Editor’s note: As a special service for our readers, WND is running a series of dispatches from Allan Wall chronicling his transition from civilian life as he prepares to fight with his National Guard unit in Iraq. Allan will write for us as often as he is able in order to let our readers vicariously experience what people in his position are going through. We hope you will check regularly for Allan’s dispatches and encourage your friends and family to do likewise.
Sunlight is good, but too much can be harmful. The heat of the day can knock a man down.
I recall an incident in Army Basic Training. We were marching through the Georgia woods when the trainee marching right in front of me suddenly collapsed. The drill sergeant ran over and attempted to bring the semiconscious soldier back to consciousness. He remained in a daze, was whisked off for medical treatment, and I never saw him again. This was an example of a heat injury – a heat casualty, a soldier stricken down by the heat.
Throughout history, human societies have developed ways to beat the heat. One of the most effective ways is simply to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. The siesta of Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries is one example of this strategy.
But the U.S. Army still has to work in the heat. So awareness of heat safety is a part of Army doctrine and practice.
That’s why all soldiers are issued canteens. That’s why soldiers are instructed to drink sufficient water to avoid heat injuries. Sergeants are instructed to check their men’s canteens and see that they are drinking water. And soldiers are taught to recognize and deal with heat casualties (like my Basic Training comrade mentioned above).
According to Army doctrine, there are three stages of heat casualty: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Each is successively worse. The last, heat stroke, is life-threatening.
One of the symptoms of heat cramps is “excessive sweating,” while heat exhaustion is marked by “profuse sweating.” But when you get to heat stroke, the victim is no longer sweating at all, and that’s really dangerous. So soldiers are trained in how to treat these victims and, in the case of heat stroke, get them evacuated.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it’s better to avoid these problems from the beginning. All soldiers are encouraged to drink water and watch that others do so. If a soldier does go down with a heat injury, the sergeants and officers in his chain of command are also considered responsible, and have to answer for it. Now that’s an incentive.
I’ve never suffered a heat injury during military training – and I hope I never do. I plan to drink water and stay healthy. My National Guard unit was called up for Iraq duty and reported on Aug. 15. We’ve certainly had some hot days while training since then, and yes, there have been a few heat injuries.
Now, several months have passed and the temperature is dropping, which makes heat injuries less likely. But we must not forget what we are training for. We are training to go to Iraq. Fort XYZ can get hot, yes. But compared to Iraq? When we get there, we’ll really have to beat the heat.