pilot’s Wings of Gold, but once he got to flight school in Pensacola it hit him that the lengthy commitment was going to keep him from realizing his dream of doing stand up.


Listen to our conversation with Rob on the We Are The Mighty Podcast:

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“If I had continued flying I didn’t see how I would be able to take my shot at comedy,” Riggle says. “I left flight school and became a public affairs officer.”

After nine years on active duty that included stateside tours at Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune, and Corpus Christi and overseas tours in Liberia and Albania (where he helped build refugee camps for those displaced by the fighting in Kosovo), Riggle transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve. He moved to New York City to pursue his comedy career and drilled with Marine Training Unit 17 — the only reserve unit in Manhattan.

And then 9/11 happened.

“I got a call from my CO and was ordered to report to One Police Plaza first thing in the morning on Sept. 12,” Riggle says. “I worked on the bucket brigades moving rubble by hand.”

For a week he worked 12-on-12-off, clearing the twisted wreckage that was piled six stories high around where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had proudly stood just days before. On the seventh day, the operation was changed from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery. With all hope gone that more victims might be found alive among the concrete and steel and with the danger of more collapses gone, the heavy machinery was brought in to remove the rest.

Riggle was exhausted and emotionally spent. He’d seen enough.

“Like most Americans, I was pissed off,” he says. “But as a Marine captain, I could do something about it. I put my hand in the air and told my commanding officer, ‘put me in this thing.’ And so he did.”

Now watch Rob Riggle fly with the Blue Angels:

Riggle received orders on Nov. 10 — the Marine Corps birthday — and a week later he reported to CENTCOM in Tampa for training and two weeks after that he was on his way to the war.

“About 20 days from the time I got my orders I was on my way to Afghanistan,” Riggle recalls. “That’s why you have reserves.”

He did two rotations into Afghanistan during his year back on active duty, working out of the Joint Operations Center because he had top secret security clearance. He was part of Operation Anaconda — the first major offensive using a large number of conventional troops — and other major campaigns during that time.

“When my year was up I moved back to New York City and ran the marathon,” he recalls.

The year after that he was added to the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” And the rest is American comedy history.

“I earned the title Marine, no one gave it to me,” Riggle says when asked to sum up his military career. “I’ll be proud of that as long as I’m alive.”

Find out more about Rob Riggle’s first annual InVETational Charity Golf Tournament to benefit the Semper Fi Fund.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 cool photos of the Coast Guard escorting tall ships

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, holds an annual sailing festival that features all sorts of ships and boats making their way up the Piscataqua River. One of the big attractions at the festival, when they come, are “tall ships,” full-rigged sailing vessels reminiscent of the days of European colonialism — and the pirates who preyed on them.


The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

Of course, with so many ships moving through coastal waters and into river waters, the Coast Guard has a role in ensuring that everyone passes through safely. Coast Guard vessels escort the tall ships for parts of their journeys.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

The ships spend a lot of their time providing educational programs to local students and residents, even training selected high school students in crewing the ships.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

The fun isn’t just reserved for the students. For between and 0, you can buy a ticket to ride for a short distance and enjoy a few drinks while aboard — you’ll also be treated to the antics of an on-board pirate actor.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

The actors playing pirates also do a bit of educating while on shore, but there’s nothing quite like learning about piracy while slightly buzzed on a classic tall ship.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Keegan)

Of course, if the pirates get too crazy, the Coast Guard is always there. Sure, the Revenue Cutter Service didn’t have a perfect record against real-world pirates, and that ship is significantly smaller than the tall ships, but the tall ships lack the cannons of their forebears. If necessary, you can always jump over the side to reach Coasties and safety.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Sherri Eng)

Quick bonus photo of the Coast Guard’s own tall ship, the USCGC Eagle. Here are some fun facts for you: This 295-foot sailing vessel was commissioned by the Nazis, ridden on by Adolf Hitler, and originally named for the man who wrote the Nazi Party anthem.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s how much Captain America would make in back-pay

The U.S. Army has always loved its fictional, star-spangled avenger and brother-in-arms, Captain America. Since he served in the Army, he received the benefits of being a Soldier. Logically, this would entitle him to back pay for the 66 years he spent frozen in ice.


Steve Rogers was scrawny kid who served his country in World War II. Because his heart was pure, he was given the super-soldier serum, thus becoming Captain America. To keep Captain America’s backstory of service as a World War II hero relevant regardless of era, Rogers was frozen in ice and thawed out years later.

66 years is a long time to spend frozen. Fan theories have surfaced regarding how much, exactly, he would be owed when he finally came to. This caught the attention of an Army spokesman who clarified that, if he were real, Rogers would have received back pay.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
And like every real Soldier, he’d probably waste it all on alcohol his metabolism would push out.
(‘Captain America #25’ by Adam Hughes)

In the comics, this was answered briefly and never mentioned again in Captain America #312. He’s given a check for “almost a million dollars,” which he tries to refuse. He then decides to use the money to set up a hotline through which citizens can reach him for help — because Captain America is that kind guy.

Marvel’s sliding timeline is confusing, so it’s hard to fact-check that amount. After all, based on comic continuity, it’s only been about 15 years since Spider-Man was bitten (and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man premiered 16 years ago — feel old yet?), so let’s take the writer’s word and move on. Things get more interesting, however, if we focus on the current, Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Cap and calculate his back pay.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
His fellow Avengers are multi-billionaires, so that six-figure check is chump change.
(‘Captain America #312’ written by Mark Gruenwald with Art by Paul Neary)

A Redditor, Anon33249038, the user who grabbed the attention of the previously mentioned Army spokesman, did the math to include the Army’s 1945 O-3 pay grade (including biannual raises) all the way up to the start of 2011’s The Avengers. His total amount owed would be a staggering $3,154,619.52, adjusted for inflation.

The spokesman pointed out many missing variables in the equation, including the fact that Rogers’ $313.50 was paid quarterly instead of monthly, misinterpreted pay scales, and any unaccounted for promotions while Capt. Rogers was listed as missing until he was dropped from roll. Which is confusing because he was presumed dead until Nick Fury found him just before The Avengers.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
But it does give us a logical why he’s not called General America.
(Marvel)

The more accurate amount, given all the variables, comes from the folks at Nerdist. Since he was never officially promoted to Major, the time-in-service pay increases stop at 18 years, and calculating pay monthly for 66 years at the same rate, adjusting for inflation, gives you a grand total of $4,692,152.56 owed to Captain America. They reached this by adjusting his $375,474.00 for inflation until 2011.

However, DFAS has never had to deal with a 66-year gap for a frozen-in-time, super-serum-infused hero having to adjust each paycheck for inflation. But, when the military gives back-pay, they don’t usually factor inflation or yearly increases.

The solution is much simpler than everyone made it out to be. If he were to be paid at the current rate, $6,039.00 per month, his total amount is a similar $4,782,888.00 in just base pay alone. Granted, Captain America would probably turn that check down, just like in the comics… if the VA didn’t try to renegotiate it down to an “almost a million” first.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Heroic dad punches shark to save daughter

Any dad would put himself in danger to save his child, but a North Carolina dad proved he’s truly a hero. When Charlie Winter’s 17-year-old daughter Paige was attacked by a shark at Fort Macon State Park’s Atlantic Beach, he sprang into action. Winters punched the shark five times, fighting off the predator and ultimately saving his daughter’s life.

Family friend Brandon Bersch described the frightening attack to TODAY Parents: “They were standing in waist-deep water and chatting and then Paige suddenly got pulled under.” Winters quickly reacted by punching the shark repeatedly. “Charlie wouldn’t stop until it released his little girl,” Bersch continued. “He lives for his children.”


Winters’ quick response is likely due to his experience as a firefighter and paramedic, which allowed him to know to apply pressure to Paige’s wounds and was able to remain calm. “Paige is alive today because of her father,” Bersch said.

Teen survives shark attack in North Carolina

www.youtube.com

Paige was airlifted to Greenville’s Vidant Medical Center 80 miles away, where she had emergency surgery and unfortunately, lost her leg. “Paige has more surgeries upcoming, but she’s really optimistic,” Bersch said of the teen’s recovery. “As soon as Paige woke up at the hospital, she made a comment about how she doesn’t have animosity toward sharks and she still loves the sea.”

This was hardly the first time Charlie stepped in to save a life. In 2013, he rescued a then 2-year-old boy from a burning home. “Charlie is the bravest man I know,” Bersch said of his friend. Absolutely no arguments here.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.