Book Review: Grunt, The Curious Science of Humans at War (Mary Roach)

Having spent over twenty years in the USN in the aviation field, this book was both informative and interesting. Topics such as hearing as well as heat and diarrhea are covered. Shark repellant, flies, genital transplants and safety all have their own chapters and these are just a few of the topics.

The submarine base in Groton, CT, caught my attention as well. The ‘Wet Trainer’ enables submariners the ability to increase their knowledge of how to save the ‘ship’. Fascinating to learn that old methods such as a pine plug cone could be effective in an extreme leak. Also, the USS Tang (1944) and the USS Squalus (1939) incidents were well detailed. I remember the USS Thresher in 1963 but was not familiar with the first two incidents.

The author has interspersed healthy doses of humor in this book. One thing that made me laugh out loud was the chapter on combat medic training. The author found some file drawers labeled ‘spleens’, ‘aortas’ and other body parts. She was on her way to the bathroom and when she saw ‘head’ it was a moment of interest! Another chuckle for me was in the discussion of the contents of the MRE packets. The USN has baby wipes in their packs for toilet purposes and the USMC uses a piece of their tee shirt! Think that none of us could disagree with that statement!

There are so many facts that relate to the manner in which the military is forced to operate that it makes one shake their head. And, sometimes in disbelief at the specifications that the military uses in production of an item.

The chapter that covered safety also brought back memories of my days in the USN on the end of many runways. In the morning our first duty at 0800 was FOD (Foreign Object Damage) walk down. In formation, we walked looking for any object that could cause damage to the engine of an aircraft. And, yes bird strikes were not common but I remember several aircraft engines being damaged by them during my 20 + years.

Of particular interest to the warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are the two chapters devoted to genital transplants and injuries below the belt. The author states that there are ‘300 genito-urological injuries for 18,000 limb amputees’. Finally, some progress is being made in this area for the men affected by this type of injury.

Lots of unknown facts concerning the manner in which the ‘powers to be’ make decisions on important military items.

Most highly recommended.

Credit: USN Chief

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