Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

When Ann Mills-Griffiths sent out her regular National League of POW/MIA Families newsletter in September 2018, she included an announcement that Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills, missing in Vietnam since 1966, had been recovered, his remains positively identified by the Pentagon.

She did not mention that he was her own brother.

“DPAA [Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency] announced on 8/24/18 that CDR James B. Mills, USNR, CA, was accounted for on 8/20/18,” Mills-Griffiths’ simple announcement read.

The newsletter said that the accounting for Mills and another MIA from Vietnam, Air Force Col. Richard A. Kibbey, “brings the number still missing from the Vietnam War down to 1,594.”


So why did Mills-Griffiths withhold that the latest identification was that of Jimmy, her older brother by just 11 months?

“It would’ve been wildly inappropriate,” she told Military.com in an interview.

In her role as head of a POW/MIA advocacy group, “I’ve never mentioned my brother’s case in any official capacity,” she said.

Fighting for all families

Given her position, in which she works closely with the government on recoveries and policy, Mills-Griffiths said she didn’t like to draw special attention to her brother’s case.

“The other part is we never expected to get my brother accounted for — ever,” she said.

At age 77, Mills-Griffiths said she had no plans to retire from her position at the League, where she currently serves as chairman, just because her brother has been found.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

Ann Mills-Griffiths, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National League of POW/MIA Families.

She acknowledges that she has been combative, and at times controversial, in pressing various administrations and defense secretaries over the years for a full accounting on the missing.

She has also become a lightning rod for other advocacy groups and what she calls the “nut fringe.”

She has been outspoken in accusing some groups of raising false hopes among the families that their loved ones would come back alive, if only the so-described appeasers and bureaucrats in government would get out of the way.

Mills-Griffiths once had a staff of seven. She now has just one staffer, but she dismissed any suggestion of stepping down as head of the League.

“Why would I do that just because of my brother? I have to keep [DPAA] on the right track,” she said. “I’m still trying to make sure DPAA is informed and going in the right direction.”

Her longevity with the issue has proven invaluable to the government in getting more cooperation from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, according to DPAA officials.

Despite Mills-Griffiths’ reticence to give her brother special attention in her official role, he still got a hero’s welcome back home. At California’s Bakersfield High School, where Mills lettered in three sports for the “Drillers” and was active in student government before graduating in 1958, a welcome home event in his honor featured current students.

They paraded on California Avenue in front of the school, sang the national anthem, waved flags and chanted “Once a Driller, Always a Driller,” Bakersfield.com reported.

“This is a very teachable moment, and the kids are embracing it big time,” said history instructor Ken Hooper.

“If he was part of my family, I would want to welcome him home,” senior Kareli Medina said. “He’s a Driller. We are his family.”

“That was amazing,” Mills-Griffiths said of the rally at the school where her late father, E.C. Mills, was once vice principal. “It was really something that they took that up and had that nice patriotic demonstration. Nicely done, guys.”

A “miracle” discovery

For 52 years, the rib bone of an American had been at the bottom of the South China Sea in shallow waters off the North Vietnamese coastal village of Quynh Phuong.

The rib had been there since Sept. 21, 1966, when a Navy F-4B Phantom from Fighter Squadron 21, flying off the carrier Coral Sea on an armed reconnaissance mission to North Vietnam, disappeared from radar without a “Mayday” or contact with other aircraft. The reasons for the disappearance are still unknown.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

A U.S. Navy McDonnell F-4B-21-MC Phantom II (BuNo 152218) of Fighter Squadron VF-21 “Free Lancers” flying in Vietnam.

From 1993-2003, Defense Department teams conducted a total of 15 investigations in a fruitless effort to determine what had happened to the aircraft and where it went down.

Everything changed in 2006, when a fisherman from the village snagged something in his net. He pulled up what turned out to be part of a cockpit canopy.

Joint field activities by DPAA’s forensics and scuba teams resumed, including five underwater investigations, the agency said in a release. More parts of the aircraft were pulled up.

In 2011, the Air Force Life Science Equipment Laboratory, now part of DPAA, concluded that the aircraft was the one flown by pilot Capt. James Bauder, then 35, of La Canada, California, and his radar intercept officer, Mills — who would have been 78 on Aug. 31.

In 2017, the recovery teams found bone material. And in June 2018, DPAA determined through DNA analysis that the remains were those of Capt. Bauder.

The teams had found not a trace of Mills’ remains. Mills-Griffiths said the family had long ago accepted that Mills’ remains would never be found, but were grateful that the F-4B had been located and Bauder’s family had been notified.

“None of us ever had any of what folks would call ‘false hopes,'” she said. “What are the chances? It’s not like we knew he was on the ground, it’s not like anybody last saw him alive … Our chances of ever knowing anything specific were not high and we knew that all along.”

Mills-Griffiths said she learned earlier this year that divers were about to go down on the site again.

“If you don’t get it, that’s still the last time I want you to go there,” Mills-Griffiths said she told DPAA.

In June 2018, another DPAA excavation turned up new remains.

“It turned out to be a rib bone, and they were able to get a cut and take a DNA match quickly,” Mills-Griffiths said. “It was a virtual miracle.”

New headstone at Arlington

Cmdr. James Mills, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, joined the Navy through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. His eyesight wasn’t good enough to become a pilot under the standards of the time, and so he became a backseat Radar Intercept Officer on Phantoms, Mills-Griffiths said.

He was a lieutenant junior grade when his plane went missing on his second tour off Vietnam.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills.

He flew off the carrier Midway on his first tour. He did not have a spouse or children.

Mills-Griffiths said her brother had volunteered to return “so that other radar officers who had wives and kids wouldn’t have to go back.”

“He was not an optimist” about the war, as were so many others who served at the time, she said. “He believed in what he was doing, even though he didn’t believe in the way the war was being run.”

Mills-Griffiths said she can’t remember how many times she’s been to Vietnam and the region.

“I stopped counting at 32,” she said.

In that time, the Vietnamese officials she first knew as junior officers and diplomats have come into leadership positions, she said.

Her brother already has a place at Arlington National Cemetery. The headstone over an empty grave for James B. Mills simply reads “In Memory.”

DPAA officials said that Mills’ name also is listed on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for,” DPAA said.

Mills-Griffiths said a ceremony for the burial of her brother’s remains will be held at Arlington on June 24 2019. The headstone will be replaced with a traditional one listing his name, rank, date of birth and date of death on Sept. 21, 1966.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be observed on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.

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

MIGHTY FIT

How to build arms that never quit

I’ll just burst this bubble right off the bat here. Big arms, although socially desirable, are completely unwieldy in any pursuit except for bodybuilding.

I’m telling you now that you don’t ever have to do another biceps curl in your life if you don’t want to. I’m also telling you that you can do biceps curls as often and as long as you need to as long as they don’t impact your main goals.


Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

Holding a rifle and maintaining a good site picture is really tiring. You want arms that can hold your rifle without adding unnecessary extra weight.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha A. Barajas)

The actual purpose of arms

The purpose of your arms is to translate power from your larger and stronger muscles that are towards the center of your body.

This being the case, the way we should train arms is in a way which supports the larger muscle groups.

The tapered look is what true athleticism looks like. Take, for instance, strongman competitors, the strongest humans on Earth. Their arms are not exceptionally large in comparison to the rest of their bodies. Their arms get gradually more narrow the further they get from their core.

This is how all functional things are made. Airplanes’ wings taper out, as do the musculature of fish until they get to the fin of course. This reduces drag in the water while still giving a nice push at the end. This is the same reason the best swimmers have long thin limbs and big hands and feet.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

This guy sinks just like hammers and sickles do in water and just like communism did in the USSR. (How is this even a picture in 2019?)

(Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash)

The pursuit of huge biceps

There is no pursuit that requires large arms in comparison to the rest of the body, except aesthetic pursuits like bodybuilding.

Even arm wrestling, the quintessential arm strength sport, is all about using the arm as a lever that sends power from your legs and core into your opponent’s hand.

The idea of an “arm” day is laughable to me. Here’s why.

When I was going through a particular portion of my Marine Corps Training, I found myself with a group of Marines who were in a waiting period for their next school to start.

Because Training Command was on the same base as my peers and me, they decided to use us as a “test” unit. They wanted to see what type of training Marines could endure and how it translated to their follow on schools and injury resistance in general.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

Treading water is hard in a full kit. It’s even harder when your arms are fighting against you while treading.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hernan Vidana)

Basically, it was let’s “fugg” with these guys in the name of “research.”

So I found myself doing a lot of weird “training” with a bunch of alpha males. Every day was some type of ego trip in one way or another.

A good portion of my peers at this time were quite muscular. Some of them were the type to ensure they finished every gym session with 10 sets of biceps curls.

They had big arms.

We did a lot of pool workouts in this training cycle….I’ll give you one guess which body type had to be revived the most often…

When it comes to swimming, large biceps are the opposite of those arm floaties that kids wear. Imagine how much harder it would be to tread water with rocks strapped to your upper arms.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

This is the whole body approach to training arms.

(Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash)

How to train arms like a freakin’ genius

The way workouts should be setup is as follows:

  1. Main/Compound lifts- squat, bench, deadlift
  2. Ancillary lifts- rows, Romanian deadlifts, lat pull-down, DB presses
  3. Accessory lifts- biceps, triceps, calves

The compound lifts are giving the majority of our muscular stimulation and truly teaching the body how to move as a unit in an anatomically correct way.

The ancillary lifts give our main muscle groups another look (from a different angle, rep range, etc.). They directly contribute to strength gains in the main lifts and also contribute to making the body a cohesive unit of power development.

The accessory lifts are there to bring up body parts that may be limiting the main movements or that the trainee may want to give some extra stimulation. Other common accessory muscle groups are the forearms, obliques, or neck.

Because isolated arm exercises are primarily accessory lifts, they should receive the lowest amount of priority in the gym. This means if you are strapped for time you skip these. DON’T skip squatting or deadlifting and jump to these because you prefer them.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

You can get those curls in….after you hit the big ticket items.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Donald Holbert)

The biceps are a pulling muscle. You get all the biceps stimulation you need from rows, lat pull-downs, and pull-ups. The triceps are a pushing muscle. You get all the triceps stimulation you need from pressing, benching, and push-ups.

The above being the case, I fully respect the allure of the arm pump and the feel of a tight t-shirt. That’s why I don’t avoid them altogether when writing a training plan. They are for your mind, not for your body.

It is important to work out for both the mind and the body. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing or if you don’t see/feel results, you are significantly less likely to continue training.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s 8 potential targets in Syria await destruction

As President Donald Trump has cryptically hinted at looming action on Syria, a new report says he may have nailed down eight potential locations to strike.

Citing an unnamed source, CNBC reported on April 12, 2018, that the US had selected eight possible targets in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility.


Such a strike would amount to punitive action against Syria for what the US and its allies consider a blatant use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. But it would still carry the risk of sparking a war with Russia.

Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider that though Syria’s chemical weapons facilities lay under the umbrella of Russia’s air defenses, they were not actually close enough that a strike on the facilities would endanger Russian troops.

Russia has threatened to use its air defenses against US missile strikes, and Russian officials have threatened to counterattack if US missiles fly over Syria, potentially by attacking US Navy ships or submarines.

Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, told Business Insider that Russia had flown aircraft specializing in anti-submarine warfare to Syria. Russia has also moved its warships out of a naval base in Syria out of concern for their safety after Trump threatened strikes.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Russia operates out of airfields in Syria, but it’s unclear whether the US would target those. Syria has moved most of its jets to bases with Russian protection for fear of a strike, the CNBC report said.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated on April 11, 2018, that the US wasn’t afraid to target Russian assets in a strike on Syria. But a Russian newspaper reported that the US had been coordinating with Russia to avoid hitting its troops and would provide a list of targets before a strike to avoid escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, urged the US on April 12, 2018, to avoid military action, saying the “immediate priority is to avert the danger of war.”

Asked whether he was referring to a war between the US and Russia, Nebenzia said: “We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington — they were very bellicose. They know we are there. I wish there was dialect through the proper channels on this to avert any dangerous developments.”

He added: “The danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria because our military are there … So the situation is very dangerous.”

Trump is trying to punish Syria, not start World War 3

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Several experts have told Business Insider that despite Russia’s tough talk, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want a war with the US.

“Putin is not interested in a shooting war with the West,” Gorenburg said.

Gorenburg said that because a war could escalate into a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, and because “the Russian conventional forces just aren’t as strong as the US forces,” such a fight “would not be a good outcome for Russia.

So far, Trump has played coy about the timing of a strike on Syria.

“We’re looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation, and we’ll see what happens, folks,” he said April 12, 2018, adding that a strike could happen “fairly soon.”Meanwhile, France and the UK have been openly considering participating in a strike and sending forces to the region.

The US, with or without allies, has enough military presence across the Middle East to crush Russian forces in Syria — but a direct attack on Russian forces carries a risk of escalating a conflict into nuclear war.

Articles

An SAS sniper killed 5 ISIS suicide bombers with 3 bullets

A Special Air Service sniper who spotted a group of Islamic State fighters leaving a suspected bomb-making facility in Iraq fired three shots that detonated two suicide vests and killed all five fighters, according to reports in British media.


The SAS sniper was operating 800 meters away from the factory when he noticed the group wearing unseasonably warm and bulky clothing. The 10-year veteran of the SAS hit the first man in the chest and detonated his vest, killing three fighters. As the two survivors attempted to escape back into the factory, the sniper shot one in the head and the other in the vest, which detonated the second vest.

Also read: 7 longest range sniper kills in history

“This was a classic SAS mission,” a British Army source told the Express. “About three weeks ago the intelligence guys got information that a bomb factory had been set up in a nearby village. With just three well-aimed shots, that single team has probably saved the lives of hundreds of innocent people. The unit was sent in to see if they could identify the house and the bombers.”

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
UK (Ministry of Defence photo)

The decision to attack with a sniper was made due to concerns about collateral damage.

“There were too many civilian homes nearby and children were often around so an airstrike was out of the question,” the unidentified British Army source said. “Instead, the SAS commander in Iraq decided to use a sniper team and the operation was a complete success.”

In another engagement in Aug. 2015, another British sniper reportedly saved an 8-year-old boy and his father who were about to be executed.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why I started my own GORUCK club

I have a secret to confess: I started a GORUCK club for selfish reasons.

There’s a perfectly good GORUCK club at GRHQ, only 4 miles from my home, and yet earlier this year I founded the GORUCK Mother Ruckers to serve my needs. And by needs I mean not getting into a car with my children unless I have to while maximizing time spent moving outdoors, with the option to bring my wards.


Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

As luck would have it, turns out that my needs are also the needs of others in my community. And by community I mean local moms in my neighborhood.

This is where we meet up, on a street corner that’s a stone’s throw from everyone’s homes. Easy, convenient, just ruck up and step out your front door.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

Another thing that’s really great about our GORUCK club – and all GORUCK clubs for that matter – is that you only need a party of 2. Sure, it’s better with more folks and we take the more the merrier approach when it comes to people. We call it GORUCK Mother Ruckers not to be exclusive but because our GORUCK club is run by moms. It’s also cool to bring your kids, pets, and significant others (in no particular order) or just yourself if you happen to have lucked into some free alone time. Nothing reminds you how grateful you are to have a few moments of peace from your children than being next to another parent’s screaming kid.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

Before kids, we used to workout more, sleep in more, and do less with that free time we never fully appreciated. Time is our most valuable resource, then and even more so now. We don’t have time to waste by stress-driving to make that gym or pilates class whenever the stars align for all kids to be healthy or cooperative. Somewhere floating in cyberspace is a graveyard of forgotten or unredeemed exercise classes that moms like me have decided just aren’t worth the hassle.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

And yet we know deep down that we as moms and as humans need to prioritize our physical and mental health. My friend Amy said it best the other day, that “women tend to have a lot of pulls and tugs on their time.” In her career as a cardiologist, she sees that “the health of women, in terms of the time to go do physical activity and exercise, gets deprioritized to the very end of the list, after checking off everything else we need to do for everyone else. There is also a social isolation, that you end up being so busy caring for folks around you and having your nose to the grindstone, that the idea that you’re gonna just kinda go hammer it out in the gym or on an exercise machine at home, sometimes just can be lonely.”

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

This is the not so lonely hearts club. After some sniffing and snack stealing attempts, we ruck south on our weekly pilgrimage in search of smoothies, fresh air, and cute pups of course.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

There once was a time when I ran a lot, in high school and in college and even for years after that, my favorite runs were with others or on my own to keep the cardio streak going. I still love running but dislike how fast my base erodes from an inconsistent life schedule. I also have a harder time finding someone to run with me when those unpredictable moments of freedom pop up. For some reason, probably having to do with that erodible base, when I ask my friends to go on a run with me, I don’t get a great response.

When I say, let’s go for a ruck and you can bring whoever you want and you pick the weight, I get more yesses. With rucking, the barrier for entry is lower and more accessible on many levels. On the level of not requiring a babysitter and also on being a scalable workout. We might move at kid pace but there are plenty of extra coupon carry opportunities along the way.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

And so we ruck on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Or just to the last street for a missing shoe.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

At last we reach the halfway point and it’s time to refuel the restless natives. These are before smoothie faces.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

And these are post smoothie smiles.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

Sometimes the term selfish gets a bad rap, especially if by being selfish you really are trying to set yourself up for success to take care of others who need you, day after day, to be your best or close to it. It’s pretty empowering to prioritize yourself to the top of the list and then watch your fellow moms do the same: we can do it, better together, as neighbors and friends and parents and people.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

So what’s stopping you from joining a GORUCK club or starting your own?

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Instagram.

Articles

Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) transits through the Suez Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)


While the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) dodged three anti-ship missile attacks in one week, and USS Nitze (DDG 94) sent a three-Tomahawk salvo in response, another American ship came under attack in the Bab el Mandab.

According to a release on the Facebook page of USS San Antonio (LPD 17), the amphibious vessel was targeted by anti-ship missiles on October 13. The attack failed, according to Commander D. W. Nelson’s post. The amphibious vessel was transiting the chokepoint between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, carrying the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The attack could prompt the Navy to act on proposals to fit two 8-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems on to the San Antonio-class ships. The systems would then be able to accommodate the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. With a range of up to 27 nautical miles and a top speed in excess of Mach 4, this would give the San Antonio-class ships another layer of air defense.

The San Antonio is the lead ship of a class of amphibious vessels and can carry up to 700 Marines, and has a crew of 28 officers and 335 enlisted personnel. The 25,000-ton ship has a top speed of 22 knots and is armed with two SeaRAM launchers and two 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns. The vessel carries two Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft and can also carry upwards of four helicopters or two V-22 Ospreys.

On 9 October, USS Mason was attacked while accompanying USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) in the Red Sea. The Mason was attacked again on October 12 and 15. The American naval vessels were deployed to the Gulf of Aden after HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now operated by a company in the United Arab Emirates, was attacked on October 1.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines may have to fight all of America’s low-intensity wars

Buried nearly 500 pages into the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 , Senate Bill 2987, is an interesting directive: “No later than February 1, 2019, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report setting forth a re-evaluation of the highest priority missions of the Department of Defense, and of the roles of the Armed Forces in the performance of such missions.” Despite receiving passing attention in the media, this small section of a large bill has potentially enormous long-term repercussions.


The Senate NDAA passed by a vote of 85–10 on June 19, 2018. Much of the re-evaluation that the Senate Armed Services Committee calls for in S.2987 is justified and indeed overdue. There is a glaring need to take a new look at issues such as:

  • Future ground vehicles that are not optimized for high-end conflict
  • The advantages of carrier-launched unmanned platforms over our short-legged manned Navy strike aircraft
  • The ways in which swarms of cheap drones can impact the United States’ ability to project power
  • Our overstretched special operations forces

Alongside these necessary inquiries, the requested report also asks a much bigger question: “whether the joint force would benefit from having one Armed Force dedicated primarily to low-intensity missions.” The bill tells us which Armed Force this would be: the United States Marine Corps.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)

The Trump Administration’s National Defense Strategy rightly seeks to reorient America’s military on the most difficult task it can face: deterring or winning a large-scale modern war against a peer competitor. The Senate NDAA seems guided by that same logic.

The military and its civilian overseers have picked up some bad habits from the past two decades of low-intensity operations. At least one prominent retired general questions whether the US military still knows how to fight a major war. Counterinsurgency may be “eating soup with a knife,” but it is not “the graduate level of warfare.” No matter how vexing armed anthropology and endless cups of tea may be to soldiers, the challenges of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism do not compare to those of a high-tempo, high-casualty modern war. This should be obvious to even a casual student of military history, but the post-9/11 wars have generated an enormous amount of woolly thinking among both soldiers and civilians.

There are also justifiable concerns about the viability of forcible entry from the sea, the Marine Corps’ traditional mission. Since the Falklands invasion in 1982, we have seen that modern missiles will make amphibious power projection increasingly costly. The Marine Corps has taken note and for decades now has quietly been renaming schools, vehicles, and probably marching bands “Expeditionary” instead of “Amphibious.” However, America will always be a maritime nation, and “game-changing” military technologies have a mixed record.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Angel D. Travis)

Yet while the Senate’s requested report is asking the Secretary of Defense many of the right questions, its one attempt at an answer should be rejected outright.

A high/low mix of platforms is worth examining. Going high/low with our military services is another matter altogether.

The Army and Air Force undoubtedly want to get back to preparing to fight major wars, as they should. Relegating the Marine Corps to second-tier status as a counterinsurgency and advising force, however, is not in the national interest.

Militaries have historically understood that they must prepare primarily for the most dangerous and difficult operations they could face. It is far easier to shift a trained force down the range of military operations than up. The Israelis offer the most vivid recent illustration of this truth.

Before the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had been focused on operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, with 75 percent of training devoted to low-intensity conflict (LIC). When this counterinsurgency force confronted well-armed, well-trained, and dug-in Hezbollah militiamen, it received a nasty wake up call: the IDF took relatively heavy casualties and was unable to decisively defeat Hezbollah or halt rocket attacks into Israel, which continued until the day of the ceasefire. The IDF quickly returned to training for stiffer fights, devoting 80 percent of its training to high-intensity conflict (HIC) after the 2006 war.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
An Israeli soldier tosses a grenade into a Hezbollah bunker.

America already has a tradition of early bloody noses in major wars, from Bull Runto Kasserine Pass to Task Force Smith. Unless we want an even more catastrophic shock in our next major war, we must focus all four of our military services on major combat operations and combined arms maneuver. We should not forget the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, such as they are. But it is the height of folly to turn our most expeditionary and aggressive military service into a corps of advisors and gendarmes.

Instead of continuing to throw lives and money at the intractable — and strategically less important — security problems of the developing world, perhaps we should spend more time and effort avoiding such military malpractice. Let’s hope the Department of Defense concurs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How the 6 armies in a North Korean war would be like ‘Game of Thrones’ houses

While on a Christmas tour in the Middle East, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, spoke to the troops and brought up the potential of a future fight in North Korea. He told the troops, “It would be Game of Thrones-like, and a lot of people would get hurt. I might be wrong, but it’s a very complicated issue.” He’s not entirely wrong.


While his words were in reference to the bloodshed and brutality of war, the build up to conflict isn’t too much of a stretch. The fighting in Game of Thrones is brutal and many of the foot soldiers are up against insurmountable odds — much like a full-scale war between several nations. Many of the events in Game of Thrones happen because of a war that took place before the series began — much like the real world after the Korean War.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Grunts on deployment, am I right?

It also doesn’t hurt that both military life and the show have a lot of fighting, sex (including prostitution, unfortunately), and alcohol in them.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t caught up to the season finale of season seven, we recommend viewing one of our other great articles. If you have been keeping up with the series or just don’t care about spoilers, please enjoy a nerdy tongue-firmly-in-cheek response proving the Commandant of the USMC is more correct than he lead on.

6. North Korea is basically House Lannister

If you think about it, Kim Jong-un and King Joffery Baratheon have countless similarities. They’re both spoiled, rich, psychopathic brats who paint an image of godliness, who are very privileged thanks to the work of their predecessors, and yet they both demand unwavering respect without doing anything to earn it themselves.

As much as we laugh at the young dictators, they have plenty of power and control. One reason the Lannisters and North Korea weren’t eliminated right away was because of how they retaliate. The Starks won every battle in the War of Five Kings, but were slaughtered at the Red Wedding. The Tyrell line was straight up murdered in a holy place — along with thousands of innocent civilians. Hell, even the Lannister song Rains of Castermere is about how they’ll obliterate anyone in retaliation (damn, it’s a great song, tho…).

In real life, Seoul could suffer the same ruthless fate. Even if without the threat of nuclear warfare, just the conventional artillery on the border laying siege on the South Korean capital could put the death toll in the millions.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
They both also throw large feasts while their people starve.

5. South Korea is basically House Targaryen

South Korean history is rich and beautiful, dating back to when the Korean Empire stood tall  much like House Targaryen. They were both overthrown and crushed to near nothingness, but quickly rose to be key powers in their conflicts.

The post-Korean War economy of South Korea was devastated and their military might was worse, just like how the Targaryens would eventually dwindle to just Daenerys Targaryen. With the simple push from a friend (Daenerys’ gift of the dragon eggs and South Korea’s support from the U.S), they are now each among the most intimidating militaries in the world.

The Republic of Korea Armed Forces is one of the most technologically advanced modern militaries, which will be the cornerstone of the next battle, should it come to that.

Just like a Dragon.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
That, and they both definitely have air superiority over their enemies.

4. Japan Self-Defense Force is basically the Freefolk from Beyond the Wall

Once a primary enemy of many others on this list, they’re refocused on turning foes into allies to face the real threats.

Now their small populations are the most threatened, making them willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
They are now hand in hand with the Starks/Americans, but we’ll get to that in a second.

3. China is basically House Greyjoy

Each have the most intimidating naval forces in their given worlds, even if they’re not the largest. While the Lannisters (North Korea) could talk a big game and maybe hold their own currently, their strong arm is still House Greyjoy (China.)

The Chinese government also “does not sow” when it comes to taking islands in the South China Sea. On the bright side, the rebels (Theon and Yara Greyjoy AKA Taiwan) who left the main land/house are devoted allies to the Targaryens.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
They both also somehow get impressively badass ships out of nowhere.

2. The United States of America is basically House Stark

Which leaves the honorable and — hardest fighting — armies, the Starks and the Americans. Each of the four remaining Starks make up the four branches of the Department of Defense.

The toughest fighter is definitely Jon Snow, our Marine. They even have experience fighting in the last war in the frozen north at (Battle of Chosin Reservoir for Marines and Beyond the Wall for Jon Snow). The special operations of the Special Forces and over all battle skill matches Arya Stark. The invaluable support and “eyes in the sky” that both the Air Force and Bran Stark have will be what makes this war. This leaves Sansa Stark for the Navy, because neither are really fighters — they’re more tactical support.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
And are both their militaries lead by someone who the internet thinks is possibly a deity? Yep!

1. Putin is basically a White Walker

The sleeper threat. Though they emerge as the real enemies of the balance in their respective worlds, everyone turns a blind eye to them while they destroy, conquer, and expand their reach. Neither seem interested in having allies, just minions.

It also doesn’t hurt their cause when everyone focuses on them; the Lannisters (North Korea) and Greyjoys (China) benefit. They’re also the primary enemy of the Freefolk (Japan) and, eventually, the Starks (Americans.)

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Putin would probably ride a dragon into battle shirtless or something equally douchey though…

Articles

The ‘Kuznetsov Follies’ continue with another jet in the drink

Well, now we know why Russia is operating its carrier jets from land bases. It seems that when it tries to conduct actual air operations on the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, the planes end up going in the drink.


Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

According to a report by the Washington Post, the Russians lost an Su-33 “Flanker D” when an arresting cable on the Kuznetsov snapped. The pilot of the Flanker ejected and was safely recovered. The Su-33 went into the Mediterranean Sea, joining a MiG-29K that crashed last month after its own mechanical failures.

An arresting cable snapping can be very dangerous. A video of one incident on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) where an E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft shows the violence of such an accident. The Hawkeye did not fall into the sea due to superb airmanship on the part of the pilots, but eight sailors on board the Nimitz-class carrier were injured.

Russia had intended to use the Kuznetsov, which was commissioned in 1991 by the Soviet Union, to demonstrate its arrival to carrier aviation. The ship can carry roughly 40 aircraft, and deployed with both the Su-33 “Flanker D” and the MiG-29K “Fulcrum” along with Ka-27 “Helix” anti-submarine and Ka-31RLD “Helix” airborne early-warning helicopters. The 55,000-ton vessel can reach speeds of up to 29 knots, and carries 12 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles.

The Russians had hoped to use a successful combat deployment of the Kuznetsov to market its weapons. Syria has become a testing ground for weapons that Russia has deployed, notably, the SS-N-27 Sizzler, a multi-mission cruise missile. The designers of the MiG-29K had particularly been hoping to do well, as they had seen export sales dry up after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, two losses from operations on the carrier have put an apparent damper on sales.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA finally approved benefits for this WW2 human test subject

Arla Harrell, a 90-year-old Missouri veteran who was intentionally exposed to mustard gas during World War II, has been awarded his backdated benefits from the VA, following a decades-long fight and legislation from US Senator Claire McCaskill on behalf of Mr. Harrell and his fellow service members.


The VA’s decision cited McCaskill’s legislation, and her testimony on the family’s behalf, in the awarding of Mr. Harrell’s benefits.

McCaskill testified in July at Mr. Harrell’s Veterans Affairs claim appeals hearing after the VA’s repeated denial of his benefits-asking the judge to take a careful look at his case and grant him the right to hear that his government believes him.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for Arla and his family, that after so many decades being told ‘no’, so many claims denied, so many bureaucrats refusing to believe he had been mistreated by his own government-the VA is finally saying ‘yes'” said McCaskill, herself the daughter of a World War II veteran, and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. “This law, that so many folks put party aside to pass, is already getting results: long-overdue justice and the simple recognition of what Arla and so many of his fellow soldiers, sacrificed for their country. And three simple words that the government should have said to Arla decades ago, ‘we believe you.'”

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey greets Senator Claire McCaskill (right). Photo from SecDef Flickr.

In August, President Trump signed McCaskill’s Arla Harrell Act into law after it was approved by the Senate, capping a two-year battle and paving the way for decades-overdue relief to veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas.

As the document granting Mr. Harrell’s claim states, the reversal comes after McCaskill, who is listed as a witness for Mr. Harrell, passed her legislation. “During the pendency of the Veteran’s appeal, the President of the United States… signed legislation [the Arla Harrell Act] that directs the VA to reconsider previously denied claims for disability compensation for veterans who allege full-body exposure to nitrogen mustard gas, sulfur mustard gas, or Lewisite during World War II… [ Arla Harrell’s claims] will be reconsidered in light of this new legislation.”

During World War II, thousands of US servicemen were exposed to mustard agents through secret US military experiments. By the end of the war, 60,000 servicemen had been human subjects in the military’s chemical defense research program, with an estimated 4,000 of them receiving high levels of exposure to mustard agents.

For decades, these servicemen were under explicit orders not to discuss their toxic exposure with their doctors or even their families. The US military did not fully acknowledge its role in the testing program until the last of the experiments was declassified in 1975. The military did not lift the oath of secrecy until the early 1990s.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Alra Harrell. Photo from the Harrell family via St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Following her investigative report, McCaskill battled what she called a “decades-long record of ineptitude and failure” at the VA, and enlisted the support of Republican and Democratic colleagues, including Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana, who introduced companion legislation in the US House.

McCaskill also rallied veterans service organizations in support of her bill, and successfully pressured President Trump’s Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin in support of the legislation.

The law required a re-examination of Arla Harrell’s claim for VA benefits, and the inclusion of Camp Crowder on the list of sites where full body testing took place. It also mandates a quick review of previously denied claims, places the burden on the VA (instead of the veteran) to prove or disprove exposure, revamps the VA’s application and adjudication process in the future, and mandates an investigation by both agencies to determine what went wrong with this process and officially acknowledge the horror these servicemen endured.

Articles

Cold War classic U-2 hits milestone on ISIS-intel mission

A 48-year-old U-2 “Dragon Lady” spy plane reached a milestone — 30,000 hours of flight time — while flying a mission to gather intelligence on ISIS, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.


A release from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing said that a U-2 flown by a pilot identified only as “Maj. Ryan” hit the 30,000-hour mark while “collecting critical, real-time information to give commanders the decisional advantage” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Related: The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

The high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance plane flew out of a base in Southwest Asia, the report said.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
U-2 pilot Maj. Ryan enters into a cockpit before flying a sortie in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Feb. 2, 2017. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward

The Lockheed U-2 is only the second of the unique aircraft to reach the 30,000-hour mark. In 2016, a U-2 with the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Base in South Korea completed 30,000 flight hours as the first-ever in the U.S. fleet.

“It takes a lot of people to launch and recover a jet and to keep this going,” said Ryan, of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. “Today, we hit 30,000 hours. I hope it gets 30,000 more.”

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady | U.S. Air Force photo

An assistant maintenance operations officer identified as Capt. Lacey said, “The mere fact alone that we’re able to continue flying this aircraft to this day is an achievement in itself, let alone fly 30,000 hours on one aircraft.”

Also read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

A maintenance superintendent was quoted as saying, “The accomplishment of the U-2 flying 30,000 hours is extraordinary because the airframe itself is 48 years old, and it is flying with the most technologically advanced ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance] systems available today.”

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
These guys are clearly stoked.

With a thin fuselage and 80-foot wings, the U-2 was developed during the Cold War for photo reconnaissance against the Soviet Union. The aircraft were first flown by decommissioned Air Force pilots for the CIA but later became Air Force assets.

The service has plans in the works eventually to replace the U-2s with unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawks but, in the meantime, the aircraft remain a vital intelligence tool.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can sommeliers actually tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?

Alex K. asks: Is it true that sommeliers can’t tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?

Having a seasoned tongue that can detect the subtle differences between different kinds of adult grape juice is a sure sign of class. In fact, the go-to Hollywood trope for showing that a character is refined is to give them a penchant for expensive wines. Even Hannibal Lecter, one of the most terrifying and cultured characters in film history, had a soft spot for chianti. But the question at hand today is can even the professional wine connoisseurs actually tell the difference between a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1943 and a Bota Box Chardonnay?

To begin with, it’s important to understand what a person has to go through to acquire the label of wine expert, otherwise known as a sommelier. It turns out this varies considerably from absolutely no official required training at all (the label is technically originally a job title) to an extreme amount as in the case of Master Sommeliers, of which there have been less than 300 people who have managed to achieve that certification in the little over a half a century that title has been granted, making it one of the most exclusive professional certifications in the world.


As to the former vastly more common distinction of “sommelier”, some who achieve this certification are simply wine enthusiasts wanting to take their hobby to the next level. Others are those working in the restaurant service industry who may have even got that title via working there way up from a simple waiter at a wine bar and learning on the job.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

(Photo by Zachariah Hagy)

That said, as sommelier Dustin Wilson notes, “…by forcing oneself to study hard for a long period of time, certification offers young sommeliers the opportunity to gain the context they need to understand wine much faster than they would if they simply relied on the dining room floor as their classroom.”

This brings us to more formal certification. How rigorous a given course for certification is varies from institution to institution offering such, but in general sommeliers must be able to identify with reasonable accuracy random types of wine by taste, sight, and smell, answer various questions about wine making, the various regions of the world that are major wine producers, and what makes wines from them different than wines produced elsewhere. They must also have extensive knowledge of very specific food pairings, as well as demonstrate little things like the best technique for how to open a bottle of wine and pour — while simple for those working in the industry, nonetheless often trips up the hobbyist attempting to get that certification.

On that note, while actual formal training to get such a certification may only take dozens of hours, leading up to passing a given program’s tests a person generally needs extensive experience with all things wine, whether as a long time hobby or experience within the industry.

As you might have gathered from this, all sommeliers are not created equal. Some may be immensely knowledgeable and skilled at judging various wines, while others might be littler better than your wine enthusiast cousin Jill.

This brings us to the elite of the elite — Master Sommeliers. These are the Yoda’s of the wine world, and no coincidence the average salary for one eclipses that of mere mortal sommeliers. For your reference, a run of the mill lowly just starting out sommelier might make as little as in the ,000 a year range, whereas someone who has passed the tests to become an Advanced Sommelier earns around ,000 a year on average. The Master Sommeliers, on the other hand, typically make about 0,000 per year and can usually be found working at some of the world’s finest restaurants.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Giphy

The testing to become a Master Sommelier is vastly more rigorous, and those invited to test (and it is invite only), must have first passed the Introductory Exam, then the Certified Exam, and then the Advanced Sommelier Exam. Those who pursue this course also tend to already have extensive backgrounds in the culinary arts and typically have many years of experience working as a sommelier at some wine serving establishment.

Once they’ve distinguished themselves enough in the field, they may then be invited to takes the tests to become a Master Sommelier. From here, they are given three years to pass three tests, including a practical restaurant service section, a verbal examination covering all things wine related to incredible depth, from history to grape cultivation in various regions, to various wine making methods; finally, the most difficult test of all is the taste test. In this, they are given six random wines chosen from the thousands produced around world. In 25 minutes, they must correctly identify not just what region of the world each one came from, but also the exact year the grapes used were harvested.

Each candidate is allowed to take each test up to six times in the three year span, but even then, as you might expect from so few having ever achieved this certification, many fail despite already being considered advanced wine experts before even attempting the tests.

Now, given all this, surely the elite wine professionals must be able to tell the difference between random expensive and a random cheap wines, right? Well, yes, the elite of the elite absolutely can. But also, no, they can’t at all actually.

So what’s going on here?

There are several factors that go into this. First, there’s the business side with a variety of factors that go into what makes something an “expensive” or “cheap” wine that go far beyond taste. Making such distinctions smaller than ever, wine making has become huge business on a scale and with scientific vigor never leveled at the industry before — all in an effort to create the best wines for as cheaply as possible.

As journalist and sommelier Bianca Bosker notes, “One of the things that I did was to go into this wine conglomerate [Treasury Wine Estates] that produces millions of bottles of wine per year… People are there developing wine the way flavor scientists develop the new Oreo or Doritos flavor.”

Noteworthy here is that the scientists extensively use sommeliers to help tweak their mass produced wines to be as high quality as possible even to the experts. They further add a variety of things to the wine, not unlike adding ingredients to any beverage, to tweak just about every facet of it until they come up with an end product that they think will maximally appeal to consumers.

As a result, even disregarding business elements effecting price beyond taste, the gap between inexpensive wines and the finest has closed considerably in recent decades, and there are more variety of wines to enjoy today than there ever have been before, all making it an effort in futility for even a Master Sommelier to be able to consistently identify one wine as one that was probably ultra expensive vs. more of a middle of the road variety of the same type of wine.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

(Photo by Caroline Attwood)

Partially as a result, while studies using the general public tend to show most can identify the difference between the cheapest of wines at a couple dollars a bottle and, say, a or bottle, as soon as you start to go much above that, we mere mortals tend to be able to differentiate the two with about the same accuracy you’d expect in predicting the results of a coin flip.

That said it turns out there is actually a slight and very interesting correlation. In one study with over 6,000 taste tasters, comprising about 12% sommeliers and the rest the general public, trying to determine if people like expensive wines more than cheap ones, it turned out that:

[W]e find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment…. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.

Thus, similar to music or really any field, those who are experts do seem to tend to enjoy the finer, more complex, versions of the craft, such as a symphony, vs the general public who prefer listening to the latest from Taylor Swift. Or as one music professor the co-author of this piece once had was fond of stating with respect to pop music vs. things like a symphony, “Cotton candy tastes great, but you can only eat so much of it before you get sick of it and start craving a high quality steak dinner.”

Now, at this point you might be thinking, “Well, sure, it’s easy to be fooled by the business side of things when talking price, but what about all those studies that show wine experts can’t even tell white wine from red in blind taste tests?”

It turns out there is a lot more going on with that than the clickbait headlines tend to indicate, and should be obvious from the fact that Master Sommeliers are able to pass the test they do in the first place, which would be impossible if their skills were really as bad as that. As Wheezy Waiter wisely points out in his aptly titled song “A Headline’s Not an Article” — a headline is not an article.

You see, as ever, our monkey brain’s are gonna monkey brain. We humans are just really, really easy to trick, especially when it comes to our senses. Ever eaten something minty and then drank a room temperature glass of water? Congratulations, you’ve just tricked your body into thinking you’re drinking ice cold water because menthol binds with cold-sensitive receptors that make these much more sensitive than normal, so they trigger more easily and you feel a cold sensation, even though everything is the same temperature as before.

So everything from what you ate or drank before to scents in the environment you’re currently in, to even your level of fatigue can influence the way you perceive the taste of something.

On top of physical things like that, there’s your expectations, which can be absurdly easily influenced, especially when it comes to taste.

So let’s now talk about wine. Contained within the grape juice are many dozens of esters and aldehydes, sugars, minerals, organic acids, etc. etc. This cocktail all derives from the grapes (whose contents are in turn effected by a variety of factors), processes of the yeast as it works its magic, and what the wine is processed and stored in during its journey from plant to your belly. This all creates the colors, smells, and taste which combined to form the flavor your perceive when you ingest the wine. To give you a small idea of the scope of things here, consider that over 400 compounds that influence the scent alone have been identified in wine.

On that note, temperature by itself can make a huge difference to taste, among other reasons, because of how this can effect the boiling point and thus smell and, in turn, taste, of some of these compounds in the wine. As wine enthusiast David Derbyshire notes, “Serve a New World chardonnay too cold and you’ll only taste the overpowering oak. Serve a red too warm and the heady boozy qualities will be overpowering.”

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered

(Photo by brandy turner)

As for the wine experts, while they may have honed their skills with sometimes thousands of hours of study into all things wine, they still have the same monkey brain as the rest of us. Case in point, we have wine expert and journalist Katie Kelly Bell, who was traveling with a fellow group of wine connoisseurs. While at Waters Vineyards in Washington State, the owner poured everyone two glasses of white wine and asked them to identify what type they were. Bell sums up:

We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an unoaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room… that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature.

Now consider a test conducted at the suggestion of winery owner Robert Hodgson at the California State Fair wine competition. Essentially, the panels of 65-70 expert judges were given a huge variety of wines to rank as per usual. But what they were not told was that they were actually given each of the wines three times and from the same exact bottle.

After running this same experiment four consecutive years, what Hodgson found was that, to quote the paper published on the experiment, Only “about 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group.” In fact, he even found about 10% of the judges were so far off that they switched a Bronze rating to a Gold for the exact same wine from the exact same bottle.

In another study conducted by Hodgson, An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions, it was found that in the vast majority of cases, receiving a Gold medal at one wine competition had virtually no correlation to not just being ranked similarly at another competition, but in many cases that same wine scoring below average at other competitions.

As to what’s going on here, Hodgson sums up, “…there are individual expert tasters with exceptional abilities sitting alone who have a good sense, but when you sit 100 wines in front of them the task is beyond human ability.”

In yet another test, this one by Frenchman Frédéric Brochet in 2001, he found that simply changing the label of the same bottle of wine from an expensive well thought of type to a cheap one resulted in the 57 taste testers almost universally changed their tune on not just how they liked it, but various attributes about it.

In another experiment, Brochet also gave a similar panel a glass of white wine and a glass of red wine and gave them a list of common words used to describe white and red wines and told them to assign them appropriately to the two wines in front of them. It turns out the red wine was actually the same as the white wine except dyed red, and only a small percentage of the testers were able to accurately identify that both wines tasted the same in the descriptive words they chose to identify each wine. And, yes, contrary to what is almost universally stated, not all of the taste testers got it wrong.

Nevertheless, most did. While you may try to argue that perhaps the results ended up being different because the dye had an effect on the flavor, beyond that it was purported to be flavorless dye, we can at least be reasonably sure it didn’t drastically alter the taste to “jammy”, “spicy”, and “intense”, among other common terms wine professionals use to talk about red wines.

That said, important to note here is that while Brochet’s studies are often cited as definitively showing how bad wine experts are at judging wines, in this case that they can’t even tell the difference between red and white wines, that’s not what that study actually showed at all. Blindfold even amateur wine drinkers and legitimately give them a white and a red wine and they are going to likely do extremely well at telling the difference, as anyone whose drunk wine pretty much ever can attest. Rather, this test simply showed how easily our perception of things is influenced by suggestion.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Giphy

Just as importantly here, what literally every single source we could find not only leaves out when reporting this story, but in the vast majority of cases falsely states, is the actual qualifications of those being tested by Brochet. It turns out, the people he was using as taste testers were not experts at all, simply undergraduate students studying oenology (wine and wine making). While certainly probably more knowledgeable than your average person on the street, nobody would call an undergraduate mathematics major just learning the ropes a “math expert”, nor would their skills be indicative of what their professors who have vastly more experience and are actual experts are capable of doing.

Thus, how expert any of these students were at the point in their education when given these tests isn’t clear. What would be far more interesting and indicative is to give that same exact test to the world’s Master Sommeliers and see how they did. Presumably because they still have monkey brains like the rest of us, they would still perform poorly, but nobody yet has run that test that we could fine.

However they would do in such a scenario, what is undeniable is that study after study shows that our perception and expectation vastly influences our experiences, not just in wine tasting, but pretty much every facet of life.

As the Master Sommeliers demonstrate by passing the taste test they are subjected to in the first place, with enough time and study, there are actually people who are exceptionally good at identifying and judging attributes of wines in the right circumstances. But overwhelm there sense with 100 wines or change their expectations about what they are tasting and their perceptions will change significantly, seemingly, making them little better than a random person off the street at telling anything definitive about the wine.

And then when adding not just telling attributes about the wine, but also whether it is inexpensive to purchase or expensive, the whole thing is an effort in futility.

In the end, a hand crafted table might cost a lot more than one that is mass produced. But if they are made from more or less the same materials and the company mass producing them hasn’t chosen to cut any corners, the mass produced and often vastly cheaper table will in a lot of cases actually be objectively better, and certainly more consistently so, thanks to machined and automated precision. But that doesn’t stop people from appreciating and enjoying their hand crafted table more than the same basic table purchased from Ikea.

As with everything, you like what you like. Wine tasting is subjective and what about a given type appeals to you is really all that matters. If knowing you paid 0 for that glass enhances your experience, then great. For others buying several bottles of Two-Buck Chuck so they can enjoy many glasses with a large group of friends at a party may make that one all the more enjoyable. For others, the experience of attending wine events where various fancy wines are sampled and discussed more than makes them worth the extra cost and the trip. For yet others, even when sipping alone at home, the cheap wine that has had sugars added to make it a little sweeter might be their preferred cup of tea. As the old adage goes, “The only thing that matters with regard to a wine is whether or not you like it.”

Whatever your preferences, just don’t be a snob about it. Whether a wine connoisseur or not, I think we can all agree wine snobs are right up there with Grammar Nazis in two groups nobody at any expertise level likes, probably not even themselves.

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Three Fort Bragg soldiers were among those killed during an attack in Africa earlier this week.


The soldiers, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, were attacked while conducting an advise and assist mission in Niger on Oct. 4, according to the Pentagon.

A fourth soldier, who had been missing in Niger for two days, was found dead on Oct. 6, officials said. According to reports, several Nigerien troops were also killed or wounded.

News of the fourth soldier makes Oct. 4 the deadliest day for deployed Fort Bragg soldiers since July 14, 2010, when seven soldiers were killed in two incidents in Afghanistan.

Three of the slain American soldiers were identified Oct. 6 as Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. The fourth soldier had not been identified as of Oct. 6.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.

Two US service members were also wounded in the attack. They were evacuated in stable condition to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, officials said.

The attack on US and Nigerien forces occurred in southwest Niger, approximately 120 miles north of the capital of Niamey.

According to US Africa Command, which is based in Germany, the Special Forces soldiers were providing advice and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terrorism operations.

US troops have been in West Africa for years, bolstering the defense capabilities of partner nations while combating terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The 3rd Special Forces Group has played a large role in the region since 2015, when the group refocused its efforts to Africa after more than a decade of constant deployments to Afghanistan.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Boko Haram fighters. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A spokesman for US Army Special Operations Command said the incident is under investigation.

Black, a Special Forces medical sergeant, and Wright, a Special Forces engineer sergeant, were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Johnson, who served as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, was assigned to the Group Support Battalion.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with this soldier’s family as we mourn the loss of this dedicated Green Beret,” Lt. Col. David Painter, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, said Oct. 6. “Staff Sgt. Black is loved by so many in our battalion, and his life was spent in service to his family, his friends, his team, and his country.”

Painter said Wright was also an exceptional Green Beret, “a cherished teammate and devoted soldier.”

“Dustin’s service to 3rd Special Forces Group speaks to his level of dedication, courage, and commitment to something greater than himself,” Painter said. “We are focused on caring for the Wright family during this difficult period.”

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Green Berets. Photo courtesy of US Army.

Lt. Col. Megan Brogden, the commander of the Group Support Battalion, said Johnson was an exceptional soldier.

“We, as a nation, are fortunate to have men like Jeremiah,” she said. “He not only represented what we should all aspire to be, but he lived it. His loss is a great blow and he will be missed and mourned by this unit.”

Black enlisted in the Army in October 2009 and his awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge — Sharpshooter with Rifle.

Wright enlisted in July 2012. His awards and decorations include the Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, and Parachutist Badge.

Johnson enlisted in October 2007 and his awards and decorations include two Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, three Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Ribbon, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge — Expert with Pistol and Rifle.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Russell Martin.

According to reports, Nigerien military leaders said a patrol of defense and security forces and American partners were near the border of Mali when they were ambushed by a group with a dozen vehicles and about 20 motorcycles.

On Oct. 4, chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said this was the first time American forces had been killed and wounded in combat in Niger.

White and the director of the Joint Staff, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, briefed members of the media on the attack. They stressed that American troops were in a support role, but McKenzie said that role can be dangerous.

“I think clearly there’s risk for our forces in Niger,” he said.

McKenzie said efforts to combat violent extremists in Africa were part of a global campaign against terrorism.

He said that with success in other parts of the world — namely Iraq and Syria — it is inevitable that terrorists will seek out safe haven in other countries.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.

“They tried to go to Libya; it didn’t work out real well… And I don’t want to make Libya into a model success story, but they’ve been unable to establish themselves there,” McKenzie said.

The general said American forces would continue to work with forces in Niger and neighboring countries to increase their military capabilities and stop terrorists from taking root.

But he cautioned against concluding that the Niger attack showed a growing foothold for terrorist groups.

“I think that it does reflect the fact, though, that we’re having enormous success against the core, the very heart of this movement,” McKenzie said. “But we’re going to be operating across the surface of the entire globe, for quite a while to complete these operations. This is simply a manifestation of that.”

Neither White nor McKenzie would comment on the medical support available to the US troops, but 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers have previously prepared for deployments to Africa under the assumption that such support would not be close by.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Nigerien army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Skills learned in exercises in Flintlock can be used in the multinational fight against violent extremist organizations.

Their training in recent years has included trips to Duke University Medical Center and other medical facilities to learn techniques that can support them in austere environments away from modern medical centers.

McKenzie said the military was constantly evaluating the type of support deployed troops need.

“Anytime we deploy full forces globally, we will look very hard at the enablers that need to be in place in order to provide security for them,” he said. “And that ranges from the ability to pull them out if they are injured, to the ability to reinforce them at the point of a fight.”

In statements, elected leaders sent their condolences to the friends and families of the fallen soldiers.

Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, said the sacrifices of the three soldiers identified Oct. 6 would not be forgotten.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Senator Thom Tillis. Photo courtesy of WUNC.org

“This is a tragic reminder of the dangers facing our brave service members as they combat terrorism across the globe to keep our country safe,” he said.

Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican whose district includes Fort Bragg, said Fort Bragg and Special Forces communities were mourning for their comrades.

“We pray they feel God’s comfort and know we are standing with them and support them — always,” Hudson said. “These elite soldiers have served in the most dangerous corners of the world, always ready and willing to put country before self. We are grateful for their service and will strive to honor their sacrifice.”

The 3rd Special Forces Group has supplied a steady rotation of troops to Africa since 2015 and is also at the helm of a lieutenant colonel-level command based in North and West Africa.

The group’s soldiers are focused on a 12-nation area of operations that includes Libya, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

Advocate for missing troops learns that her own brother recovered
Nigerien service members react to contact during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Mar. 3, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.

Officials with the group have said the Special Forces soldiers are “all in” on the Africa mission and committed to helping partner nations solve problems, not only with terrorism, but also poaching, illegal drugs, and human trafficking.

Teams of Special Forces soldiers, known as Operational Detachment Alphas, or A-teams, often work closely with military partners as well as US Department of State and US AID, among others.

Earlier this year, Painter, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, told The Fayetteville Observer that the Africa mission was different from what the soldiers experienced in Afghanistan, but not without risks.

“It can potentially be equally as dangerous but much less known,” Painter said of working in Africa. “None of these are easy missions.”

Quoting Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, then-commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, Painter said “The US is not at war in Africa, but make no mistake, the Africans are in many places.”

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