Caffeinated jerky and Zapplesauce: Adding kick to the military’s tough-to-swallow MRE – The Washington Post

That’s right, an Army lab here is testing a beef jerky stick that looks and tastes just like your average Slim Jim but contains an equivalent of a cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine to give even the sleepiest soldier that up-and-at-’em boost.

via Caffeinated jerky and Zapplesauce: Adding kick to the military’s tough-to-swallow MRE – The Washington Post.

We’ve written about Zapplesauce before, but hadn’t heard about the caffeinated meat stick.

What’s Old is almost new again

The Marines face some challenges that the Army doesn’t. When it comes to vehicles and weapons, the fact that they routinely operate from amphibious shipping places extremely tight constraints on vehicle size and numbers.  Further, that amphibious basing means that as far as helicopters are concerned, they again face concrete constraints of the numbers available, and hence, the numbers of vehicles they can move by air. So for the Marines, saving weight and space is critical in a way that the Army rarely has to consider. While the Marines use an awful lot of equipment developed by the Army, there are times when they are forced to look out for themselves.  And while for the past decade, they’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan as almost a second army, the drawdown in those theaters means the Marines are returning to their amphibious, expeditionary “kick in the door” role.

Marine amphibious doctrine calls for landing the heavy elements of the force, such as tanks, amphibious tractors, truck and logistics over the beach by landing craft. To secure those beaches, helicopter borne light infantry troops would secure key terrain inland. But light infantry, while great for mobility, lack firepower, and without sufficient fire support are liable to be swept aside. The Marines were faced with the problem of moving a big enough force far enough inland to keep the beaches clear of enemy fires, and not having enough helicopters to move those same troops and any real firepower along. Moving heavy artillery forward wasn’t really an option, but what about a 120mm mortar? Decent range and a very powerful warhead were points in its favor. But even though it is much lighter than conventional artillery, it would still need a vehicle to serve as its prime mover and to carry ammunition.

The new MV-22 tilt-rotor is fast, but only when it is loaded with troops. If it has to sling load a vehicle beneath it, it can only fly as fast as any other helicopter.  But the primary light vehicle of the Marine Corps was the same HUMVEE used by the Army, and if you’ve ever seen a HUMVEE, you know they’re pretty wide. There was no way to get one to fit inside an MV-22.  And so the search began for the Internally Transportable Vehicle or ITV.

The initial development of the ITV (soon nicknamed the Growler) was actually inspired by, and featured components of, the HUMVEE’s predecessor, the M151 Ford MUTT (Multiple Purpose Tactical Truck). As the design evolved the MUTT components fell by the wayside. The ITV is an entirely new design, with all new components. But its pedigree is obvious to anyone who has seen a MUTT.


Growler ITV with towed 120mm mortar system

The ITV and its associated towed 120mm mortar system fit nicely into the cabin of an MV-22, meaning on bird can lift considerable firepower to support the infantry, and reach the objective at the same time.

There’s also a reconnaissance version of the ITV.


While the Growler doesn’t have any protection from small arms or IEDs, that is a risk the Marines are willing to take.  Better to have some mobility in the early days of a campaign, than no mobility at all. If up-armored HUMVEES and MRAPs are needed, follow-on echelons lifted by the Military Sealift Command will bring them in.

The development of the Growler was fairly protracted, taking about 10 years, and each vehicle costs about $180,000. Not exorbitant by military standards, but not cheap, either.

Of course, when the Army’s 82nd Airborne, 101st Air Assault and 10th Mountain divisions found themselves in the same pickle needing a lightweight prime mover that would fit nicely inside helicopters, they just went out and bought a bunch of John Deere Gator four-wheelers.

Happy Halloween!

I’m going as a couch potato.

When I was in Germany, I met my girlfriend at a company Halloween party.

I was wearing a garbage bag.

We dated for four years.

I’m kinda curious how long we would have dated if I’d worn a better costume.

Update from Roamy:


And no, I didn’t carve these.

Can’t leave out the zoomies.

Semper fi.

Guilty Pleasures

**covers face in shame**

I actually am enjoying “Bar Rescue” and “Restaurant Impossible.”

When I was stationed in Germany, AFRTS was the only English channel available, and it was awful. Friends and family would often send us VHS tapes of shows from the states. The best parts? Real commercials instead of PSAs reminding you not to beat your wife and kids, bounce checks or abandon your car.

Anyway, I love, LOVE crappy television.

What are your guilty pleasures?

The Wash Rack

When the Army buys a vehicle, they can reasonably expect a service life of 20 to 30 years.  The key to a vehicle lasting that long is intense and ongoing maintenance.  From the operator (that’s “driver” to you civilians) to depot or manufacturer levels, maintenance is an ongoing process. Sure, you’re familiar with things like changing the oil or rebuilding engines. But one of the most important things is also one of the most mundane. Washing the vehicle.

Now, when you wash your car, you usually concentrate on the finish.  In the Army, painted surface is pretty much the least important. Changing sheet metal is easy. It’s the running gear and suspension, and engine compartment that really need to be cleaned.

Army vehicles tend to get muddy. Very muddy. And tracked vehicles, especially, are great at getting incredibly viscous mud stuck in very hard to access places. 

When a unit return from the field, usually the first stop is the post “wash rack” and “bird bath.” Each installation has a special wash point. The wash rack serves two purposes. The first, obvious one, is to clean military vehicles. The second, less visible one is to ensure that contaminated, oily water is properly treated and that the run-off doesn’t contaminate either the soil or water supply.

The first step is to run the vehicle through the bird bath. The bird bath is much like a swimming pool with ramps at both ends. The water helps loosen some of the mud stuck in the running gear and suspension. In addition, fire hoses or monitors alongside are used to spray down the tracks and knock loose even more mud.

There’s usually only one birdbath, and a run through the bath isn’t enough to get the vehicles fully clean. So, there are usually about fifteen to twenty stalls where the actual hard work of washing a vehicle takes place. Usually these stalls or stations are equipped with one or two fire hoses or at a minimum, a heavy duty garden hose.  Where it takes an hour or so to wash your own car, it can take all day to get a tracked vehicle clean, inside and out. It’s simply astonishing how much much can accumulate between the tracks and the hull of a Bradley or a tank and just how resistant it is to being dislodged. You have to get down on your hands and knees and dig around in there to get every last little bit. And you have to do it not just because the army wants clean vehicles, but because that mud, left in place, would eventually infiltrate and destroy the seals that keep the suspension’s lubricants in. Dirt also hides other fluid leaks from the engine and transmission.

It’s not so bad washing a track in the summer. But washing a track in the winter… not so fun. Dismounts in mech infantry units like to bitch about how easy the track crews have it, but they sure seem to disappear when it comes time to wash a track in freezing weather.

It used to be each battalion motor pool had its own small washrack. Most still have them, but the restrictions due to possible oil contamination in the water have rendered them pretty much off limits.

Resistance: When the Nazis took Wales, new film about Britain’s secret underground army | Mail Online

Autumn, 1944: Russia has fallen, the D-Day landings have failed and the German Wehrmacht has invaded Britain. The country is now under enemy occupation. Panzer divisions and columns of Nazi troops sweep westwards, striking fear into a demoralised nation whose forces lie decimated across the shell-pocked landscape of mainland Europe.

In a remote valley in the Black Mountains of Wales, farmers’ wives awake to discover that the men of the village have vanished during the night. Like women across Britain, they silently suspect their husbands, brothers and sons have melted away to join the Resistance, whose members are hiding out in the hills and woods, awaiting the inevitable arrival of German troops.

via Resistance: When the Nazis took Wales, new film about Britain’s secret underground army | Mail Online.

In an age when the US is fighting counterinsurgencies, this looks like it might be an interesting film.