Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Obesity is not only a health crisis for this country as a whole – it’s also deeply affecting the military’s mission readiness. The majority of young America is unfit to serve in the United States Armed Forces.

Major General Michael Hall (ret.) has watched in alarm as the negative impacts from the rise in obesity overtook the country as he served in the Air Force from 1968-1995. As rates continued to climb, he saw how simultaneously the military itself became less fit and there began to be less viable candidates for a critically important service.


“I think if you go to the overarching issue, 71 percent of our young people are not qualified to serve in the military. That begs the question, ‘If you aren’t qualified to serve in the military, why? And what else does that keep you from doing because the military is a very broad based workforce,”‘ Hall said. “Obesity is a significant part of the failure to qualify.”

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Although finding people able to serve is a struggle for the military, maintaining a fit and ready service is also becoming much more difficult. “Around a sixth of the military itself is obese so this problem doesn’t go away even if they were able to get into the military and then the epidemic continues to affect military readiness,” Hall explained.

In America’s military, obesity in its service members rose 73 percent from 2011 to 2015.

Quite literally, obesity is affecting our national security. When service members are unfit to deploy, there’s either a shortage in a unit causing safety concerns or it leads to continuous redeployments for others. Both outcomes impact the health and wellness of service members but also severely impact mission readiness as a whole.

It starts all the way at the beginning. Hall didn’t hold back as he addressed the true elephant in the room; the inability for a large portion of America’s children to get nutritious meals. “The bottom line is that there are many people in our society that don’t have ready access to nutritious meals,” he said.

In the 1960s and 1970s, only around 5 to 7 percent of children qualified as obese. Now, that number is around 17 percent, according to the American Psychological Association. Research has demonstrated that socioeconomic status plays a significant part in the rising rates of obesity in America. The CDC found that children within a household that had a higher education level and income had lower rates of obesity.

“It starts with awareness,” Hall said. “I think where we are right now is to help the broader population understand that there is a problem and that problem is being exacerbated.” It is his hope that communities will begin asking what they can do to tackle this issue and help young people not only develop good nutrition habits, but receive access to it as well – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

“I think we were in crisis before, that crisis has been a battle that over the past few years has stayed static… now we’ve got significant more challenge facing us,” Hall said. “We have to remember that there is a very fundamental societal health and service value associated with nutrition. All the programs put together to improve nutrition are stressed right now and unable to function as they were originally intended.”

With COVID-19 causing widespread quarantine-like policies to be put in place, it also means many children are losing their access to more nutritious food. Although states and communities have rallied to develop programs to get food to families in need, more needs to be done.

“I think a big part of this is that this message gets back to Congress, saying, look we are making a lot of choices now about what we support, but let’s not forget early childhood nutrition when we make these decisions,” Hall explained. “The lifecycle of the cost of obesity in America is huge.”

Obesity-related costs in this country skyrocketed to 7 billion in 2008. The Department of Defense spends id=”listicle-2647430404″.5 billion a year alone. Those who are active duty and obese are more likely to sustain injuries as well. In many cases, obesity starts with poor nutrition in childhood, leading to habits in adulthood that causes a catastrophic health domino effect. This epidemic is severely impacting the country’s health outcomes and its national security.

“I think that helps crystalize people’s thinking and understanding that this is a national challenge that also affects military readiness, but is far more than that,” Hall implored. “It’s important that people step back and look at this as a pandemic, a pandemic of obesity.”


MIGHTY TRENDING

This amazing short film shows the internal struggle that some veterans face

An American detainee wearing an orange jumpsuit with his hands bound resists questions from a sadistic, faceless interrogator. Faced with repeated torture and more questions, it’s only a matter of time before he cracks.


The scene is from a short film called “Prisoner of War,” released on Veterans Day 2015, and it shows the internal struggle that some combat veterans face after they take off the uniform.

“This is an emotionally charged short film that will leave a lot of people speechless,” Executive Producer Marty Skovlund, Jr. told The Havok Journal. “Thanks to the exceptional performance that Josh [Kelly] put on, as well as the creative genius of both director Matt Sanders and the director of photography Chris Koser, we have something here that will send shockwaves through the audience.”

To learn more about how to help veteran’s deal with the transition home, visit: http://gallantfew.org/

Intel

5 things about getting shot you probably didn’t know (even if you’ve been shot)

Some people go skydiving or do other extreme sports to get their adrenaline fix. Troops, on the other hand, get into gunfights. Celebrated war correspondent, Sebastian Junger nails this phenomenon in his 2014 Ted talk about why soldiers miss war.


Related: How to survive a gunfight (according to a drunk Green Beret)

While thrilling, the downside to any gunfight is getting shot. This video reveals five random facts about gunshot wounds you probably didn’t know. (For instance, did you know that women are more likely to survive than men? What does that do to your “women in combat” matrix?)

Watch:

Video: WatchMojo.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US will rewrite its rules for helmet cams in combat

U.S. military leaders are considering new guidelines for the use of helmet cameras on the battlefield after Islamic State-linked fighters in Niger exploited footage taken by a fallen American soldier to make a propaganda video that highlighted the killing of four U.S. forces.


Weeks after the deadly October 2017 ambush, people linked to the militants shopped around the grisly footage to news organizations. When few expressed interest, the insurgents added music and propaganda, made a short movie, and posted it online. Then it was written about in a number of news stories around the world.

The Islamic State group’s capitalization on its fortunate find after the northern Niger battle highlighted the risk for the U.S. military of its men and women using the popular mini-cameras on missions. Experts say military officials are likely to respond with tighter controls.

Also read: Nigeria just bought the JF-17 Thunder to blast Boko Haram

“The need for clear guidance on the use of cameras in operations was amplified by the ambush in Niger,” said Navy Capt. Jason Salata, spokesman for Special Operations Command, based in Florida. And U.S. Africa Command, which doesn’t have its own policy on the issue, is also doing a review to determine whether new guidelines are required, said Army Col. Mark Cheadle, spokesman for the command.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
The funeral of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 30, 2017. Black was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) on Fort Bragg, North Carolina when he died from wounds sustained during enemy contact in the country of Niger in West Africa, Oct. 4, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

The goal is to ensure commanders understand the risks when they authorize helmet cameras or other video to be recorded. One idea centers on security measures that would make it harder for enemies who get their hands on such footage to use it.

“I think they’re doing the right thing by saying, ‘Well, we can’t limit its usage, we’ve got to limit its vulnerabilities, things like encrypting them,'” said Spencer Meredith, associate professor of national security at the National Defense University. “So, how do we take something like a helmet cam, which is a vital tool for ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), for training, for mission analysis, for after-action reports and put limits on its vulnerabilities?”

Related: These combat camera vets return to train young troops

While some form of encryption would be the most likely approach, Meredith said, other technological fixes include ways to limit the battery life or otherwise make a device inoperable after a certain period of time. Other guidelines could address who can approve the use of helmet cameras and similar technology, and where and how they can be used.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Nigerien soldiers. (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher C. Klutts)

The commanders of U.S. forces in Africa and the Middle East will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2018.

The military’s increased usage of GoPros and other video cameras reflects their booming presence in our everyday lives. Such technology can deliver bird’s-eye views of skiers hurtling down the slopes, divers exploring the sea floor, breathtaking parasailing tours, and whitewater rafting. It takes no special training for amateurs to get in on the act.

But the technology’s penetration of the military over the years has been uneven. It was originally more prominent among special operations forces, but has since expanded to conventional troops as the cameras became more widespread and more commanders became convinced of their value.

More: This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

The benefits range from training to assistance on the battlefield. Troops often wear the cameras during drills as a way to hone skills, identify shortcomings, and work through various exercise scenarios. Once deployed, forces use them on missions, capturing film of enemy operations or gathering intelligence.

The video is generally stored on the camera, not live-streamed back to observers or commanders. It can be useful after a mission to review details, analyze enemy tactics, or to prove or rebut charges of abuse or civilian casualties. For example, U.S. forces have tried to use video to capture dangerous incidents involving Iranian or Russian aircraft or ships, hoping to document what happened in case complaints are challenged.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane, combat cameraman. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Combat camera photographs or video footage from training or military missions also are often released to the public or posted on Defense Department websites and social media accounts, after being declassified and cleared.

“The value is after the fact, when you’re analyzing it,” Meredith said. “Is there something that you missed, a person over here you may want to go back and talk to? It’s the after action report where it becomes useful.”

Rules on helmet camera use have lagged, however. Instead of having their own guidelines, such devices so far have been lumped in with other more general restrictions on photography and videotaping. These largely prohibit pornography or any unauthorized imagery of casualties, detainees, classified or sensitive equipment or locations, or intelligence gathering.

Related: Now commandos have a new camera to record their door-kicking exploits

But those rules were designed to address unrelated problems. After video surfaced of several Marines urinating on the bodies of enemy fighters in Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command in 2013 beefed up the photography and video regulations for troops deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas in the Middle East.

They stipulated troops can use videos for official purposes when collecting evidence or intelligence or on other missions that would be aided by recordings, if approved by an officer who is a lieutenant colonel or higher. In the Navy, that would be a commander or higher.

In the Niger mission, the team of American and Nigerien forces traveled to the last known location of a senior militant and sought to collect any remaining evidence. A helmet camera could be used appropriately in that type of mission.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President visited wounded service members at Walter Reed

President Donald Trump paid a holiday visit Dec. 21 to wounded service members at Walter Reed National Medical Center, hailing them as “some of the bravest people anywhere in the world.”


During his visit, the president awarded the Purple Heart to 1st Lt. Victor Prato of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, who was injured last month while deployed in Afghanistan.

Prato, 25, of Somers, New York, suffered multiple soft tissue injuries following a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device blast, according to the White House.

“One of the most powerful moments of my life watching @POTUS give the Purple Heart to this American Hero,” wrote press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter, where she posted a photo of Prato. “Amazed by the strength and resilience of the men and women in our Armed Forces.”

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Purple heart medals. USMC photo by Cpl. Sara A. Carter

Trump also met with other sick and injured service members from all branches of the armed forces, Sanders said.

Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House en route to the medical center that he was going to “say hello to some of the bravest people anywhere in the world.”

“We’re just going to wish them a merry Christmas, a happy New Year,” he said. “We love those people.”

Also Read: DARPA’s new bionic arm is now available for vets at Walter Reed — Video

The president last visited the military hospital complex in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, in April.

During that visit, he awarded a Purple Heart — his first — to an Army sergeant recently wounded in Afghanistan during what is now America’s longest war.

Trump is expected to return to the facility in the new year to undergo a physical.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s nukes are absolutely tiny compared to Russia’s

Here in the United States, we tend to think of nuclear weapons in much the same way we think of the space race and the Cold War: like a relic of a bygone era in which America emerged victorious. Unfortunately, that era isn’t quite as bygone as it seems: space defense is once again a topic of serious concern, America is once more at the precipice of an international arms race, and both China and Russia have unveiled massive new nuclear weapons in recent years.


America does still boast the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons on the planet, lagging just behind Russia who, like the Soviet Union, has always invested heavily in deterrence through guaranteeing Armageddon. The problem is, America has largely chosen to rest on its nuclear laurels since the fall of the Soviet Union, resulting in a significant difference between the nuclear tech in Uncle Sam’s arsenals and that of America’s most powerful competitors.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Russian Topol-M nuclear ICBM preparing for the annual Victory Day Parade.

(Vitaly V. Kuzmin via WikiMedia Commons)

The Air Force is currently on the hunt for the company that will build America’s next generation of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but until that contract has been completed, the U.S. will continue to rely on silo-launched Minuteman IIIs and submarine-launched Trident missiles, with yields of 475 and 100 kilotons respectively. These weapons are quite powerful, with the weaker trident producing an explosive yield more than six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the Minuteman III clocking in at nearly five times more powerful than even that.

However, despite all the carnage one could deliver with 475 kilotons of nuclear fury, America’s mighty Minuteman III missiles are not only far behind Russian and Chinese competitors in terms of technology and the ability to counter missile defense systems, they are woefully underpowered.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

These mushroom clouds represent the yields of each nuclear weapon.

(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)

China’s newest ICBM, the DF-31, for instance, boasts a massive 1 megaton yield, or 1,000 kilotons. That means China’s new 42-foot nuclear missile has more than twice the destructive power of America’s workhorse ICBMs. Powerful as the DF-31 may be, if you’re impressed by that, you haven’t looked in Russia’s inventory lately.

Russia’s massively powerful RS-28 Sarmat, or simply, the Satan II, carries a whopping 50 megaton nuclear warhead. For those who aren’t fond of arithmetic, that’s the equivalent of 50,000 kilotons and is so powerful that America’s Minuteman III missiles barely even register by comparison.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

America’s ICBM’s would barely be visible compared to the RS-28 Sarmat’s yield.

(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)

Like China’s DF-31, the RS-28 Sarmat could forgo the single large warhead for a group of smaller ones, but the reduction in yield would likely be offset by the distribution of the weapon’s payload: in short, multiple warheads can destroy a larger swath of territory than a single large warhead tends to.

Of course, with Russian officials claiming their doomsday-weapon nuclear torpedo carries a positively gigantic 100-megaton warhead, even the Satan II isn’t the biggest kid on the nuclear block.

Of course, the sheer destructive yield isn’t the only measure of a nation’s nuclear capabilities, but it does pay to maintain a healthy frame of reference when it comes to ways the world could end. After all, when it would take more than 105 American ICBMs to match the destructive power of just one Russian nuke… we should all be a little concerned.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks receives the 2016 Pat Tillman Award

Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks sat down with Army veteran Bryan Anderson from We Are The Mighty to talk about her journey through recovery from her injury in Iraq to eventually becoming a Paralympic swimmer.


After receiving this year’s Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYs, she spoke about the support she has received after her injury and the inspiration she hopes to provide others in their struggles.

If you’re hurting, whether it’s mental or emotional; if ever you think you’re alone, you’re not. If ever you think no one cares, I do. Please come join me behind the blocks.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the former Army Ranger and NFL star’s legacy.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 restaurants you’ve been dreaming of while deployed

The last month of deployment can either drag slowly on or fly by, depending on how you keep your mind busy. If you’re looking for an escape from the drudgery, keep yourself distracted. And there’s no better way to keep your mind off the present quite like imaging all of the food you’ll eat when you arrive stateside. America is the melting pot of all the world’s cultures, which also means we have the very best of the world’s cuisine.


I can guarantee you, based on personal experience, that the question of, “what’re you going to eat first?” will come up. If you’re looking to start the discussion off with a delectable imaginary dining experience, fantasize about the spots on this list:

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

‘Murica!

(Pinch Kitchen/Facebook)

Pinch Kitchen — Miami

Restaurants overseas never perfectly nail the taste of American cuisine — and I do not mean fast food (admittedly, foreign countries can’t get that right, either). If you’re lucky enough to be stationed in Florida, or you’re planning on using some of your post-deployment leave days down south, make sure to stop by Pinch Kitchen in Miami, Florida.

They take American classics and add a dash of this and that to really bring out the taste in the classic meals we love. Now, before people start saying that hamburgers and hotdogs are not American because they originated from Germany, I’ll say this: Just like we did to the moon, we put our flag on them and now they belong to us.

Two executive chefs, John Gallo and Rene Reyes, put every effort into ensuring the food is perfect, the ambiance is unpretentious, and the place is filled with all of our favorite beers.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

This is a piece of art that you’re encouraged to eat. What a concept.

(Delmonico Steakhouse)

Delmonico Steakhouse — Las Vegas

If Vegas is in your future, do not miss Delmonico Steakhouse. The genius in the kitchen is Emeril John Lagassé III who, as you might know, had his own show on the Food Network. This restaurant is more upscale, and I’d strongly recommend taking someone you’re more serious with than that stripper you just met thirty minutes ago.

Regardless, the filet mignon and other steaks here are so good you’ll wish you were exclusively carnivorous. Treat yourself to a quality meal because you’ve earned it. Vegas has buffets and deals around every corner, and there are plenty of comfort foods for after you have stumbled out of the casino (and almost married that stripper I told you not to take to the Steakhouse while successfully evading capture from the police and being black-out drunk). So, take some time to enjoy a meal that isn’t self-served, warrior.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

It’s a family restaurant… I swear!

(Twin Peaks, Front Burner Restaurants, LP.)

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks is a sports bar that started in Texas, but now has franchises all over the U.S. and is the primary competitor of Hooters. They serve beer at 29 degrees and have a made-from-scratch menu that includes American favorites, like burgers and nachos. It’s themed like a hunting lodge and goes to great lengths to put forth a degree of manliness, like offering “man-size” 22oz beers.

It’s a wholesome family restaurant with friendly waitresses that will make sure your table receives the attention a patron deserves. The themed events are fun and, sometimes, they have bikini car washes. The best part is that new franchises are opening every year so you won’t have to travel far if you’re lucky.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Worth every penny.

(Sushi Iki)

Sushi Iki — Los Angeles

Sushi Iki is in Los Angeles County, not the city itself. It’s in what the locals call “The Valley,” a barren wasteland of broken dreams. Just kidding — the Valley’s fine. It’s just really far from Hollywood, Santa Monica, or anything LA you’ve seen on television. However, don’t let the distance from your hotel deter you from this place; the sushi is legendary.

The variety of fish and shellfish served here can’t be found in just any sushi restaurant, and some are prepared so fresh that they were alive when you walked in the door. This is an expensive restaurant, but if you find yourself in L.A. this is one of those places you should not miss. Expect to pay around 0 per person for the full experience and for something modest.

Articles

The Russian military’s new assault rifle has passed its field tests

The AK-12 assault rifle has passed military field tests and meets all of the Russian armed forces’ design and operational standards, gunmaker Kalashnikov Concern says, according to Jane’s 360.


The AK-12’s success in military trials sets it up to become the standard weapon for soldiers in Russia’s Ratnik — or ‘Warrior’ — future weapon system.

Work on the AK-12 began in 2011 with the AK-200 as a base model. Kalashnikov Concern presented prototypes in early 2012, and the first generation of the weapon was also successful in military tests.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
The AK-400 prototype, off of which the AK-12 was based. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

However, according to Jane’s, the Russian military requested design alterations and wanted the new weapon to be cheaper to make. The company then produced the second-generation version of the weapon, using a 5.45 mm round with the AK-400 as its base model. The second-generation model also addressed issues regarding full-automatic fire.

The 5.45 mm AK-12 is being developed with the 7.62 mm AK-15 — both of which are to be teamed with the 5.45 mm RPK-16 light support weapon. The Russian military has also been testing A545 and A762 assault rifles — 5.45 mm and 7.62 mm, respectively — made by Kovrov Mechanical Works.

Both the AK-12 and the AK-15 keep some traditional Kalashnikov features and are compatible with magazines used by earlier versions of the AK-74 and the AKM rifles, according to Modern Firearms. The new weapons are designed to offer better accuracy in all conditions, can be fitted with add-ons like sighting equipment and bayonets, and can carry a 40 mm grenade launcher under the barrel.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
A right-side view of the final production model of the AK-12, which is based on the AK-400 prototype. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Arms experts have said the AK-12 is not a grand departure from the AK-74, which is the current standard weapon for the Russian military.

“There are improvements but very modest on the background of excessive expectations triggered by a media campaign,” Mikhail Degtyarev, editor-in-chief of Kalashnikov magazine, told Army Recognition in May, making specific mention of ergonomic improvements.

Nor do observers see the wholesale replacement of the AK-74 on the horizon, as that weapon is “a very successful design but … needs modernization,” military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told Army Recognition. “It is necessary to considerably improve combat engagement convenience, including ergonomics, and provide a possibility to mount additional devices.”

Alongside the AK-12/AK-15 package, Kalashnikov Concern has been working on an AK-74 upgrade that includes a folding and telescoping stock, rails for add-ons, and a more ergonomic fire selector and handgrip.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
The Russian military’s AK-74M in the field. Photo from Russian Defense Ministry.

The Russian military has been designing and testing a variety of futuristic gear for the Ratnik program over the past year.

That includes modernized body armor, bulletproof shields, tactical computers, and a helmet equipped with night vision and thermal-imaging devices.

According to Russian state-owned outlet RT, the country’s military has also debuted a combat suit with a “powered exoskeleton” that purportedly gives the wearer more strength and endurance, as well as high-tech body armor and a helmet and visor covering the entire face.

The suit, however, remains a few years from production, and it’s “unclear whether these type of suits will eventually make it to the battlefield,” Stratfor analyst Sim Tack told Business Insider in June.

The US military is also looking to make broad changes to parts of its arsenal as well. Congress appears to be on board with those moves.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sitting down with the author of Task Force Baum, a dramatic retelling of an ill-fated rescue mission during World War II

World War II was so large and all-encompassing that one could spend a lifetime researching and barely scratch the surface of stories to tell. James Shipman, Amazon best-selling author of several historical fiction books, knows this and has a knack for picking interesting stories from this timeframe.


His latest book, Task Force Baum, is no exception as it tells a not very well-known story from the waning days of the war. I conducted an interview with the author of the book so he can talk about his latest offering.

This interview has been lightly edited for formatting and presentation purposes.

Hi, James! Thanks for taking time to talk to us today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Hello. It is such an honor to be able to contribute to this site dedicated to our military and families. I’m a historical fiction author published by Kensington Publishing. I have five historical novels. My most recent title, Task Force Baum, is the subject of this interview. This book was published on November 26, 2019, and is available on Amazon.com, Barnes Noble, and other book sites. Hudson Booksellers, with stores in most of the airports in the United States, has a special paperback edition that is part of their great reads program.

As for me, I’m an attorney and mediator. I live in the Pacific Northwest, north of Seattle, with my wife and our blended family of seven (yes, that’s seven) kids. Most of them are away at college. I’m a lifelong student of history and the military. My books have covered the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the American Civil War, and my last three books have all taken place during World War II.

Given your occupation as a lawyer, what prompted you to choose historical fiction over mysteries and/or legal thrillers?

I have a degree in history. I constantly read history, particularly military history, and that’s what I have a passion for. When I write, I’m able to dig much deeper into the thoughts and experiences of the people I’m writing about. It’s a delightful process, and I love doing it. The last thing I want to do is write about the legal world. That would feel like I’m working twenty-four hours a day!

Could you briefly tell our readers a bit about the historical ‘Task Force Baum’ and what happened?

Task Force Baum was an unauthorized raid ordered by General Patton late in World War II. He sent three hundred men and a handful of tanks fifty miles behind enemy lines to liberate an officer’s POW camp. LTC Abrams wanted to send an entire Combat Command, but Patton overruled him. The raid was thrown together with no air support and limited intelligence concerning enemy strength, roads and bridges available, and the location and number of prisoners at the POW camp.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Coming close to the end of the war, this seemed like a rather obscure military action. When did you first hear of it, and what drew you to tell a dramatic version of this story?

I came across this reading, John Toland’s The Last 100 Days. I’d never heard of this raid before and decided I had to write a book about it. I was in the middle of another project, and I set that aside and wrote this book instead.

Reading this book, it really did not feel like a ‘war’ book as much as it felt like a book about the people fighting this war. Was this your intent?

Yes. I think the one advantage of historical fiction over narrative non-fiction is the chance to see and feel the events as they unfold, rather than just reporting them. I also like to place imperfect people into the story and see how they act and react as the story moves along. I do not take liberties with real people. For example, Major Alexander Stiller and Captain Abraham Baum are depicted as the brave and hard-working men they were in reality.

One thing I was surprised about was I came away thinking this book was as much about Hauptmann Richard Koehl of the Wehrmacht fighting the Americans as it was about the rescue mission. What were your thoughts on giving his story as much attention as you did?

I like to dig into the Germans as people. I think it’s a mistake to paint the Nazis as simple two-dimensional monsters. People are so much more complex than that. Some people are merely doing their duty. Others are acting one way and intending to do something entirely different. I’m sure members of your site who served overseas in wartime experienced that very thing when interacting with the communities and even the enemies they had to deal with.

What was one historical detail you learned in your research about Task Force Baum that surprised you?

I was surprised at how fiercely the Germans were still fighting on the Western Front in late March 1945. The narrative so often is that after the Bulge and particularly after we moved over the Rhein, German opposition collapsed, and the enemy focused on trying to hold back the Russians while surrendering to the English and the Americans.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

I noticed two of your previous works were set in World War II. Is there something about that era which speaks to you specifically as a writer?

World War II is fascinating because it is so easy to see this as an epic battle of survival between right and wrong. Germany in World War II was fighting a war of aggression and perpetuating a massive genocide. This also was the only modern war we’ve fought where our own nation was in significant jeopardy (although more from the Japanese than the Germans).

If there were one era of time and/or specific event you would like to write about, what is it? Why?

I’d like to interview some Vietnam veterans and write either a historical novel or a narrative non-fiction book about that conflict. There is some great work out there already about the Vietnam war, but compared to World War II, I think there is so much that hasn’t been covered.

Looking forward, could you share with us anything about your next project?

My next book, which will come out in December 2020, is about Irena Sendler. Irena Sendler was a social worker living in Warsaw, Poland, during World War II. She was the leader of a cell that smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto and hid them with Polish families during the Holocaust. Almost all of these children survived the war while their families were killed at Treblinka and Auschwitz.

Task Force Baum is now available for purchase with book retailers everywhere.

Articles

The actor who played “Scotty” on ‘Star Trek’ was shot six times on D-Day

Today I found out the actor who played “Scotty” on Star Trek, James Doohan, was shot six times storming Juno beach on D-Day.


Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Photo: Wikipedia

Doohan, a Canadian, after leading his men through a mine field on Juno beach and personally taking out two German snipers in the process, eventually took four rounds in one of his legs; one in his hand, which ultimately resulted in him losing his middle finger; and one in the chest.  The shot to the chest likely would have been fatal except that he had a silver cigarette case there, given to him by his brother, which deflected the bullet.  He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.

Ironically, the shots he took were not fired by the enemy, but rather by an overzealous Canadian gunman.  After his unit was secured in their position for the night, Doohan was crossing between command posts, when a Canadian gunman spotted him and opened fire.

Doohan originally joined the Canadian Forces at the age of 19, eventually being commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery.  D-Day was the first and last action he saw in the war.  After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action.  Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done.  This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force.

Bonus Facts:

  • As mentioned, contrary to what many people think, Doohan was not Scottish.  He was Canadian.  When he was auditioning for the role of the ship’s engineer, he went over various accents for Gene Roddenberry for the character.  After he finished, Roddenberry asked him which he liked best and he responded: “Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, all the world’s best engineers have been Scottish.”
  • Although he wasn’t Scottish, Doohan described the character of Scotty as: “99% James Doohan and 1% accent.”  “It was a natural. When I opened my mouth, there was Scotty.  Scotty is the closest to Jimmy Doohan that I’ve ever done.”
  • The name Montgomery Scott was chosen because Montgomery was Doohan’s middle name and the character was portrayed as Scottish.
  • Both the Klingon language and the Vulcan language were initially very crudely developed by Doohan.  Later, these languages were expanded and refined by professional linguists, primarily by Marc Okrand.
  • While great pains were taken in Star Trek to conceal the fact the Doohan was missing a middle finger, there are several episodes where this can be observed.  These include: Cat’s Paw; Day of the Dove; and The Lights of Zetar.  This can also be observed in a scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  In the former, it can be observed when he hands McCoy parts for the Transwarp Drive and in the latter when he’s holding a plastic bag dinner which was given to him by Lt. Uhura.
  • Doohan not only played the character Scotty in Star Trek, but also did the voice for many different parts including: The M-5 from The Ultimate Computer and Sargon from Return to Tomorrow, among many others.
  • Before landing the role as Scotty, Doohan did over 4000 radio shows and 400 TV shows in Canada and was particularly noted for his great versatility in voice acting.
  • Shortly before his death, Doohan was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, lung fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and, eventually, pneumonia.  His official cause of death was listed as pneumonia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Doohan was married three times in his life and fathered four children.  He met his final wife, Wende Braunberger, when she was just 17 and he was 54, marrying her very shortly after their first meeting.  The two had three children, the last in 2000, and remained married for 31 years until Doohan’s death in 2005 at the age of 85.
MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 in Japan is still losing dogfights to F-15s

The most expensive weapons system in history, the US’s F-35 Lightning II, is still sometimes losing to the 1970s F-15 in dogfights during training scenarios in Japan.

US Air Force F-15 pilot Capt. Brock McGehee, when asked by Defense News if the F-35s at Kadena Air Force base in Japan still sometimes lost to the Cold War-era fighters, said “I mean, sometimes.”


The F-35 has long been plagued by reports of that it can’t dogfight as well as older, much cheaper jets, despite being in development for nearly two decades and claiming to revolutionize air combat.

In 2015, War is Boring published a report from a test pilot that said the F-35 couldn’t turn or climb fast enough to keep up with older jets, and F-16s lugging heavy fuel tanks under wing still routinely trounced it.

But a lot has changed since 2015. The F-35 has had its software upgraded and the tactics refined.

Why the Cold War jets can still pull a win out — for now

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke previously told Business Insider that the older jets benefited from decades of development and training, whereby new pilots today have established best practices. As the F-35 is still in its early days, Berke said the best is yet to come.

In 2017, the F-35 dominated older jets with a ratio of 15 kills to one death.

“The biggest limitation for the F-35 is that pilots are not familiar with how to fly it. They try to fly the F-35 like their old airplane,” Berke said.

But the pilots at Kadena dogfighting against F-15s may be a cut above, according to Berke, who said that because they have never flown a legacy jet before, they won’t bring the bad habits with them, and will instead learn how to fly the F-35 like the unique plane it is. “They’re going to be your best, most effective tacticians,” Berke said.

F-35s at a major disadvantage to any legacy jet in a dogfight

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
(U.S. Air Force photo)

“The F-35 cannot out dogfight a Typhoon (or a Su-35), never in a million years,” Justin Bronk, a combat aircraft expert at the Royal United Services Institute, previously told Business Insider.

The reason why, according to Bronk and other experts on the F-35, is that the F-35 just isn’t a dogfighter. The F-35’s stealth design put heavy demands on the shape of the aircraft, which restricted it in some dimensions. As a result, it’s not the most dynamic jet the US could have possibly built, but it doesn’t have to be.

Instead, the F-35 relies on stealth. F-35s, employed correctly in battle, would score most of their kills with long range missiles fired from beyond visual range.

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth,” civilian F-16 pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote in 2016 after training on F-35 simulators.

A Top Gun pilot says dogfighting is dead anyway

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
(Photo courtesy of Dave Berke)

Berke, an alumnus of the US Navy’s famous Top Gun school, echoed Alpert’s assessment, but warned that the common perception of dogfighting was “way off,” and something US jets haven’t done in 40 years. Berke disagreed with Bronk’s “never in a million years” assertion, but maintained that the dogfighting issue was basically irrelevant.

The bottom line is that in training, all jets lose “sometimes.” That the F-35 can hold its own and beat a jet refined over four decades to excel exclusively at air-to-air combat — when the F-35 has been designed to fight, bomb, spy, and sneak — shows its tremendous range and potential.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

We’ve talked about British officer John “Mad Jack” Churchill before. He waded ashore on D-Day with his trademark Scottish claybeg sword, he killed at least one Nazi with his longbow, and he was an all-around BAMF having served in World War II, Israel, and Australia.

Today, we want to talk about that time he took approximately 42 German soldiers captive in World War II.


Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Churchill leads a simulated assault during training for the D-Day assaults.

(Imperial War Museum)

The insane capture took place in 1943 during the invasion of Italy. Churchill, then the commanding officer of Britain’s No. 2 Commando, had taken part in the capture of Sicily and then landed at Salerno with other British troops. He and his men fought for five straight days, grinding through mostly German defenders. They were even lauded for defending a rail and road hub from a determined counterattack at Vietri, Italy, until U.S. armored vehicles arrived to relieve them.

The commandos were granted a short rest and the time for showers and bathing, though they had to avoid enemy mortar fire while enjoying it. Even that rest was short-lived, though. They were serving in reserve for the U.S. 46th Infantry Division, and German forces managed to grab three hills overlooking the division area, imperiling the American forces.

So the British soldiers of No. 41 Commando and No. 2 Commando were sent in to secure two of the three hills in two attacks. Churchill, as the commander of No. 2, was in charge of that second attack.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Col. John “Mad Jack” Churchill after World War II.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

The logistics of the assault were daunting. The men would have to attack uphill across terraces covered in vines and rocky terrain at night while trying to flush out and engage the enemy. Typically, commando attacks at night like this are conducted as silent, stealthy raids. But Churchill decided to bring nearly all of his men, broken into six columns so each column could support those to either side of it.

Churchill himself marched just ahead, spaced evenly between the third and fourth column. To ensure the columns didn’t drift apart or accidentally maneuver against one another in the darkness, he ordered them to yell “Commando!” every five minutes.

For the German defenders in the darkness, this created a sort of stunning nightmare. First, they heard No. 41 Commando take the nearby hill under heavy artillery bombardment as night was falling. Then, as pure dark set in, an unknown number of assailants began churning their way through the vines and across the terraces below, yelling to each other every few minutes. Whenever the Brits found Germans, they’d open up with Tommy guns, rifle fire, and grenades.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Churchill examines a captured 75mm gun during World War II.

(Imperial War Museum)

It caused confusion in the German ranks, and the columns were able to take dozens of prisoners. Churchill, meanwhile, grabbed one of his corporals and went to hunt out those Germans still attempting to organize their defenses.

First, he and the corporal found an 81mm mortar crew and took them prisoner. Churchill led this attack with his trademark sword, a Scottish claybeg. Then, Churchill and the corporal began moving from position to position, grabbing all the German soldiers they could find. By the time the two men made it back to the rest of the commandos, they had taken over 40 Germans prisoner (Reports vary between 41 and 43, but the more authoritative books on the Salerno invasion typically agree on 42, so that’s the number we’re using.)

The rest of the commandos had grabbed plenty of prisoners, and the total for the night between No. 41 and No. 2 Commando was 135, more than the 46th had taken in the five previous days of fighting.

This was a big coup for the intelligence folks who suddenly had access to all these prisoners. More importantly, two of the hills over the 46th were now clear of potential attackers just hours after German forces had staged there to attack.

Churchill would fight through the rest of the war, earning new accolades despite being captured once in Italy and later in Yugoslavia. After World War II, he served in Palestine and then Australia before retiring from the military.