Thursday, September 7, 2023

17th Annual Firefighter Challenge - Berlin at the Mercedes Benz Arena Plaza

As per usual, Mike Weikamm and company host one of the most professional of Challenge events every year. 

Moving from Potzdamer Platz, the new venue is impressive!

Here's the Traditional Group Photo at the base of the Tower

The Final Race: Relay Championship Poland versus Slovenia
Hosted by YouTube

Monday, July 31, 2023

Open Letter to Congress from over 200 Retired Flag Rank Officers

We respectfully request that Congress, pursuant to its constitutional powers "…to raise and support Armies…" and "… to provide and maintain a Navy…," take legislative action to remove all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs from the Department of Defense (DoD).

Additionally, we ask that you ensure no DEI-related policies, programs, or funding are included in the 2024 NDAA. As our Nation faces looming threats from "foreign" adversaries/enemies, our military is under assault from a culture war stemming from "domestic" ideologically inspired political policies and practices. If not stopped now, they will forever change the military's warrior ethos essential to performing its mission of deterring aggression and failing that, to fight and win our Nation's wars.

Our military must be laser-focused on one mission—readiness, undiminished by the culture war engulfing our country. For generations, our military was a meritocracy, which simply defined means selection and advancement based solely on merit and ability. Service Members (SMs) were judged not by the color of their skin but by their character, duty performance, and potential. Meritocracy, coupled with equal opportunity, created conditions for all to advance and excel, which stimulates healthy competition, thereby raising standards. Historically, our military has been one of, if not the most, diverse and inclusive institution in America.

The domestic cultural threat has an innocuous name: "diversity, equity, and inclusion" (DEI). But, in reality, DEI is dividing, not uniting, our military and society. DEI's principles derive from critical race theory, which is rooted in cultural Marxism, where people are grouped into identity classes (typically by race), labeled as "oppressed" or "oppressors," and pitted against each other. Under the guise of DEI, some people are selected for career-enhancing opportunities and advancement based on preferences given to identity groups based on race, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, etc. For example, the DoD twice admitted to using race in service academy admissions in its 2022 amicus brief in the pending Supreme Court college admissions cases.

Our military has practiced "equality" by giving equal opportunities for all to achieve. The equality approach ignores skin color, gender, or ethnicity seeing all SMs as equal, with a common set of values and mission. This does not diminish their individuality but rather celebrates their dedication to duty and a higher noble calling of selfless service to our Nation.

DEI's "Equity" sounds benign, but in practice, it lowers standards. While equality provides equal opportunities, equity's goal is equal outcomes. To achieve equal outcomes using identity group characteristics, standards must be lowered to accommodate the desired equity outcomes. Lower standards reduce performance where even slight differences in capability impact readiness and can determine war-fighting mission success or failure.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) practices use identity-based preferences in selections for career schools and promotions. As with equity, D&I lowers standards by not always selecting the best qualified to become pilots, academy cadets, leaders at all ranks, etc. Identity-based preferences create friction and distrust in the ranks, damaging unit cohesion, teamwork and unity of effort, further degrading readiness.

The "One Team, One Fight" battle motto describes a meritocracy-based military characterized by: • a common mission and purpose; • unqualified loyalty to the team and not to an individual's identity group; • total trust and confidence in each other for their very lives from the foxhole to the highest level; • teamwork/camaraderie resulting in the unit cohesion essential for warfighting readiness.

Meritocracy is essential for winning. In professional sports - where the mission is to win games - the best players are fielded to win, no matter their skin color. If meritocracy is used in sports where the consequence of losing a game is minor, why is it not essential in the military where the worst-case consequences of losing a major war are unimaginable losses of life, destruction, and perhaps our Nation? To win, the best-qualified SMs must be selected to lead America's sons and daughters into life-and-death situations. Meritocracy wins games and it wins wars!

We have fought for our Nation and are sounding the alarm that DEI poses a grave danger to our military warfighting ethos and is degrading warfighting readiness. Social engineering, commonly called "wokeism," has no place in our military. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are not distracted by DEI programs; no doubt they are watching us. Equal opportunity and merit-based performance has been battle tested for generations and proven essential for success. DEI policies and practices must be eliminated from the DoD to protect our critical warfighting readiness.

Respectfully submitted,

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

These 8 habits could add up to 24 years to your life, study finds

July 24, 2023 / 10:45 AM

Want to add years to your life? Following a few healthy habits could do just that, according to a new study.

The observational study presented Monday at the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting in Boston examined data on more than 700,000 U.S. veterans and how their life expectancy shifted based on the number of healthy habits followed.

The findings? Adopting eight healthy lifestyle habits by middle age can result in a substantially longer life than those with few or none of the habits. Those habits include: Being physically active
• Being free from opioid addiction
• Not smoking
• Managing stress
• Having a good diet
• Not regularly binge drinking
• Having good sleep hygiene
• Having positive social relationships

While the habits aren't groundbreaking — you've likely heard health experts advise similar wellness practices — the amount of lifespan expected to be gained from them is impressive.

According to the results, men with all eight habits at age 40 are expected to live 24 years longer on average compared with those with none. Women with all eight habits are predicted to live an 21 additional years.

"We were really surprised by just how much could be gained with the adoption of one, two, three, or all eight lifestyle factors," Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, health science specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs and rising fourth-year medical student at Carle Illinois College of Medicine, said in a news release. "Our research findings suggest that adopting a healthy lifestyle is important for both public health and personal wellness."

Low physical activity, opioid use and smoking had the biggest impact on lifespan, according to the release, with a 30-45% higher risk of death during the study period.

"Stress, binge drinking, poor diet, and poor sleep hygiene were each associated with around a 20% increase in the risk of death, and a lack of positive social relationships was associated with a 5% increased risk of death," the release added.

In terms of when to take action, "the earlier the better," Nguyen noted, "but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still is beneficial."

That's because adopting healthier habits at an older age can still help you live longer, researchers found, even if the life expectancy gain grew slightly smaller with age.

"It is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle," Nguyen said.

This study has not yet been published by a peer-reviewed publication but was evaluated and selected by a committee of experts to be presented at the meeting.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

It's (mostly) about the Nozzle

The Five Essential Funtions™that comprise the "engine" of the Firefighter Challenge have their origin in the original JTA (job task analysis) that I conducted as a part of our FEMA-funded research while a faculty member of the University of Maryland. 

The criteria for inclusion were: 1. Frequently Performed Tasks; 2. Arduous, and 3. Critical. Anything to do with hydraulics was axiomatically inclusive as an "Essential Function" of fire suppression. I knew from experience that with water weighing 8.3 pounds per gallon, moving supply or attack lines was hard work. 

We measured the physical requirements of moving an attack line to full extension (say 150 feet) in a drag would require an ability to pull ≈240 pounds (as measured by a dynamometer). But, you wanted to have some defining activity to validate that you were "there." Ergo: opening the bale and squirting some water defined the task. 

Nominally, for a straight bore nozzle, with 125psi, you get some kickback, so again, there's a built-in physical demand that requires a combination of dynamic and static strength. Getting up a good head of steam before the looped sections are pulled into the equation was an excellent way to keep up the momentum. 

Initially, we didn't have a target; that will come later. But, what to do with the nozzle once the task was accomplished? Squirt water. That's what. 

With the first Challenge event held at the University of Maryland's Fire Rescue Institute, we used appliances and hose provided by MFRI. The following year we began to assemble our own assets. At FDIC held in Cincinnatti, the representative of Akron demonstrated the ruggedness of their straight bore nozzle by spiking it on the concrete floor. He said, "you can do that all day long." I was impressed. 

In our first formative years, Task Force Tips (TFT) approached us and offered to become the "Official Nozzle" of the Challenge. Doug McMillian, brother of Stewart, had a pair of targets designed for our application. It had a strobe on top and a horn powered by a Scott air bottle that would sound when the guillotine fell. This ingenious design, weighing about 300 pounds, would have to be reduced in weight and complexity when used on tour. 

Doug wanted us to use their Automatic Nozzle; I suggested that this was the bridge too far in that I had been taught in basic school that you treated these appliances with care; not dropping them on the ground or using them for forcible entry. Our trademark, the "Hose Dragging Man," was a posterized image created by George Eade, our commercial artist, who designed the stylized and trademarked "Firefighter Challenge" with the Fruiter font. 

Not unexpectantly, the nozzles began to break. Doug asked that I explain to the Competitors that they had to gently place the nozzles on the ground before advancing. I said, "I'll be glad to explain that the TFT nozzles required special handling." He got it immediately and said, "We'll make them tougher." And he did. 

Shortly after this solution, Doug and Stewart had a falling out, and the sponsorship was collateral damage. 

Enter Elkhart Brass. Danny Brogden, who I had known prior to his becoming the marketing guy for Elkart. He proffered that their fog nozzle would be up to the Challenge. As you know, you can dial in a number of patterns, but he locked in the straight stream function. The nozzle came with a chrome bale. I said, "I think that's going to be a problem." He differed and as it turned out, was correct. 

Then came POK, a French manufacturer of a whole line of firefighting appliances. Jean-Marc Tassé was the North American marketing manager and wanted to make a statement about their presence in the business. So, POK paid for the 700-pound scoreboard and provided the smoothbore, straight stream nozzle that went into use for the next 20 years. 

The scoreboard, made by Colorado Timing, turned out to be an albatross. The display was better suited for indoor applications and was a constant headache requiring maintenance and power supply replacements. Jay Staeden, our then-Operations Manager, could be seen hanging from a rope with a broomstick in his hand, banging the back of the panels to get bulky displays to light up. Colorado Timing never completed the specifications and kept screaming to get paid. 

We ended up dumping off the whole pile of junk in their parking lot. But, true to his word, Jean-Marc continued to work on improving the nozzles. By rev 4.0, he had it mil-spec'd and nuclear-hardened. Until: 

When Jean-marc disappeared to Costa Rica, leaving the entire Maryland Warehouse on Maryland's Eastern Shore abandoned, we thought we might return to the original Akron Brass product. We purchased (against our religion) two of their straight bore nozzles and were sorely disappointed that they failed almost immediately. So, scratch that idea. 

Since we conducted a couple of events in Elkhart, IN, and they provided us with nozzles for that event, we thought exploring a partnership was worth pursuing. For WCXXX two beautiful nozzles were produced and put into service. Regrettably, they did not survive. 

We have made entreaties to POK through three emails, alerting them that the decision to go to a metal bale was a mistake. Of course, for the preponderance of fire fighting organizations, they never approach their end of life since no one abuses equipment like we do. In fact, we lay claim to being the "Aberdeen Proving Ground" of the fire service. If you want to have your stuff tested, we run "Four Alarm Fires" every weekend. 

The clear value to any company that wishes to associate their equipment with the very rugged nature of the Challenge is an imprimatur. 

While in Fort Pierce, Captain-Paramedic John Tillett (ret) pointed out to me the major differences between the POK product and what Elkhart had produced. The POK nozzle is machined from a solid block of a metal composite. The handle is a brass frame, covered by a rubberized material and secured with taps, drilled into the body. 

One note: way back, Clint Lamb and I got the idea of inserting a quarter-inch washer into the smooth bore of the nozzle. This reduced the flow, since we have a finite amount of water (250gal) onboard our Semi trailer. 

The really fast guys can knock down the target with as little as a liter of water. 

So, what's next? 

If we can't find a suitable replacement to the handle issues on the POK nozzle, we may be forced to add a requirement that after knocking the target down, the nozzle has to be hung on a hook. I know that there will be push-back since this added step will take additional time. But, we simply can't be at the mercy of equipment that is no longer up to the Challenge. 

Parenthetically, I must mention that while in Paris, a few years back, POK funded my trip to their factory at Nogent-sur-Seine. I was very impressed with their operations and their CEO Dr. Alexandra Grandpierre. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Weighting game

Weighting game

While there’s nothing particularly new about people trying to manage and keep their weight down, the number of people who may be tempted to experiment with medical remedies like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro is higher than ever as obesity rates have risen in the US.

The CDC has been taking periodic surveys of the nation’s health since 1960, when the overall share of obese US adults (those whose Body Mass Index exceeded 30) was just 13%. That figure, as well as the number of Americans who are severely obese (BMI at or over 40), has soared in the years since, hitting 43%, according to the latest survey in 2018. The rises have affected men and women similarly, too, with male obesity rising ~4x from 1962-2018 and the share of severely obese women in the US soaring more than 10x across the same period.

Some experts suggest the late 1970s and early 1980s as points at which the obesity epidemic picked up in the US, with many nodding to increasing levels of dietary fat, sugar, and ultra-processed foods as possible causes. However, even with that backdrop, the acceleration in obesity rates in recent years has been stark — and the full effects are being felt today. Indeed, obesity in America costs an estimated $260 billion each year in inpatient and outpatient care and causes thousands of preventable illnesses and deaths annually, according to the National Institute of Health. Given the scale of the issue, many have been waiting for a “magic solution” for years.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Woke U.S. Military Crisis: What’s Behind the Recruiting Declines?

Brutal Honesty: Spend 25 minutes watching this video on the sorry state of our military recruiting crises 

Thursday, July 6, 2023

The 15 Principles Upon Which the Country Was Founded

1. That man is created equal under God, and, as such, human life is a sacred gift of God.

2. That the Natural rights of the individual are inalienable and superior to the will of the state.

3. That government exists to protect the Natural rights and liberties of man, not to provide man with public benefits and favors.

4. That a man is innocent until proven guilty, that he has the Natural right to a trial by jury and the right to a defense attorney.

5. That people have a Natural right to choose their own form of government.

6. That individuals have a Natural right and duty to bear arms for their own protection and the protection of their communities.

7. That the power and reach of the central government needs to be limited, being held in check by independent sovereign states, free, independent juries and state citizen militias.

8. That religious liberty is the core of America’s freedoms.

9. That the people have a Natural right and duty to alter or abolish any government that has become tyrannical.

10. That America would always be a constitutional republic.

11. That only sound money would be used as legal tender so as to keep the federal government from amassing excessive debt.

12. That America would always promote and protect a free market economy with limited governmental interference.

13. That a man’s home is his castle and his personal property can never be seized except by arduous due process.

14. That a free society depends upon the acceptance and application of God’s Natural Laws relating to the pursuit of happiness and peace, upon governmental adherence to the Law of Nations and upon the promotion of our Creator’s foundational moral code of human conduct.

15. That liberty depends upon the unfettered exercise of the Christian faith, including strong, uninhibited preaching from America’s pulpits.