Even as the post enters the end of the 100 days of summer, Fort Jackson leaders take action to prevent heat injuries before temperature reaches triple digits."No one gets up and plans for anything bad to happen, but sometimes bad things do happen," said Vinson Washington, a Fort Jackson safety specialist. Units must practice preventative steps to mitigate the dangers.The prevention measures taken on post include ensuring proper hydration; food and rest; the heat category system; and risk management.Unfortunately all the best prevention can't help those who aren't acclimated to the hot and humid South Carolina summers. While some Soldiers in Training grew up in the same type of climate, there are some who come from places, like Alaska, where climates are milder."We got to make sure we are watching them," Washington said, "keep an eye on them or assign them a battle buddy to ensure they are drinking water. It's gonna be a culture shock."Commanders "build this into their risk assessments," said Rob Erhardt, Fort Jackson's safety director. "As they come along that risk starts to come down a little bit."Soldiers' health is monitored by their battle buddies and the drill sergeants who look for changes in the troop's demeanor."When we are at training events like this and it's extremely hot, the key indicators that a soldier is, or is becoming, a heat casualty is their change in mental status," said 1st Sgt. Brendan Cain, with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment during a training event at the Omaha Beach range. "They will go from alert, motivated, to totally withdrawn and slurring their speech. You can pretty much tell by how they interact with their platoon and their drill sergeants."Sgt. 1st Class Perry Molden Jr., a drill sergeant with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, said you can tell a Soldier will be a heat casualty "when they stop sweating after sweating profusely, they look pale or if they are wobbling or weaving."To help prevent heat injuries, Soldiers carry water in hydration carriers on their backs so they can drink water whenever needed. The SITs keep track of their water consumption using Ogden cords and beads. As the Soldiers drink they move the beads on the cord."After every CamelBak we drink we move two beads up," said Pvt. Robert Vigil, an SIT from New Mexico.Unit leadership can monitor Soldiers by looking at the color of the beads they wear. Black beads mean the Soldier has no issues, red means a prior heat injury, blue means a prior cold weather injury and yellow is for allergies.Post officials use the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index to determine the correct heat category. The WBGT measures not only heat but humidity. SITs modify their uniforms when the heat category rises. One of the most notable modifications is unblousing trouser legs from the boots allowing more air flow.At all training sites units must have ice sheets and arm immersion cooling tanks readily accessible.
"An ice sheet is nothing more than a simple bed sheet that we use," Washington said. "We submerge these in ice and when a casualty overheats we wrap them in these to cool them down until we can get medical personnel on scene."Heat casualties have ice sheets wrapped around their heads, over their chests, in their armpits and groin, and a fourth sheet covering any exposed skin."We put them in a human taco, basically," said Cain, who saw numerous heat casualties when he was an Air Assault School instructor. In the event a Soldier goes down with a heat injury, they use the sheets to "cool down the (Soldier's) core temperature," then "it's an automatic call to 911."The immersion tanks allow Soldiers to rapidly cool off by putting their forearms into a tank of ice cold water."We have noticed this cycle with all the 100 degree type weather we've been having this has been instrumental in keeping our Soldiers away from the heat," Cain said.Sweaty and dirty Soldiers coming out of the Omaha range dipped their arms into the ice water in unison said the water was a blessing and felt good.