The Military Wants To Make Bases More Walkable Because Vehicles Are For The Weak

Community
U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres

As Syria heats up, the Gulf states get snippy, and North Korea keeps lobbing rockets, the Department of Defense’s top military planners are doing what they always do: reviewing maps, rehearsing routes in their heads, planning to engineer new paths and obstacles, and trying to anticipate where resistance will come from.


Their objective: to make you move around more, you lazy fatbodies.

The Atlantic’s CityLab took a deep dive into how the Pentagon is using “active design” trends in urban planning to make its military bases more amenable to walking, running, biking, and generally not being an unsat dirtbag.

The “Healthy Base Initiative” isn’t new — the Pentagon’s implemented it on 14 installations since 2014 — but in addition to improving healthy food choices on post, DoD planners are also looking for “quick micro-changes” to base infrastructure and family accommodations to encourage active lifestyles, like bike shares, healthy food trucks, and more walking trails.

“Our installations were built for the automobile,” Ed Miles, the Pentagon’s director of strategy and innovation for military community and family policy, told City Lab. “They weren’t built for walking, for biking.” But military bases have one advantage: They’re islands unto themselves, making them great places to experiment with infrastructural tweaks.

What does all that mean to Cpl. Schmuckatelli, though? Here are some examples of the base fixes you could see someday:

  • “Signs encouraging people to take the stairs.” But if an officer or senior NCO’s behind you in the hallway, you were probably gonna take those stairs, anyway.
  • “Family fitness centers that provide child care while adults exercise.” This is awesome. Kids make you fat. It isn’t their fault (not entirely, anyway), but being able to stash the lovable snotmakers somewhere while we do our daily burpees is really all anyone can ask, ever.
  • “A bike-share program” financed with “discretionary commander’s funds.” Apparently, this worked out great at Ft. Belvoir in northern Virginia — “Guys were lined up at lunch for the bikes,” Miles said — but consistent funding is a problem. You can’t expect every base commander to give up his soiree money just to improve service members’’ quality of life, natch.
  • “Farmers’ markets.” I think this should be a part of military life, and of garrison training: Your CSA has issued you a box of kale, bok choy, radishes, cantaloupe, and avocadoes. Your mission is to make personal provisions out of them. If you can jury-rig a field office in a container box, you can improvise a healthy lunch.
  • “Sidewalks, bike lanes, and commercial centers.” An interesting objection to these ideas that CityLab didn’t raise: Driving on base, rather than walking, cuts down on having to salute as much. I’m 50/50 on this one.
  • “Food trucks with nutritious options.” This is a two-part idea. One aspect involves distributing food services all over a base rather than in a single central mall/food court/PX area — again, imagine being able to walk 3 minutes for chow instead of driving 10 minutes. The other idea is to offer healthy choices, but I have never seen a food truck that serves healthy food. Isn’t wonderful hot grease the main draw of food trucks?

These all may sound terrific, and many of the advancements detailed by CityLab have already been made on a variety of bases, from tiny New London to sprawling Fort Bragg. But don’t get too excited about your crunchy, military-supported granola lifestyle just yet.

“Whenever you’ve got to build something on a military installation, things like that are in the planning process for years,” Miles told City Lab. “I mean, years.”

That should give you plenty of time to figure out how to cook the bok choy.

Pictured left to right: Pedro Pascal ("Catfish"), Garrett Hedlund ("Ben"), Charlie Hunnam ("Ironhead"), and Ben Affleck ("Redfly") Photo Courtesy of Netflix

A new trailer for Netflix's Triple Frontier dropped last week, and it looks like a gritty mash-up of post-9/11 war dramas Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker and crime thrillers Narcos and The Town.

Read More Show Less
Army Sgt. Daniel Cowart gets a hug from then-Dallas Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty. Photo: Department of Defense

The Distinguished Service Cross was made for guys like Sgt. Daniel Cowart, who literally tackled and "engaged...in hand to hand combat" a man wearing a suicide vest while he was on patrol in Iraq.

So it's no wonder he's having his Silver Star upgraded to the second-highest military award.

Read More Show Less
A small unmanned aerial vehicle built by service academy cadets is shown here flying above ground. This type of small UAV was used by cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, during a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored competition at Camp Roberts, California, April 23-25, 2017. During the competition, cadets and midshipmen controlled small UAVs in "swarm" formations to guard territory on the ground at Camp Roberts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Drones have been used in conflicts across the globe and will play an even more important role in the future of warfare. But, the future of drones in combat will be different than what we have seen before.

The U.S. military can set itself apart from others by embracing autonomous drone warfare through swarming — attacking an enemy from multiple directions through dispersed and pulsing attacks. There is already work being done in this area: The U.S. military tested its own drone swarm in 2017, and the UK announced this week it would fund research into drone swarms that could potentially overwhelm enemy air defenses.

I propose we look to the amoeba, a single-celled organism, as a model for autonomous drones in swarm warfare. If we were to use the amoeba as this model, then we could mimic how the organism propels itself by changing the structure of its body with the purpose of swarming and destroying an enemy.

Read More Show Less
Soldiers from 4th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment "Dark Horse," 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, are escorted by observer controllers from the U.S. Army Operational Test Command after completing field testing of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) Sept. 24, 2018. (U.S. Army/Maj. Carson Petry)

The Army has awarded a $575 million contract to BAE Systems for the initial production of its replacement for the M113 armored personnel carriers the service has been rocking downrange since the Vietnam War.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump has formally outlined how his administration plans to stand up the Space Force as the sixth U.S. military service – if Congress approves.

On Tuesday, Trump signed a directive that calls for the Defense Department to submit a proposal to Congress that would make Space Force fall under Department of the Air Force, a senior administration official said.

Read More Show Less