Soldiers learn how to train in Oklahoma heat
April 17, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. -- As Fort Sill temperatures rise and fall like a roller coaster, 434th Field Artillery Brigade Soldiers trained April 8 on heat casualty prevention.
"I think we are at a greater risk for a heat injury this month than we will be in August. We get some of those days now where it's 40 [degrees] in the morning, 80 [degrees] in the afternoon that 40 degree temperature swing is huge," said Col. Michael Dvoracek, 434th FA commander.
Maj. Greg Pollman, 434th FA medical operations, trained the group on the ins and outs of heat injuries.
He said Soldiers in Basic Combat Training are more susceptible because they come from different climates.
"It can take a person 10-14 days to acclimate to the weather here depending on where they're from and their fitness level," said Pollman.
Couple that with whatever training conditions Oklahoma puts out for the day and drill sergeants have to really watch for heat injuries.
"You've got that new trainee who was an athlete in high school, but he's from Minnesota so he's probably in good shape, but he's not used to the Fort Sill heat," said Pollman.
Drill sergeants and cadre can change the work environment to alleviate some of the heat stress by giving the Soldiers more rest as the temperatures rise. They can also allow Soldiers to unblouse their pants or take off their ACU jackets and hats or helmets.
Pollman said a nice 80-degree day can still yield a heat injury because the risk is cumulative.
That's why Soldiers consider the acronym HEAT:
High heat category especially on sequential days,
Exertion especially on sequential days,
Are they acclimatized?
Time-length of heat exposure and length of recovery time after that heat exposure.
While hydration is a staple to the BCT environment, other factors including whether or not a trainee is taking medicine, if they've had proper rest and if they've eaten come into play.
"In the winter nobody wants to drink; in the summer nobody wants to eat. And they are both vital," said Dvoracek.
He encouraged Soldiers to give trainees recovery bars if needed to replenish electrolytes.
"Basically hot environments stress the body. Combine that with other physiological stressors like work, dehydration, fatigue and that can make you susceptible to heat illness,"said Pollman.
He said after a long day of working in the heat trainees should take cool showers to reset their body temperatures.
"Cool showers help dump the heat. Cold showers, if it's super cold, are not as effective. It should feel cool to the body. If it's super cold then all your blood vessels constrict in response to that and your body is not going to dump as much heat," said Pollman.
Pollman said other environmental conditions especially humidity can affect the body's ability to regulate temperature.
Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Estep, 434th FA Brigade CSM, said drill sergeants learned a lesson in the dangers of humidity when the combination of hot showers and too many trainees in the bay at one time created enough humidity to make several trainees ill.
"You can train everything we're required to do in basic training to standard in the heat. It can be done, but you've got to do it smart," said Dvoracek.
Drill sergeants and cadre are required to do a wet bulb reading hourly any time it's more than 75 degrees outside.
"You've got to monitor the conditions as they change and then you've got to make the appropriate changes to your control measures," said Dvoracek.
They also have precautions in place to make sure there are ways to cool down a Soldier. For example, no matter what season it is, when the temperature is at least 75 degrees outside there are ice sheets available. They also have cooled tents, tents for shade, and fans that blow cool water.
"It has been hot in Oklahoma for decades. We have done basic training in Oklahoma for decades. You don't have to lower the standards for what we're doing, if you're doing the proper risk mitigation," said Dvoracek.