Let’s Play Army-Marine Juxtaposition

OK, let’s start with a story from Army Basic Training. An official story from Army.mil, no less.

A bedtime snack for basic trainees? Nutrition experts with the Military Health System say it’s not coddling; it’s a way to make sure the nutritional needs of new recruits are met, preventing injury today and promoting healthy warfighters tomorrow. The problem is many recruits arrive with poor vitamin D status, which might make their bones vulnerable, leading to fractures and subsequent high dropout rates.

“Stress fractures occur after unaccustomed activities or overuse, such as wearing boots or carrying heavy loads — common during basic training,” said James McClung, Ph.D., deputy chief of the Military Nutrition Division at the U.S. Army’s Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts. “Up to 18 percent of recruits suffer from these stress fractures. Women beginning training with poor vitamin D status are particularly vulnerable.”

McClung said about 60 percent who suffer these types of injuries end up dropping out of the military altogether, and those injured who make it through can suffer long-term health effects. A new fortified snack bar developed at Natick boosts calcium and vitamin D levels, making trainees less vulnerable to the fractures.

“Our test soldiers eat these bars each evening,” he said, “and we are seeing marked improvements in their nutritional status and their bone health. An added benefit may be better performance during physical training before the next morning’s breakfast.” McClung said eating the bars reinforces education for choosing the right foods and learning when to consume them for the best performance.

On the one hand, they’re tuckin’ ’em in with a chocolaty licky-chewy these days in Army Basic. Lord love a duck.

Perhaps with smoke breaks gone, they can introduce… recess?

On the other hand, the docs argue that when they tried to provide nutritional supplements in their native state, recruits wouldn’t ingest the nasty stuff. The only way to get Recruits Joe Tentpeg and Jane Snuffy to choke the stuff down was to wrap it in chocolate, disguising it as something edible.

Then again, on the gripping hand, if there’s an organization on the planet that could make chocolate unappetizing, it’s the Army. Look at that package again, especially its distinctive [adjective] brown color. Yes, the Army can wreck chocolate. Anyone remember John Wayne Bars?

Now, if you’ve read this far, and you’re a Marine, you’re gloating at the soft, coddled doggies who don’t go to a real man’s boot camp that puts hair on your chest (which is, incidentally, why women Marines have uniforms with high collars). But wait: here’s another story, from the very same source:

Best practices for training: Marine drill instructors review Army training methods

Can the Lean Mean Marine Performance Bar be far off?

Enjoy your chocolate, kids. And get off our lawn.

44 thoughts on “Let’s Play Army-Marine Juxtaposition

  1. LFMayor

    Sunlight is needed for D synthesis? I’d consider that as a greater contributor in today’s youth than simple raw intake.

    And hey boss, the snacks are pretty nice but the REAL deal breaker would be the coed showers ala the otherwise horrible screen version of Starship Troopers. If that goes down I dont care how bad off I might be, I’ll slap some olive drab rattle can on my hover-round and roll to MEPS at best speed.

  2. turtle

    I remember c rats in Germany in the late 70’s they were way old, but if you were hungry you ate them in graf.

    1. Gray

      I remember C’s in RVN.

      The greenish eggs in an eventual chow hall were much better.

  3. William O. B'Livion

    When I were a young marine (80s) we were *specifically* dissallowed from drinking milk during the first phase of basic training.

    Milk, if you’ve not been paying attention, is “fortified” with vitamin D.

    Ooops.

    Frankly it *does* make sense to feed 18 to 22 year old man-boys something high in protein after a day of hard physical work. If I were the one setting it up I would have them drink 16 ounces of protein shake. Made with milk or milk substitute for the leaner recruits, and water for the fat body types.

    As to “… the docs argue that when they tried to provide nutritional supplements in their native state, recruits wouldn’t ingest the nasty stuff. ”

    Someones are CLEARLY not understanding what boot camp is about. You will drink your swill, and you will drink it all RIGHT NOW. Then brush your fangs and get in your rack.

    1. DSM

      Seriously. Nothing makes you question the life choices that brought you there more than having someone watch you take a pill and then making you open wide to show you actually swallowed it. Flavor, or at least a palatable taste, may be the objective but functional and value added is the threshold for this task. If the standard is to consume it then it will happen. Period.

      If there’s bona fide, peer reviewed science behind it I don’t have a particular problem with it at face value other than their somewhat silly and touchy-freely execution of it.

  4. 11B-Mailclerk

    I actually -liked- the John Wayne C-Rat chocolate.

    But for the truly screwed up “chocolate”, look at those WW2 “D Ration” things. Rations designed to not taste good, that -started- with chocolate.

    How many General Officers does it take to screw up chocolate?

  5. Mike_C

    >Yes, the Army can wreck chocolate.
    Could be worse. At least they aren’t pushing carob as “just like chocolate, only better for you!” As was claimed by some (invited) visiting hippies at my elementary school so many years ago. (I grew up in a college town.) The carob they brought in to pass around tasted horrible. Then again, the home-made “granola” they proudly distributed (out of a burlap sack, yet) had tree twigs in it, so maybe it was the particular hippies in question and not the carob. But just to be safe I’ve avoided carob (and tree twigs) ever since.

    Scientific American has it right when they note that “Carob is an ingredient that you only seem to run into in health food stores—or in the ‘healthy foods’ aisle of the regular grocery store. ” Meaning it’s a hairshirt, virtue-signalling food. Carob is to chocolate as Bacobits(TM) is to bacon.

  6. bloke_from_ohio

    I remember my comrades bitching about the need for bed time snacks during training in 2007. If I recall it came up at least three times when when the IG came by to check on us and then at least once later when wen he gave a mass briefing to the entire encampment. To his credit they guy just giggled at us and drove on.

    I did not get it then and I don’t get it now. But, the same guys who were complaining about “insufficient nutrition” also whined about needing “rest days” so they could maximize their “gainz.” They also complained about the instructors harassing other people during meal time too. I guess these guys could not just ignore angry noises and shovel food into their faces like trainees have done since time immemorial.

    It was silly. We were not running around the boonies with heavy packs on half an MRE a week or anything. We were just doing push ups, sit ups, some track work, and marching “up and down the square”.

    1. 11B-Mailclerk

      My OSUT platoon includdd a couple of bodybuilder/surfer dudes from California, who enlisted to “get ripped”.

      Oh, how they snivelled!

      All their protein powders and supplement pills were confiscated on Day One. (Think “Cheech n Chong” suitcase full of pills and powders….)

      When they found out they had to eat the same food ass the rest of us… hilarity! “But I need to eat -protein-!!” (That did not go over well…). And later: “Who wants this juice? …. for your eggs!” (Field only, DFAC was silent for trainees.)

      They eventually graduated, doing a decent job. But oh, how they snivelled!

      “Dude! That recruiter said we could get ripped here! That our stuff was cool! He -lied-!!!!” (This was said for the umteenth time shortly before -graduation-…)

      1. 11B-Mailclerk

        ..ahem.. “as”

        For some reason my keyboard is double-tapping “s”. Bad enough -my- normal Manglish typing…

  7. Desertrat

    How many newbes going into the military have a background of physical labor, outdoors? Or were active in sports, outdoors? Indoor living with TV and Internet doesn’t prepare one for heavy lifting and strenuous activity.

    It’s a different world from when I was drafted, sixty-four years ago.

    1. Jorge

      It might just be my own skewed samples, but damn near every combat arms guy I’ve run into from the GWOT seems to get out of service with disability from bad knees, back, or both. A ton of one-term guys with those problems. It could be that the combat load is just beyond the abilities of normal humans for any extended period, or it could be the lack of 10+ years of hard physical labor and exercise to strengthen bones and tendons.

      1. Kirk

        ^^This^^

        I really don’t have a problem with them doing the supplemental ration thing, provided that the whole thing is validated through testing.

        There’s an awful lot we don’t know about what should be going on in training; if I remember right, they only recently started taking a look at the whole “Ranger School weight loss” phenomenon, and taking steps to ensure that they weren’t doing more damage than they wanted to. I know guys who came back from Ranger School looking like they’d just done a tour as a prisoner at Bergen-Belsen, and it took them a couple of years to get back to pre-Ranger School fitness again. One of them never really did, and I suspect that played a role in his early medical retirement.

        Some of this stuff reminds me of the old “water discipline” BS they used to espouse and enforce, thinking that you could somehow train a reduced necessity for water into a human being; I think we all know how well that worked, and what the current guidance is on water intake for training and survival situations.

        I’d really like the Army to start doing some longitudinal studies on health and fitness, to see what actually works vs. what is “old soldier’s tales”. Maybe a lot of what we think is true isn’t, and even if it is, it would be nice if we could substantiate a lot of what we’re doing because “that’s how it’s always been done”.

      2. Gray

        And, tendons/connective tissue does not grow/strengthen at the same rate as muscle.

        The weakest link always fails.

        1. Kirk

          I kinda wonder if we shouldn’t be doing a longer, more scientific training regimen to compensate for the “couch potato” generation. Spending time up front might save money later on, when it comes to long-term care for careerists, retirees, and those who break under load.

          Although, I do have to also acknowledge that the whole thing is really bizarrely spotty, in terms of being at all predictable–I had one young lady working for me who was a soccer star from the peewee leagues forward, and who was a long-distance runner in high school. Her body just flat-out broke under load, and she blew out both her knees over the time she was assigned to the HHC of a Combat Engineer battalion that insisted on everyone keeping up with standards. Meanwhile, one of her peers whose only experience of hard physical training or work before the Army was walking from her car to the mall…? She was ‘effing bulletproof. Go figure.

          I’d like to know what goes into all this stuff, and I don’t see the institution really trying to get a handle on it. I remain convinced that we ought to be doing longitudinal studies, from recruitment to retirement and beyond, which would look at seeing whether or not we can reliably predict ahead of time what body types and mental/physical traits make for the most economical service to the taxpayer, and figuring out who needs to be tracked over into the less stressful career fields.

          I really don’t think anyone is served well by the current laissez faire system we’ve got going. Especially the enlisted troops and the taxpayers–I’d wager good money that the primary victims of the whole “Combat Barbie” BS are going to be the young women themselves, and the taxpayers who are gonna get raped to pay for their medical care and disability payments.

      3. A.B. Prosper

        1st this is a civilian opinion only.

        Its all of these.

        Also generation single mom (40% of kids are from single parent households though i suppose some of these might be widows or single dads too) probably isn’t as nourished as previous post war generations and ares less likely to be playing contact sports or getting as much exercise

        And forget farm kids as a source. The military get a lot of them but less than 3% of the entire US population is in agriculture.The culture is vastly more urban, suburban and more sedentary

        By doing this the military is being proactive

        last load weight, of course its too much. We’ve known what the maximum safe load for long term is since what the 50’s ? , its 1/3 of body weight. Assuming a big guy that’s 60 pounds.

        Just the body armor would be half that load, throw in an M4, a knife , ammo and the basics and your maxed out

        Loading down guys with a hundred or a hundred and twenty pounds is ridiculous and will ruin any normal persons knees or back over time. We haven’t figured out how to cheat bio-mechanics yet.

      4. jim h

        I think it’s telling that there aren’t nearly as many torso and arm related injuries as there are lower body ones. speaking as a member of your sample, Jorge, I think there’s something else at play here that folks aren’t taking into account as well: specifically, the terrain contributes a lot to the problems, as well as the way the load is distributed. let me elaborate a bit: I’ve been IN and MI, and am now a peace officer. my knees, ankles, and lower back are shot. some of it is certainly related to the extraordinary demands of combat, sure. some of it is certainly attributable to being combat wounded. some of it is training related. but I honestly believe that a lot of it is terrain related.

        I think of Iraq in particular, as I cant speak to the stan, having never gone there. the desert floor there is HARD, like cement with a ton of dust on it. no give at all, like with sand, grass, or the type of dirt you see a lot in the western world. pounding on that with normal boots and gear is bad enough, but add a full combat load and introduce stressors like sudden bursts of necessary speed under load, and the shock absorbers are gonna get some wear and tear. what is good for ankle support is not necessarily going to provide the cushion to absorb the blows of a full sized body carrying a ton of equipment on patrol. and even under the best packed gear, it’s not going to be distributed evenly across the frame of the body. in a similar vein, even the most physically good specimens of policing develop lower back and knee problems, often for the same reasons. you go pounding along on hard substrate with a heavy belt and some sort of armor, you may be safe(r) from external threats, but the internal damage is going to be done over time.

        good genes certainly play into it as well, but I really do believe that a lot of this is related to carrying around a bunch of imperfectly distributed weight on really hard substrates, then subjecting those specific joints to stress and shock. soldiers, football players, cops. all suffer a lot of the same problems. these guys are all studs at the beginning of their respective careers, but time, age, and type of duty have a long term impact. no pun intended. I’d be interested to know if there is a study out there for the claims of lower extremity injury in the 1981-2001 time frame vs that of 2001-present.

        thoughts?

  8. Aesop

    “Up to 18 percent of recruits suffer from these stress fractures. Women beginning training with poor vitamin D status are particularly vulnerable.”

    A few relevant observations and suppositions:

    The key phrase “up to” is an advertising weasel word group, because the mathematical value of “up to” in this instance is 0-18 per cent, inclusive. So, anyone, tell me about your last poll with an 18 percentage point margin-of-error. With a straight face, sil vous plait.

    Given Big Green’s bent (and it is bent), I’ma go way out on a nub of a limb and dare to suggest that, broken down by sex, (exactly as the recruits are, so to speak), that the average for male recruits is about 3% who are Vit. D deficient, and the average for Combat Barbie Bn hovers around 20 to 60%; whatever it takes to get the entire overall average to 18%.

    So by tarring the small percentage of 98# Charles Atlas/Audie Murphy/Steve Rogers before serum injection male recruits with the same brush, TPTB have found a way to introduce another rabbit-up-the-sleeve (in this case, one roughly the size of Elwood P. Dowd’s friend Harvey) booster step into the training regimen for the Barbie Bn, while the audience is watching eyes agog, and the magician is wearing naught but a wrestling singlet.

    Because that’s how Big Green rolls, going back some good time.

    The precedent having been set, they will then be free to observe that “up to” 18 percent of recruits (once again, 3% of men, and 30% of women) can’t do a pull-up or push-up, and thereby substitute doing jazz hands choreography while listening to show tunes, as a functional PRT/PFT equivalent fitness test. (This will simultaneously be a boon to the Fabulous Recruits, who already know the choreography, and the lyrics to most of the show tunes in question).

    Next, “up to” 50% of recruits have trouble with the mathematical and spatial sections of the ASVAB, (5% men, and 90% of women), so then will begin the hue and cry to make the vocational predictors for the mechanical and mathematical aptitude testing for MOS specialties dumbed down, because Diversity Is Our Strength. (Never mind that the sub’s reactor piping is now connected bassackwards, and vents to the mess deck. Niggling details of the male patriarchy.)

    Were it otherwise, the answer from Mssr. B’Livion, above, is the schoolhouse answer to any alleged “Vitamin D deficiency in boot camp”, going back in an unbroken chain historically to about Day Two under Baron von Steuben:
    You will drink your swill, and you will drink it all RIGHT NOW. Then brush your fangs and get in your rack.
    And with the addition of
    According to Col. Peckerchecker, we need to get you cupcakes plenty of Vitamin D, so tomorrow we’re going to be playing outside all mother-loving day long. You will like it, and you will have fun. Everybody drops; everybody fights. Prepare to sleep: Sleep!

  9. Jeb

    As someone else mentioned above, the Army has been doing something similar for several years now.

    I went through Fort Jackson in early 2011 and we had an evening formation in which we did basically the same thing. We had to fill up and then subsequently chug a full 1QT of water. After that, we were given a Kashi granola bar and a paper cup of fake Gatorade to drink.

    I don’t know that it helped or hurt anything. If anything, it was something that we made fun of as trainees. The only downside for us was that we would occasionally get smoked after chugging the canteen full of water. That usually turned out the way that one would imagine.

  10. GunnyGene

    Weren’t no “coddling” at MCRD Lejuene in ’63. Our senior DI was a WWII & Korea combat vet, and had no patience for the kind of crap you see in the services these days. Nor did I, when I did a DI tour at Sandy Eggo in the late 60’s when I got back from that fun place in S.E Asia.

  11. Bill Robbins

    “Performance Readiness Bar” sounds like some kind of male-enhancement snack. I suppose that females could also use the bar, once the packaging is removed. In that case, as the saying goes, “the chocolate melts in your hands, not your mouth.”

  12. Sabrina Chase

    As a confirmed chocoholic, what they are doing to the Food of the Gods should, in a just world, constitute a war crime. Don’t abuse it, give it to a loving home! Like mine.

    I confess some curiosity as to how effective Vitamin D ingested during boot will assist with preventing bone fractures during boot. Generally you have to build up strong bones *prior* to stressing the everloving hell out of them—but presumably this is all getting written up on someone’s Snake Abatement Report and checks off a box somewhere as having Done Something.

    1. Kirk

      Supposedly, there’s a lot of bone growth going on due to stress during basic, so I suppose that supplemental nutrition to ensure that the right nutrients are there would be a good thing.

      What’s really irritating is that you would think that by this point, all of this would have been reduced to more of a science, vs. the artisanal approach we have, passed down via word-of-mouth from drill sergeant to drill sergeant…

      But, here again, we run into the classic US Army phenomenon of the practitioner vs. the administrator not working together. Much of what we do in Basic training is stuff that the NCO cadre learned worked through observation, and those silly, petty traditions are there for a reason. Unfortunately, the NCO corps in the US Army is not an entity that does very well at quantifying and documenting things in a manner that the college-educated administrative/managerial types can digest, and so we have the officers intervening to “change things” at the behest of civilians or their own ideas, which leads to the reduced quality and relevance of the training conducted…

      If there’s really a Great Divorce between the civil and the military world here in the US, there is also a “Minor Divorce” between the practitioner-level leadership, and the administrator/managerial staff–And, it’s usually due to the inability of the practitioners to put things into terms and framing that the officers can digest. I found myself having to serve as a de facto translator to the commissioned side of the house more often than I like to remember, and it all came down to being able to express things in terms and framing that they’d understand–i.e., it’s not “hazing”, it’s a “peer-bonding initiation ritual”.

      1. Paul from Canada

        The whole PT and fitness standards thing needs to be put on a more scientific basis. What do soldiers actually need to do? The Brits found out in the Falklands, that how fast you can run a mile and a half and how many pushups you can do has fuck-all to do with how well you can fight and how much weight you can ruck, and for how long.

        The South Africans and Israelis did a lot of work on this, given that even their SF was going to have some conscripts in it (even if they ultimately were volunteers). The South Africans were particularly surprised given the culture of high-school sports and rugby, just how few young men in the population had the required joint and tendon strength to succeed in SF. The doctors and scientist had to explain to the generals that it didn’t matter if you added a pre-training phase, to try and get the number of successful candidates up, even six months wouldn’t be enough. We are definitely getting weaker on average as a result of our modern lifestyle.

        1. Kirk

          In some respects, it can be argued that the modern soldier is far and away in better shape than his ancestors, given the kind of crap that shows up in the old records covering what they rejected in terms of human material–The general health and nutrition of today’s population is exponentially better than the old days. But… I think that the issue is arguable whether those accepted for military service today are actually better material for soldiering.

          Now, that sounds contradictory as hell, but consider: A healthy, physically fit, and well-fed teenage male from the era before widespread automotive and couch-potato days was probably better suited to the abuses heaped upon soldiers than today’s relative hothouse flowers. Work-hardened bone, stronger tendon and muscle attachments to the bones, and a whole host of other things play into what may arguably imply that those old-timers were better suited physically for soldiering.

          What we really don’t know, because nobody is bothering to look at it, is how all this looks longitudinally over the course of a career in the forces. I dare someone to ask the question: “Hey, just how much does it cost us, from recruitment through to death, for a female soldier vs. a male one?”. If you go by what I’ve seen anecdotally, the taxpayer is getting ass-raped in terms of actual duty-days performed by the girls, because the majority of them filling out these jobs near the combat arms are spending an awful lot more time than the boys in the sick and injured column on the morning report. And, I further suspect that they are going to cost us a small fortune in disability pay and medical retirements, later on.

          I may be a complete asshole, but I really think we ought to be at least trying to track all this shit from recruiting through to retirement, and asking some questions like “Does it pay to put a guy built like a football blocker into the airborne and SF community? Is it cost-effective to allow munchkins to enlist as combat engineers, where they are going to get broken an awful lot…?”.

          Just about every SF/Ranger/SOCOM guy I know who stuck things out for a full career is are guys I’d describe as “small and wiry”. The big dudes, like me? They’ve all got medical records that look like the LA phonebook, and a bunch of them wound up reclassed into support jobs after getting broken doing something cool and high-speed. That datum tells me that maybe, just maybe, we ought to be looking at why that is–The only guy I ever met who spent the majority of his career jumping out of airplanes and doing stuff in Rangers, SF, and SOCOM in general without getting a significant disability upon retirement was about 5’9″ tall and maybe a 160lbs soaking wet. Everybody else that was combat arms, around the time I retired? LOL… Dude, the lowest rating any of us got was around 60%. The support guys who were retiring were all bitching about not getting any kind of rating from the VA, but none of us who were combat arms had that little problem–‘Cept that one guy I mention. Someone needs to go back and figure out how the hell he did that, and see if there isn’t something about him that we can’t learn from.

          1. Paul from Canada

            Something you notice again and again when reading SAS soldier biographies, are commentaries related to the cultural differences between US and Brit SF. The Brits always mention how much bigger and how many more muscle-heads there are in US SF, and how counter-productive that is for a lot of the physical activity related to SF work. As you said, the tough wiry little guy does better in the type of endurance work than the big guy.

            From “The Quiet Soldier” (about selection for 21 SAS), …asked during the graduation party if the staff can tell ahead of time who will make it…..

            …”yes, we put them (your photos) on a big sheet of cardboard. I’ve got a black pen and we cross off every face that will fail….I can even tell when some of them will go…He’ll fail on weekend four…he’ll fail on Long Drag….You escaped the black pen, but Samson was a surprise. We thought he’d fail. Most muscle men do.”

            As to the health of previous generations, absolutely! I have a book on archeology done on Custer’s men based on skeletal remains from Little Bighorn. 24 year olds cripled with arthritis, stunted growth, tooth abcesses, and so on. Go to any museum and look at original uniforms from Napoleonic times. They look like they were made for children. I have a book about junior British officers in WWI, and one of the reasons young middle and upper class school kids made effective officers is that they were bigger, taller, healthier and fitter than most of their men due to malnutrition and industrial poverty.

            On the other hand, I grew up in Africa, and seeing a woman who gave birth in the morning, back in the field farming that afternoon despite a likely history of malaria, malnutrition, and a parasite load that would freak out any westerner, is something else.

            Bigger, healthier, and better nourished is not the same as tougher.

          2. Hognose Post author

            Actually, SF guys are more likely to be wiry than beefy. As a Tom Clancy nonfiction book put it, (my recollection), “there are no Stallones or Schwarzeneggers, but you do run into Chuck Norrises.” Quarterbacks, not linemen (American/Canadian football).

            Muscle is not generally a problem for health. Core strength is as important as endurance. And on a team, you want to have guys with different capabilities. Everybody’s a marathon finisher, but some days you need the marathon winner; everyone can bench his weight but some times you need to bench more than that. All depends. (I was the wiry distance runner guy, which is kind of a laugh if you see me now).

          3. Hartley

            When I was running around under that bit of rifle-green felt, I was tall (6′ 2″) and skinny (came out of TG at 175 lb). Never broke anything, though I did screw up a knee in ski training and punctured an eardrum at Camp Mackall (the only thing in my med records when I left). My observation was that the somewhat skinnier guys (shorter and skinnier was best except for ski mountaineering) had the best all-round endurance. I knew guys who could seemingly bench an M151, but when out rucking around, they were always at the back with their tongues hanging out. The ultra-skinny sprinters were the same. On the other hand, the weight-lifters were very popular when violence broke out at the club.

  13. DaveP

    When the English found that sailors needed to drink lime juice, they mixed it with rum and made grog. When they found that the troops needed quinine to prevent malaria, they created the G&T.
    Take a lesson from the English, whose empire once spanned the world. If the troops need medicine, make a mixed drink of it and they’ll line up to take it.

    1. bloke_from_ohio

      The Royal Navy stopped serving Grog sometime in 1970’s if I recall. But, the outfit they used to buy the stuff from still makes rum in the original vats. It is delicious and portions of the profits go to the Royal Navy’s charity and support fund.

      Grog rations themselves evolved from the beer rations that predate them. At some point it became cheaper to give the Sailors rum than beer. The British could produce rum in Barbados for almost nothing and it was easier to use the local stuff than to ship booze from home. At some point they started cutting it with water, both to make it go further and to reduce the impact of drunkenness (a long time obsession of military commanders both at sea and on land). Some very silly traditions rose up from Sailors attempting to subvert the new rules. Stuff like never washing cups and so on. When they Admiralty discovered that citrus fruit seemed to counteract scurvy, they added lime juice.

      At the time nobody actually knew what in the fruit was actually the remedy. We now know it was a vitamin deficiency, but they had no idea. A contemporary theory pointed to the acid in the juice.

      They were close, but not quite right. It would have worked better to just give the Sailors the limes themselves since they would get a better “dose” from the flesh of the fruit than from juice sitting in a copper carafe for weeks or months at a time.

      Based on later experience in the artic it was found that chomping down on seals pretty worked pretty well too, but those are hard to come by in the Caribbean. But the same practice helps keep the Inuits from suffering from scurvy in an environment without any appreciable plant life, let alone lime trees.

      I cannot speak to the efficiency of using SEAL meat to stave off scurvy. I assume that since frogmen are still men, the cultural aversion to cannibalism has been an impediment to formal testing. The cost of training a SEAL just to eat them is also quite high even for our bloated R&D budgets. Maybe BoatGuy can help us out…

      1. DaveP.

        …Or go to Amazon and order a copy of “Lobscouse and Spotted Dog”, and get their grog recipe and much more besides.

        1. Paul from Canada

          …”Lobscouse and Spotted Dog” . Thanks for the reminder, I have been meaning to get this for ages. There is also a European music label that has a series of albums of all of the classical music played in the books, and all of the sea shanties as well.

      2. Paul from Canada

        Doesn’t have to be seal (or SEAL, though I imagine SEAL would be very tough and stringy, not enough fat), any red meat, so long as it is fresh. Proved by experiments and actual practice by Nansen, Amundsen and others

  14. Mike_C

    > longitudinal studies on health and fitness, to see what actually works vs. what is “old soldier’s tales”. Maybe a lot of what we think is true isn’t
    THIS. Sometimes “common sense” isn’t, either. Example: There’s a landmark study in cardiology called CAST (Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial). The TL;DR is that among people who’ve had a heart attack (post-MI; myocardial infarction) having excess premature heartbeats (VPD, ventricular premature depolarization) is associated with greater chance of dying due to arrhythmia. Not surprisingly, someone hypothesized that giving drugs to suppress VPDs could save lives in the post-MI patient group. Well, turned out that you can indeed get rid of VPDs (in some people at least) via oral medications, but unexpectedly, the post-MI patients who no longer had VPDs (because of the drugs you gave them) were MORE likely to die from arrhythmia.

    There’s undoubtedly all kinds of “huh, that sounds reasonable” stuff we do that turns out to be dumb and possibly dangerous shit. But we’ve never examined it in a scientific way. Hell, look at what they used to do in long-distance running (as in marathoning) a century ago: drinking water during the event was bad, but reviving yourself with a gulp of brandy or a dose of strychnine (not a typo!) made perfect sense.

    >curiosity as to how effective Vitamin D ingested during boot will assist with preventing bone fractures during boot.
    Bone is outside of my area of expertise, but I suspect that there is extensive and rapid skeletal remodeling and adaptation going on during basic. Oh, as a caveat, one thing that even I know is that bone density alone is not going to be a good measurement of “skeletal fitness”. Bone is a living tissue with complex microstructure that is constantly being built up and broken down by osteoblasts and osteoclasts, respectively. If you just increase density (say by suppressing the osteoclasts that break down bone) then you can indeed get heavier, denser bone, but the microstructure isn’t right, and it can actually be more liable to fracture than less dense bone. Rapid remodeling happens all over: for the heart, it remodels itself in the order of weeks or less. Chamber sizes increase, wall thicknesses change to handle the increased volume and pressure loads of endurance and resistance exercise. A study in a winning Olympic crew (rowing) team showed decreases in left ventricular end-diastolic volume (LVEDV, maximal size of the main/systemic pumping chamber) of about 30-35% in a mere 3-4 weeks after the last competition (IIRC the team medalled and they all slacked off afterwards). This also happens in nonelite regular schlubs such as your humble correspondent, BTW. When I was a runner my LVEDV was 135 ml by cardiac MRI (most accurate noninvasive method). Then I messed up my knee and got lazy. A year later I had another cardiac MRI and my LVEDV was about 105 ml or so. (My volume status was similar; heart rate was a little faster — say low 70’s vs ~60/min — but not enough difference in filling time to account for 30 ml, for you physiology geeks out there. Oh, for the cardiac MRI geeks — both gradient-echo/turboFLASH scans, not current bSSFP sequences; non-geeks: sequence used impacts the measured volume.)

    Anyway, the point of all that being that regular people adapt (and de-adapt so to speak) to what might be a surprising degree under controlled physiologic stress. The key of course, is to determine the boundaries between controlled/positive-adaptation level stress, and harmful, break-em down stress. Which is what we were all talking about in the first place. So an open general question: we probably CAN do a better job, in future, of determining how much stress a particular individual can tolerate (say based on some practical testing, genetic profile, and profiling in general). Fine and good if you can afford a trainer, etc. What works for a large group of varied recruits? Do you set the bar for the lowest? Set a higher bar knowing that some will fail/break? What is most practical overall yet not intolerably injurious to those on the left side of the curve?

  15. Paul from Canada

    Anyway, the point of all that being that regular people adapt (and de-adapt so to speak) to what might be a surprising degree under controlled physiologic stress. The key of course, is to determine the boundaries between controlled/positive-adaptation level stress, and harmful, break-em down stress…

    ^
    THIS!

    There is a fascinating chapter in Peter Stiff’s “The Silent War” about South African SF training and selection, which talks about the scientific research done in conjunction with University sports medicine departments to try and tailor training and selection to maximize the number of candidates that would pass, and to extend the length of useful service of serving operators (i.e. prevent or fix, or at least minimize the inevitable knee problems).

  16. Patrick Trudeau

    I read the article and most of the comments and all I have to say is this:

    ”(which is, incidentally, why women Marines have uniforms with high collars)”

    This made me giggle much, much louder than it should have.

    Keep up the good work

    1. Aesop

      Yes, but the problem our gentle host doesn’t address, probably due to unfamiliarity firsthand, is that for half of them, the collars need to go up to the peak of the scalp, and for the other half, the primary malfunction is to get them to keep their uniforms on at all.

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