Unit 11: GRUNT Reading Response

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Throughout the book, the Roach explores the contributions of individuals in the scientific community to the general health and well-being of military personnel. She considers discoveries made during conflicts as far back in American history as the Civil War, drawing clear connections between the scientists working then and those working in the aftermath of American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As she explores this side of the relationship between science and the military, she deepens the book’s consideration of the central theme   — the idea that scientific research can lead to, benefit from, and be defined by heroic, sometimes self-sacrificing actions in the same way as military service.

Should we think about scientists as soldiers on the front lines of wars with disease, environmental decline, and a deeper understanding of the universe? If so, shouldn't we (as a nation) be allocating resources toward this pursuit?   Where does scientific research and discovery line up with other national priorities?

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31 thoughts on “Unit 11: GRUNT Reading Response

  1. Victoria Murdock

    I think we should consider scientist to be on the front line during wars and with considering various contractible diseases. I say that this should be a thing, speaking as a military wife. Our men are constantly traveling in and out of country after country and we aren’t always aware of what they are susceptible to what they can contract. If scientist could gather resources to actually come up with sound resources and propose a vaccine that will be effective for them against all harmful diseases we would.

      1. Victoria Murdock

        Yes he does, quite often he’s called home being on a training exercise with a very bad virus that he doesn’t know how he’s contracted it. This last time he and his unit went for training A LOT of the soldiers got some type of nasty bacteria infection from the water source that was provided to them.

        1. Briana Shaffer

          I heard about that happening. It all comes down to field sanitation as well. Some units don’t even have field sanitation personelle assigned with that extra duty. I’ve seen so many violations in the field were latrines were too close to the KP or food prep area and sleep areas were unsuitable. The “crud” would go around and it simply usually came down to bad hygiene. I would always bring a triple pack of clorox wipes and constantly wipe down phones laptops mouses and common items because if the entire tent got sick it killed productivity and focus. I think what I found interesting in the text is when the way foodbourbe illnesses hook into your intestines and how sometimes they can be dormant for a bit before making someone sick. Like you said earlier your husband comes back sick. What if he brings something bad from across the world!

    1. Jessica Hernandez

      I agree with you on the idea that our soldiers are really the scientist since they are really the front line of it all.

  2. Olive Hager

    If scientific research and development was allocated even half the funding that the military receives, we probably could’ve cured cancer years ago. However, I don’t think that scientists should be compared to soldiers. I believe that science is an incredibly important front that should get more support, but there usually isn’t a lot of physical danger associated with it nowadays. If scientists are being careful with their experiments, they shouldn’t be exposed to pathogens or any other real harm. That’s what the rats and cadavers are for.

    1. Miranda Jackovich

      I think you made great valid points, especially when it comes to how funding is handled by the military. However I don’t believe that if scientists are being ‘careful’ with their experiments that they are necessarily safe. There is so much of this planet we don’t understand, such as the ocean. The universe is so grand that it doesn’t matter the precautions we take, it’s vast and unknown. We are all humans that are at the mercy of nature. Do you think if scientists worked more with the military, issues such as funding for medical problems could be solved faster? Over all great ideas!

  3. Miranda Jackovich

    Scientists can definitely be considered as soldiers, their line of work puts them at risk of the unknown. The issue doesn’t fall under if we should give resources and funding for their research but how much is available. Over the years scientist and doctors have made progression when it comes to wounded soldiers. Unfortunately resources are usually limited due to funding, donors, and time. “Madoff surmised that military budgeteers might have an additional concern. A widow who uses a dead veteran’s banked sperm may be creating not just a baby but a government beneficiary.” (Roach 99) Many different circumstances we wish could be available such as having banked sperm for soldiers. The amount of funding that would go towards a project like that could be used to save a soldier’s appendages and life. It would be beneficial to have a budget team with not only military but the best doctors and scientist who know what’s the most important in saving life’s.

    1. Jerry Carroll

      I like how you use a line from the reading to help get your point across, and I also agree with using the resources to treat a soldier.

    2. Ashley Bolyard

      I love how you mention how scientist put themselves at risk of unknowns. In my opinion, that is another good example of why scientists can be considered soldiers. Scientist are leading the way into unknown territory in attempt to better civilization.

  4. Rebekah Ulrich

    Personally, yes I think we should think of scientists of men on the front line. Scientists know more about the parasites and diseases that can harm us, developing new vaccines and susceptible gear for soldiers. They have a deeper understanding of the universe and the environmental decline and know best at what steps and strides the nation together can take to slow the process and stop it all together. Scientists are magicians at allocating resources and turning nothing into something. As a nation, yes we should be contributing resources to this pursuit. Many scientists are highly overshadowed by their peers in the field as well and we cant let that happen. The more minds we have sharing and forming ideas and new discoveries, the more resourceful it can be. And scientists not only being overshadowed by their peers, it seems to be that scientific research and discovery is not high on the priority list and with the way things have been going for the nation there might need to be for a change.

  5. Lane Ito

    Chapters five through ten of Grunt did not have many topics which appealed to me like how Chapter Three used earplugs as its primary focus. While I found moderately interesting topics like heat stroke in Chapter Seven, and stink bombs in Chapter Ten, my least favorite topics include diarrhea in Chapter Eight and genital surgery in Chapter Five. However, the Chapters that appealed to me the most were Chapters Six and Nine.

    “On removing the clothing from the wounded part, much was my surprise to see the wound filled with thousands and thousands of maggots… The sight was very disgusting and measures were taken hurriedly to wash out those abominable looking creatures. Then the wounds were irrigated with normal salt solution and the most remarkable picture was presented. … these wounds were filled with the most beautiful pink granulation tissue that one could imagine (pg. 169, paragraph 4).”

    “Baer was impressed that the soldiers had no fever or signs of gangrene. The morality rate from the type of injuries the men had-compound fractures and large, open wounds-was about 75 percent with “the best of medical and surgical care that the Army and Navy could provide.” In 1928, a decade after the war had ended. Baer summoned his courage and experimented on civilians (pg. 170, paragraph 1).”

    “Hospital staff are less charmed. “A lot of doctors and nurses find it repulsive,” Armstrong told me. Colonel Pete Weina, former director of the Complex Wound and Limb Salvage Center at WRAIR and now the chief of research programs agrees. Around 2009, Weina had a William Baer moment. “I had a patient who’d passed out in an alley and flies had come by and laid eggs in his wound. The nurses were all, “Oh my God, this is terrible, get the maggots out of there!” Recalling what he’d read about the blowfly larvae’s talent for debridement, Weina improvised a cage dressing to keep them from straying and left them in. The wounds healed nicely, but Weina backed away from the practice. “The hospital was pretty much grossed out by what I was doing (pg. 177, paragraph 1).”

    I knew maggots fed on rotting meat or animal dung, but I never would have guessed maggots (fly larvae) were used for treating infected wounds. Additionally, reading how the maggots’ feeding on the infected flesh leaves behind a clean pink tissue slate was an appealing result. However, I was displeased with how some doctors viewed this method as “gross,” and “primitive” compared to modern technology. However, on the battlefield, medics need to use whatever resources are available in order to help wounded soldiers.

    “Under a torn leg, Caezar wears a simulated skin sleeve-silicone encrusted with mock gore and plaster bone fragments. A simulated severed artery will bleed via a small pump connected to three liters of house-brand special effects blood that Caezar wears in a concealed backpack, a sort of CamelBak for vampires. The flow is controlled by a wireless remote, so it can be stopped or slowed or allowed to continue unabated, depending on how completely the corpsman has placed the tourniquet (pg. 107, paragraph 2).”

    “Presently the needle finds its mark, an occlusive bandage is applied, and the role-player is loaded onto a stretcher. Baker picks up the stretcher’s front handles without alerting the trainee at the other end, causing the patient and the $57,000 Cut Suit to tumble onto the ground (pg. 110, paragraph 2).”

    “The corpsman trainee working on Caezar is having difficulty with the tourniquet. Like Baker, he’s a fine fumbling example of the downside of an adrenaline rush. An instructor puts his head through the doorway. “What are you doing in here, [censored] organ transplant? Let’s go! (pg. 111, paragraph 3)”

    Personally, I do not like visual effects from war movies, especially massive bloodshed, and open wounds, but the battlefield simulations in Chapter Six provided emphasis on real life warfare. First, the backpack worn by Caezar to simulate a severed artery reminded me of the bloodshed from the movie Saving Private Ryan. Second, I understand the simulations can be very stressful, and the stress can result in trainee medics having occasional slip-ups. Finally, the sentence where the instructor swears in his sentence is similar to a drill sergeant giving orders to trainees. I do not like using swear words in my daily language, and find it offense when others use swear words in public and media.

    This set of chapters contained topics that held my interest, yet most were not as applicable to my daily life as earplugs. At this time, a career in medicine does not appear to be in my future. The war simulations in Chapter Six are supposed to show the trainees of the horror and brutality of war, and give them a taste of the struggles ahead. Additionally, while some doctors were disgusted by the maggot treatment in Chapter 9, maggots and other insects which eat carrion are essential to their ecosystems, because this behavior returns nutrients to the soil, and helps nourish the plants, which restarts food chains. I hope the next set of chapters provides more interesting subjects like the maggots and simulations.

    1. Briana Shaffer

      I throughly enjoyed the chapter on dierreah because I feel like anyone who has ever served has been there squatting in the woods, happy to have worn tall socks. I was laughing during the chapter discussing how they simulated a “live environment” for the corpsmans because I can relate to that level of panic and just sheer fight or flight. The only chapter I had trouble with was when they were talking about the penis transplant how the doctor wouldn’t take the testes just in case legal issues come up for the dead guys sperm children. So far I really am enjoying this book and am probably gonna but a few copies to gift to some of my friends who served or are still active.

  6. Jerry Carroll

    I think that scientists can defiintely be soldiers, and that it would help a lot with the in the field training. The scientests would have a better understanding of what is going on and how to treat the illnesses. This can also help advance the science and health industry for all of the military.
    As far as the recources go, it would be hard to predict exactly what is needed and what will happen. Sending resources where they are not needed can end up being a waste and costing a lot of money.

    1. Seth Packer

      It’s true that sending resources where they are not needed is a waste. but isn’t that half the point of this book? If we did the proper research to know exactly what kind of body armor or clothing was going to be the most efficient for both regulating body temperature and protecting one from blasts and gun fire then we could prevent so much waste; not just in regards to supplies and money, but also in regard to human lives.

  7. Briana Shaffer

    Personally I think we have gained a lot of knowledge from the past years of war. Like explained in the book, knowledge is growing on extreme transplants and the possibility of transplanting a head on a human body being questioned is a huge advancement. Looking at field sanitation as
    mentioned in the text as well, that’s how they realized filth
    flies were the mechanical vector in foodbourbe illnesses a lot of these lessons kickstarted a trail of thought that leads to more development and research.

    I don’t think this is a priority or even a first thought in a lot of people’s minds because just like the guy interviews in the cafeteria said in Mary roach’s book Grunt said “you go. Worry about it later” only maybe people don’t worry about it later. I remember one of my NCOs telling me a horror story of putting down a towel in the middle of the cots where everyone was sleeping because she woke up suddenly and realized she wouldn’t make it to the bathroom. So she had to have an “accident” in the towel. She blamed the local food from outside the wire. She is an interrogator for the Army.

    I never thought about half the stuff explained in the heatstroke chapter because I didn’t know enough back then in the military to give a second thought to people passing out during the last 4miles of a 25 mile ruck march after stopping and standing still for reveille in the early morning. I just figured they didn’t eat enough snacks throughout the ruck and locked their legs. Or how all the protein and thermogenics I was taking may have attributed to heart problems in Hawaii because I didn’t acclimate from Alaska temperatures before my TDY there I just figured It was just fate. I don’t think the average soldier possesses the education to think about the things a scientist would have a field day with. Do you know how much time and effort would have been saved if the first couple rotating units in Iraq and Afghanistan had a couple of anthropologist attached to them. If the military exposed a few scientists to war a lot more could be learned and invented.

    1. Conall Birkholz

      I think you bring up a very good point about how there are a lot of problems that we deal with but never really think about on a critical level. In the military, since it is important to keep soldiers at peak condition these problems are addressed and the solutions and benefits that are discovered roll over in the the civilian world which benefits everyone.

  8. Conall Birkholz

    When it comes to how we classify and think of individuals professions in our society, I think we should keep a distinction between scientists and soldiers. I see soldiers that are involved in direct combat, as federal employees that are pursuing a goal or a cause of the specific country they are fighting for. Scientists on the other hand are academic professionals with in-depth knowledge in specific fields of science. They are not directly bound to a country or a nations ideals, ethics, or goals in how they operate and decide how they want to benefit humanity and conduct their research. I think the overlap can be recognized between soldiers and scientists, as scientists are usually the ones “combating” if you will a new disease or climate change, which are the problems humanity faces today.

    I think that funds should always be allocated to science and research. In a way funds are allocated by the government to this cause through governmental organizations rewarding grants and stipends to Universities and research professionals across the country. But I think more research is never a bad thing as long as it is productive in someway to society in advancing human knowledge.

    I think scientific discovery is very important as a national priority. Looking back at history, some of the most productive times of scientific discovery was during world catastrophes like WW1 and WW2 and the cold war. The countries that faired the best in the end were the ones who could apply new scientific discoveries to real world problems effectively. While world wars do not appear as imminent today, what is vital to a countries success and its ability to thrive is a strong economy. Through scientific discovery, the ability to always be innovating and creating new technologies allows a country to remain strong and influential in the world.

    1. Travis Winterton

      Interesting comment on how we shouldn’t directly correlate soldiers on the front line to that of a scientists work. Its easy to forget that the scientist themselves don’t exactly or may not have or share similar stakes in these global conflicts the same way that soldiers might face.

    2. Amber Wofford

      I agree with the comment that research should be be productive and help humans advance.

  9. Jessica Hernandez

    I definitely believe that our soldiers are the front line of wars with disease. When we enter a different country we find ourself in a new environment from what we are used to. When our soldiers get sick and find new ways to vaccinate those disease that were brought from other countries. I feel as a nation we can only do so much being that it is in a different country and we can not necessarily do research on something that we can not do consistently. I feel like as a nation we try our best to put those needs above all else and try to have as much of what we know discovered.

  10. Lindsey F Paulsen

    Soldiers and scientists have much in common, as what they do puts them at an undetermined risk, whether it social or physical. Their funding should be more important to the public, as people are so concerned with their own financial issues that the funding of military needs does not cross their minds. Funding is given, just not enough to succeed at finding solutions for our troops. Singularly, I do not think society gives enough respect to soldiers and veterans, and I also think people lack respect for science and its possible benefits. This being said, both are under-recognized and deserve more funding and support from the countries they serve.

  11. Seth Packer

    In some situations yeah, It’s a completely apt comparison. In medical camps in Africa where they are combating the deadly Ebola virus I would not be surprised at all of those doctors felt themselves to be soldiers in a war, and I would second that. But that’s not to say that all medical research should necessarily be treated the’same way. If my Civ runs are any indicator I believe that we should be allocating as much resources to scientific research as we can without possibly leaving ourselves vulnerable to attack. In most any other country I would call it reasonable to shift as much funding as possible to scientific research. But, as the United States of America we have an assumed responsibility to be the worlds benevolent sword and shield, just as the world’s leading military power we need to devote the resources to maintain that title for fear that whom-ever surpasses us lacks our (mainly) benevolent attitude.

    1. Logan Borger

      I like how you put that some, but not all medical research should be considered like as dangerous. I would agree. I also like how you recognize the context of the United States values in relation to the question.

  12. Travis Winterton

    I would like to believe that the many scientist themselves are making a lot of sacrifices, mainly with their own time, energy and possibly even their own sanity to help contribute to these scientific efforts. But I’m not sure if it’s entirely smart to think and draw a directly correlation that scientist are like soldiers on the front lines.

    When it comes to terms of things like disease and or environmental crisis’s then yes Scientist in that respect are the soldiers that are protecting us from these threats on global standpoint for humanity, but I not sure the same can be directly translated to global conflicts. At the End of the day, the purist and goal of most scientist at the end of the day the purist of more knowledge and the better understanding of our world and the universe around us. I doubt most scientist aren’t doing most of these kinds of research and experiments for the military out of the willingness to serve their country. I wouldn’t be surprised if some scientist who are contracted to work on experiments and the technology for military use really agree with these conflicts in the first place. (although this shouldn’t be taken as a blanket statement or to belittle the efforts of the scientists).

    While I think it is idealistic to be able to put or allocate a lot more resources and funding into these scientific pursuits, I’m not sure it as simple as being able to put more money directly these ventures, as I’m sure there are more layers of complexities to this process. Mainly what other projects and ventures do we need to draw money from in order to gain funds for this. I believe the only real time when scientific research and discovery can really able to line up with national priorities is during times of a national epidemic when science is needed the most (I.E disease or outbreak.)

  13. Ashley Bolyard

    Yes, scientists should be thought about as the first line of defense. They should be thought of as such because scientists are researching a problem and how to prevent them. Since they are attempting to be proactive in a problem, the allocation of resource is crucial to a civilization’s survival. For instance, if it were not for the creation of vaccines, the death rates from infants to elders would be significantly increased then what they are today. Scientist saw a disease that was wiping out a population; in turn, they created a solution to help protect against that disease with the help vaccinating. Alternatively, another example of scientists researching a problem is when it comes to the environment. They are seeing that oceans are getting warmer. Scientists are researching why the oceans are getting warmer and how it is affecting marine life. In turn, they are trying to find a solution to protect marine life.
    However, politically, scientists do not fall under national priorities, which is a shame because their research will is attempting to sustain life. Their knowledge deserves to be heard and acknowledged. Moreover, depending on what the scientist is researching and how beneficial the research can be to civilization, would determine how many resources one would get to pursue the research further.

  14. Xiaofei Zhang

    I do believe that scientists should be considered on the frontlines against disease. That is, medical scientists. I think that data scientists, AI scientists, etc. may actually be hurting the world we live in by creating advanced robotics, that may cause mass unemployment. However, when the focus of the conversation is on medical scientists, they should absolutely be regarded as on the frontlines of war against disease. As we create stronger anti-biotics, diseases will adapt and try to thwart the effects of these anti-biotics. I think that having scientists that are able to combat this issue will save millions of lives. This is why we need to regard this as a national security threat; in my opinion, I actually think that the government already does this. The government has top secret organizations that handle all of the dangerous diseases, which can be turned into bioweapons. After the Cold War, the world came to an agreement that we would never unleash these deadly diseases onto the world. Unfortunately, no country wanted to get rid of them in fear that another country would save their supply of deadly diseases and use it to their advantage when a war comes. Therefore, right now, as we speak, both the United States and Russia has small pox and other deadly diseases stashed away in a place no one knows. This tit for tat may actually be the best way to avoid using these diseases, and perhaps this is the only way in order to avoid it. However, new diseases are emerging today, and we need scientists with a comprehensive knowledge of diseases and epidemiology to combat these new diseases. Already we are seeing diseases that are affecting a massive amount of people in Africa and Asia. The last thing we want is to not equip our scientists with enough resources.

  15. Logan Borger

    I like how you put that some, but not all medical research should be considered like as dangerous. I would agree. I also like how you recognize the context of the United States values in relation to the question.

  16. Logan Borger

    I would concede that there are certain areas of scientific research that are potentially dangerous. In this sense, they are on the frontlines. However, I would not overgeneralize this statement to encompass the entirety of scientific researchers. I would be behind allocating more resources towards curing diseases and curbing environmental decline. It is important to understand the context of what our nation values, which is a large military and having a global impact. I’m not sure how these values line up with science researchers, but perhaps there are certain areas in which the military could potentially fund some areas of research.

  17. Amber Wofford

    I believe that scientists are very important and essential to grow humanity and advance civilization from medicine to technology and communications. I can’t completely agree that scientists are in the same category as a soldier in enemy territory being shot at. That is literally risking ones life and has immediate consequences if and when something goes “south”. Scientists devote their entire lives to understanding and discovering new advancements. Without research from these scientists we would not have what we have today and the government and leaders world wide knows that. Pressing situations of national security will always be dealt with and made first priority. More money and resources should be allocated to scientific research that can be proven to make a contribution to society.

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