88°F
weather icon Clear

The fight to keep our troops comfortable, healthy and alive

Thank you for your service.

You’ve said that many times recently, and meant every word to every soldier.

Thank you for keeping us protected. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your sacrifice.

And once you’ve read “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War” by Mary Roach, you’ll also thank those who serve our servicemen and women.

Chickens are not ducks.

Nevertheless, chicken carcasses are what the U.S. Military uses to test its equipment to ensure that it’s safe from “birdstrike,” which describes those instances when flying bird (duck, goose, even starling) meets flying machine. Birdstrike kills more than just birds, so the military needs to know its equipment can handle feathered foes – therefore, it uses a “chicken gun” to shoot pullets, not bullets.

And that, says Mary Roach, “is most of what I have to say about guns.” Instead of focusing on artillery and battles in “Grunt,” she focuses on the fight to keep our troops comfortable, hydrated, healthy, and alive.

While it might seem easy, for instance, to outfit many thousand people in identical clothing, what our troops wear is a kind of weapon. The U.S. government hires fashion designers to develop uniforms that are weather-appropriate, as fireproof as possible, and that can repel chemicals. Even the buttons are tested extensively: “specifications,” says Roach, “run to twenty-two pages.”

As for the vehicles troops use for transport, Roach says that engineers must constantly modify them for the safety of our soldiers. That often means that Strykers carry up to five tons of extra protection on their frames, much of it tested on the cadavers of people who serve “without actually enlisting.”

Military scientists know how to protect the soldiers’ hearing, and other um, equipment farther below on the body; says Roach, “thanks… to the transgender community,” they know how to fix injuries there. Others strive to teach medics to think in the midst of chaos. They study diarrhea, sweat, bugs, stinky smells, and sharks. And they know that sleep is one of a military’s greatest defenses.

Camouflage is a familiar sight these days, and it’s usually worn by someone you thank for their service. For different reasons, the creators of camouflage deserve appreciation, too, as do others who keep soldiers safe. “Grunt” explains further.

Now, mind you, there are no vivid recreations of battles in this book, but author Mary Roach tells readers about the aftermath of battle. You won’t get specs on equipment, but she’ll tell you about how science has improved on the gear soldiers use. What you will get, however, is a curious-minded tour through the science of war and real, sometimes gruesome but always fascinating peeks far beyond the barracks.

And Roach does it with a delightfully lighthearted-yet- serious approach. Salute!

Supporting our troops is more than a verbal “thank you.” The surprise is that it also comes from laboratories, volunteers, manufacturers, and exhaustive research, and this book tells you how. If you love – or were! – a soldier you’ll want it, because missing “Grunt” would be a disservice.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in Wisconsin.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
IN SEASON: The time is now to plan your fall and winter annual vegetable garden

It may seem too early to be thinking about our fall and winter garden while we are in the thick of brutal summer temperatures, but cooler weather is just around the corner. By starting seeds indoors now, you can give yourself a head start on the fall and winter garden season.

CHUCK BAKER: Land, Land, but not an inch to spare

“Don’t Fence Me In” was a popular song in the 1940s. Some might say it could be today’s theme song for Nellis AFB. Between all the land held in Nevada by the local air base and the Bureau of Land Management, it appears that control over boundaries and borders will be with Silver State entities for quite some time. And not just in the south.

IN SEASON: Okra, a southern favorite for your western garden

Okra may be considered a staple crop in the American South, but it also grows very well in our hot dry climate. As a member of the mallow family, it puts on a stunning display of delicate yellow flowers.

Nevada celebrates Buffalo Soldiers Day for second year

The Second Annual Buffalo Soldiers Day in Nevada was celebrated Tuesday at an event hosted by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services honoring Nevada’s African-American veterans and the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Pahrump fall baseball meeting set for Aug. 4

There will be a mandatory fall club baseball meeting for 16-and-under and 18-and-under teams at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4 at Ian Deutch Field No. 1.

Musial is top winner at Pahrump Valley Tournament Bowling Club event

Charity Musial captured Division A of the Certified “Whoops” Singles, the Handicap Side Pot and the Scratch Side Pot, pocketing $125 to leave as the big winner at the Pahrump Valley Tournament Bowling Club’s July 25 event at the Pahrump Nugget Bowling Center.

Swain wins Shade Tree Open, teams with Jacobs at Firecracker in Pahrump

Bob Swain of Bullhead City, Arizona used an overwhelming edge in ringers to overcome a 54-point differential and go undefeated in Class A to win the Shade Tree Open horseshoes tournament on July 18 at Petrack Park in Pahrump.