Author Topic: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games  (Read 1448 times)

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Offline daftandbarmy

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The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« on: October 10, 2020, 12:12:07 »
The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games


Militaries around the world train regularly to ensure troops stay fit for combat, but for one army at least, the drills have become deadlier than the real deal. Between 2006 and 2020, accidents accounted for about 32 percent, or 5,605, of military deaths in the United States Armed Forces, twice the number killed in action. Elsewhere in the world, military training mishaps likewise make the headlines whenever they happen.

While the toll war games exacts on soldiers is well-documented and often well-publicised, less understood is their impact on people who live near military bases and training grounds. Given that armed forces continue to hold training exercises around the world, we would benefit from a better understanding of the potential impact of these practices on the physical and mental health on nearby populations.

My latest paper, “Military training exercises, pollution, and their consequences for health”, co-authored with Gustavo Bobonis and Leonardo Tovar, studies the effect of US Navy drills on the health of babies born in the Puerto Rican territory of Vieques. Bombing activity there led to short-term increases in water pollution, which has been linked to increased frequency of miscarriages and congenital anomalies. We found that the sudden end of bombing drills in July 2000 coincided with a 56 to 79 percent decrease in the incidence of congenital anomalies.

Bombing and babies

For the 60 years until 2001, Vieques, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, hosted a range of US Navy exercises including ship-to-shore gunfire, air-to-ground bombing by naval aircraft, and Marine amphibious landing. Military training and operations were conducted in the eastern end of Vieques, while the western end was used to store munitions. The island’s population of about 9,300 (as of 2010) live in the centre.

US naval operations in Vieques averaged between 180 and 250 days each year over the six decades. Shelling took place on 105 of those days. Every year, an estimated 3 to 14 million pounds of live ordnance were detonated within the live impact area, which encompassed about 3.6 square kilometres – a mere 12.5 kilometres from the residential population. The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) noted that the naval training in Vieques included the handling of the chemicals napalm and Agent Orange. In addition, over 250 rounds of ammunition tipped with depleted uranium were fired in 1999. According to a report by the US Department of Defense, biological weapons were tested in Vieques, but no further details of the operation have been publicly disclosed.

In 1999, the US Navy wound down its operations in Vieques after a civilian employee’s accidental death in a bombing mishap triggered mass protests from the island’s residents. The Navy briefly resumed target practise in 2000 but only using “practice” bombs and other non-explosive ordnance. Following a 2001 referendum in which most Vieques residents voted in favour of permanently ending naval activity, all military training exercises on the island officially ceased on 1 May 2003.

Our study focused on whether the abrupt end of naval practices in July 2000 had any short-term effect on infant health. We looked at monthly data on the amount of ordnance used the training exercises. From 1985 to 1999 – the period for which complete data is available from the US Navy – between 1,359 and 2,667 tonnes of ordnance were used in training exercises, of which 124 to 469 tonnes were high explosives.

We also obtained data on more than 805,000 births in Vieques and the rest of Puerto Rico between 1990 and 2003. The data contained information such as sex, month of conception, date of birth, gestation period, detection of congenital anomalies, the mother’s age and education level as well as where she was living at the time of delivery.



We found that the sudden halt in bombing practices was associated with a 7.7 per thousand decrease in the incidence of congenital anomalies, which translates to a 77 percent reduction relative to the baseline mean. There was also a 5.5 percentage point drop in the probability of female births. The latter finding is consistent with prior evidence that suggests male foetuses are more vulnerable to detrimental influences and therefore less likely to be delivered safely.

Toxic waters and bad vibrations

Water pollution, which has been linked to increased frequency of miscarriages and congenital malformations, is an obvious channel through which the war games at Vieques might have compromised islanders’ health. Between 1985 and 1999, official quarterly tests showed that the waters surrounding the live impact area contained, on average, levels of arsenic, cyanide, lead and other inorganic chemicals beyond safe limits. We found that a one standard deviation increase in average ordnance levels led to a 0.3 of a standard deviation increase in overall short-term pollution levels.

After military drills were halted in Vieques, ATSDR, the federal agency, tested groundwater, soil, air, as well as fish and shellfish at the island. The agency concluded that islanders had not been exposed to harmful levels of chemicals resulting from US Navy training activities. However, independent research studies have documented exposure of the population to higher levels of mercury, lead, copper and nickel than those recommended by the World Health Organization.

Research by Puerto Rican government and experts have highlighted the unusually high incidence rates of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in Vieques relative to the rest of Puerto Rico. And, in 1999, education officials reported that “vibrations caused by bombing practices shudder educational facilities, affecting the physical structure of buildings and interrupting classes”. They concluded that the noise and disruptions caused students anxiety and concern. Similar stress could have been suffered by pregnant women, who tended to be younger in Vieques compared to elsewhere in Puerto Rico, and were exposed to bombings for most of their lives. Higher prenatal stress levels have been associated with lower birth weight and premature births.

The cost of war (games)

The case of Vieques as a casualty of war games might just be one of many, considering that the US alone maintains some 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. Vieques, in other words, presents a scenario that offers more than enough reason to take the unintended impact of military drills seriously.

Our findings have important implications for both child policy and military policy. How healthy a baby is at birth will have repercussions on her education outcomes, employment and health in adulthood. If armed forces are to minimise the damage wrought by their exercises, it’s better to face up to reality than remain in denial. Just like studies about smoking eventually added up to enough evidence for governments to say, "We can't ignore this anymore", we hope our study will add to findings on military exercises that eventually compel armed forces around the world to change how they train.

One way to reduce the impact might be to stop using live ammunition. Drills will still be stressful to those who live nearby (as well as to troops themselves), but militaries could mitigate at least some of the environmental pollution by not using live ammunition. After all, the raison d’ être of armed forces is to defend, rather than kill.

https://knowledge.insead.edu/responsibility/the-all-too-real-consequences-of-military-war-games-15336
"Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men." Daniel Dravot

Offline tomahawk6

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2020, 18:33:01 »
Sounds like the author never served and might have an eco ax to grind.  Everyone here knows the inherent dangers in military service. Yes there are training deaths like the Marines suffered recently when a track sank with loss of a number of young men. During my service I witnessed a USAF aircraft crash due to pilot error, and I survived the crash of a helicoper again due to pilot error ,rotor wash kicking up snow . While mountaineering we lost a soldier when he fell 600 feet, he ignored his training guidance. Namely plan your route but if you cant move ahead, don't jump down on a ledge you just left due to crumbled rock or scree which would cause you to lose your footing. Rather summon assistance from other climbers and stay in place. In my experience training accidents are caused by human error and sometimes mechanical.

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2020, 19:21:20 »
Deleted
« Last Edit: October 10, 2020, 19:56:48 by FJAG »
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Offline tomahawk6

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2020, 21:45:31 »
Another trip down memory lane reminds me of weapons qualification with our venerable 45 cal pistol. We never fully loaded the magazine due to potential issues with the spring. I took aim and squeezed the trigger and all I felt was a slight recoil.I looked down at my feet and saw the bullet.The powder must have gotten damp so all the bullet did was roll out the barrel .  :rofl:

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2020, 08:42:31 »
Another trip down memory lane reminds me of weapons qualification with our venerable 45 cal pistol. We never fully loaded the magazine due to potential issues with the spring. I took aim and squeezed the trigger and all I felt was a slight recoil. I looked down at my feet and saw the bullet. The powder must have gotten damp so all the bullet did was roll out the barrel .  :rofl:
You could have also had a squib round where only the primer ignites and there is no powder in the casing.  You're lucky the bullet made it all the way out f the barrel before you fired the next shot.
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Offline tomahawk6

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2020, 11:34:43 »
I saw something with a 105mm howitzer. A battery was doing a live fire demonstration for some non-artillery types. A shell was removed from the back of the ammo truck and brought to the gun. The case was removed and the round  was attached to the base after a powder bag or two was removed the crew didnt want to overshoot the range.Then a soldier while moving the round to the gun dropped it.People started running. No point if it had exploded everyone would have been gone anyway. The round was picked up and the curious looked at the base. Fortunately the rock it had landed on didnt do so squarely  hence no ignition. ;D

Offline Old Sweat

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2020, 15:32:39 »
I saw something with a 105mm howitzer. A battery was doing a live fire demonstration for some non-artillery types. A shell was removed from the back of the ammo truck and brought to the gun. The case was removed and the round  was attached to the base after a powder bag or two was removed the crew didnt want to overshoot the range.Then a soldier while moving the round to the gun dropped it.People started running. No point if it had exploded everyone would have been gone anyway. The round was picked up and the curious looked at the base. Fortunately the rock it had landed on didnt do so squarely  hence no ignition. ;D

It wouldn't have been pretty, but the round would not have detonated. However, if the primer had been fairly struck, the propelling charge would have been ignited. The projectile would have been expelled and tossed a short distance. The fuze would not have been armed, so the round could not have detonated. However the propelling charge would have burned violently, producing a lot of flame and heat almost instantly, but only for a fairly short time. That would have been more than enough to cause major casualties and damage.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2020, 17:16:10 »
Paradoxically, in the UK, there are civilian pressure groups arguing for the retention of live firing, and other types of, training areas as they represent some of the last untouched habitat available for the preservation of a wide variety of flora and fauna.

'Untouched' meaning that no one is going to pave it over and build a mall or housing estate.
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Offline Colin P

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2020, 18:50:41 »
You could have also had a squib round where only the primer ignites and there is no powder in the casing.  You're lucky the bullet made it all the way out f the barrel before you fired the next shot.

I had a squib load with a round shotgun slug, amusing to see it plop out of the barrel and roll serenely towards the target.

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2020, 22:52:50 »
Paradoxically, in the UK, there are civilian pressure groups arguing for the retention of live firing, and other types of, training areas as they represent some of the last untouched habitat available for the preservation of a wide variety of flora and fauna.

'Untouched' meaning that no one is going to pave it over and build a mall or housing estate.

There are little skinks running around all over the Shilo impact areas, especially area C. They're quite a big deal apparently, Range Control asked us to report when and where we see them.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2020, 13:58:47 by Target Up »
Apparently, a "USUAL SUSPECT"

“In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility; but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favor'd rage.”

 Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and start slitting throats

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2020, 22:57:07 »
There are little skinks running around all over the Shilo impact areas, especially area C. They're quite a bid deal apparently Range Control asked us to report when and where we see them.

This is a skink for those who are wondering:



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Online Blackadder1916

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2020, 13:09:52 »
There are little skinks running around all over the Shilo impact areas, especially area C. They're quite a bid deal apparently, Range Control asked us to report when and where we see them.

And this is what government tree huggers environmentalists have to say.

https://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/plans/rs_prairie_skink_e_proposed.pdf
Quote
Recovery Strategy for the Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis) in Canada

Threat 6.2 War, Civil unrest, & military exercises

Military activities at CFB Shilo have been extensive since 1910. Tank and other vehicle
exercises at this site may increase habitat for Prairie Skinks by increasing the amount of
small patches of bare ground and litter as well as the cover of Blue Grama and
Carex spp. (McKernan 1984), improving opportunities for thermal shuttling by lizards to
optimize their opportunities for activity . This potential improvement of habitat for skinks
may be offset by areas of soil compaction. Creation and maintenance of fire guards are
necessary for fire suppression at the base, but here and at other sites within the range
of the Prairie Skink, fire guards (Threat 7.1) may enhance habitat heterogeneity.
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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2020, 15:14:25 »
Have to wonder if Stonehenge would be part of the amusing garden of some Saudi or Chinese multi billionaire if not for Salisbury Plain being right next door.

On the issue of reptiles etc on Canadian bases, another example is the hills and rocky tops at Vernon are known to have the odd PW Rattlesnake den. Any other place and they would be burned out by ranchers and paved over by developers. Not to say the buggers aren’t thriving (they aren’t) but there’s enough of them around to make a nuisance in certain places. Hard on the farm dogs too :(
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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2020, 15:48:51 »
Have to wonder if Stonehenge would be part of the amusing garden of some Saudi or Chinese multi billionaire if not for Salisbury Plain being right next door.

On the issue of reptiles etc on Canadian bases, another example is the hills and rocky tops at Vernon are known to have the odd PW Rattlesnake den. Any other place and they would be burned out by ranchers and paved over by developers. Not to say the buggers aren’t thriving (they aren’t) but there’s enough of them around to make a nuisance in certain places. Hard on the farm dogs too :(

There are still enough of them on the former ranges at Glenemma and Goose Lake on the OKIB land. Not common by any means, but they're up there. Commonage too, I believe and in Kal Park.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2020, 15:52:11 by Target Up »
Apparently, a "USUAL SUSPECT"

“In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility; but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favor'd rage.”

 Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and start slitting throats

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2020, 16:28:07 »
Meanwhile, at CFB Shilo...


CFB Shilo is a vitally important training base in Western Canada. The unique nature of this area has been recognized for almost a century, and with proper care and management will sustain military training for many decades to come. That military training at CFB Shilo, as well as with other military land holdings throughout Canada, has resulted in natural habitats that are relatively undisturbed and can support plant and wildlife communities in relatively pristine condition. Sherry will discuss the history of natural resource management and research at CFB Shilo and provide a glimpse into an area that is restricted to all except military personnel.

https://www.naturemanitoba.ca/discovery-evenings/cfb-shilo-history-natural-resource-monitoring
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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2020, 16:43:26 »
Have to wonder if Stonehenge would be part of the amusing garden of some Saudi or Chinese multi billionaire if not for Salisbury Plain being right next door.

On the issue of reptiles etc on Canadian bases, another example is the hills and rocky tops at Vernon are known to have the odd PW Rattlesnake den. Any other place and they would be burned out by ranchers and paved over by developers. Not to say the buggers aren’t thriving (they aren’t) but there’s enough of them around to make a nuisance in certain places. Hard on the farm dogs too :(

The Yakima Training Center in Washington is a particularly well known for rattlesnakes and an abundance of wildlife:

Quote
"It's a bit ironic that we have the Defense Department to thank for the two largest remaining parcels of shrub-steppe habitat and the largest undeveloped parcel in the Puget Sound region (Fort Lewis)," commented Mark Rector, a wildlife biologist studying bird species that are dependent on the shrub-steppe habitat.

Shrub-steppe in Washington is characterized by generally dry areas of sagebrush and bunchgrass inhabited by coyotes, rattlesnakes, deer, hawks, falcons, small birds, and in the spring, an array of colorful wildflowers. A person standing atop Umtanum Ridge can look over rolling hills and ridges and glimpse what the entire area east of the Cascades looked like when explorers and settlers crossed Washington hundreds of years ago.

As eastern Washington land has been converted from sagebrush to agricultural use, available natural habitat has decreased in size, and the remaining parcels are fragmented and often disturbed by other uses, such as grazing. This reduction in habitat has resulted in a corresponding decrease in native plant and wildlife populations. Consequently, the task of providing a habitat for a variety of species dependent on shrub-steppe habitat has fallen partially to the Army at its 510-square-mile Yakima Training Center.

https://www.djc.com/special/enviro96/10014157.htm

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2020, 13:01:32 »
Most of the big chunks of parks in Vancouver are thanks to the military, Stanley Park was a Military Reserve at one point, and Hasting Park started out as a Artillery Range. The UBC endowment lands also had a military connection as well.

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2020, 13:24:22 »
Goose Spit (part of CFB Comox) and Tree/Sandy Island to the south provide a home for the Sand Verbena, a low-lying dune-dwelling plant, which in turn is vital to the endangered Sand Verbena Moth.

https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk-registry/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=789

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Re: The All-Too-Real Consequences of Military War Games
« Reply #18 on: October 13, 2020, 13:27:07 »
Most of the big chunks of parks in Vancouver are thanks to the military, Stanley Park was a Military Reserve at one point, and Hasting Park started out as a Artillery Range. The UBC endowment lands also had a military connection as well.

Stanley Park still belongs to DND: it is on lease to Vancouver.  The City Council and park board have to be reminded of this after each election cycle, when they try to violate the terms of the lease...