By Ms. Alexandra Shea (IMCOM)July 12, 2019
Trainees demonstrated heat injury prevention techniques July 9 at Victory Tower with help from some heat casualty mitigation experts -- drill sergeants.
"As soon as they (trainees) get into in-processing, we have 'CHIP' cards," said Staff Sgt. Nichole Danley, a drill sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, "which has prior cold weather and heat weather injuries identified."
Each trainee is identified by the regions they come from upon arrival to the post and a Cold/Heat Illness Prevention Leader Card, or CHIP card, is issued if the trainee has any prior heat or cold weather injuries. This system helps drill sergeants and command leadership avoid further weather induced injuries and helps trainees acclimatize to the heat and humidity of South Carolina.
"It's important for leaders to know the individual and their background," said Will Gutherie, installation safety director. "It takes between seven and 14 days to acclimatize to the climate here."
It is not uncommon for trainees to attend Basic Combat Training from as far away as Alaska. With the 'famously hot' South Carolina summers, trainees unaccustomed to the environment on-post can quickly become heat casualties without proper observance and heat mitigation practices.
Observers may wonder why so many large coolers can be found on the post's training sites. They play a bigger role here on-post than just keeping lunch cold.
They often contain ice water or bed sheets soaked in ice water, as a line of defense to help prevent heat injuries.
Trainees can immerse their arms in the ice water for up to five minutes to help quickly reduce their core body temperatures while the ice sheets provide a more drastic way of reducing core temperatures for those suffering from heat injuries.
"It's really cold, but it's meant for that," said Staff Sgt. James Turner, a drill sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment. "It cools down their body temperature, it gets their (trainees) blood moving through their body and cools them down."
Turner demonstrated the use of the arm immersion bath for local media. The immersion method has the ability to reduce a trainee's core temperature by 1.5 degrees. For some, this method can be refreshing, for others, arm immersion followed by a few minutes in shade can mean the difference between heat exhaustion and much more severe heat stroke.
Drill sergeants have an arsenal of techniques and tools available to help predict an outdoor training day's success. These include the use of the heat category system, local weather report monitoring, work/rest cycles, hydration systems issued to each trainee, arm immersion, ice sheets, modified uniforms for trainees and balanced diets.
The heat category system is a major way Fort Jackson combats heat injuries. As heat increases, trainees are allowed to modify their uniforms by rolling up their sleeves and pant legs to increase air flow.
According to Guthrie, Soldiers can utilize the techniques seen and used at Fort Jackson outside the installation to prevent heat related injuries in everyday life. By simply keeping track of the day's weather from news or weather apps and knowing your own and Family members' limitations, Soldiers and their Families can stay heat casualty free while enjoying summer activities.
"An injury is an injury. Whether a bullet takes you out of the fight or a heat injury takes you out," Guthrie said. "We have to look out for our resources and our most important resource here, are Soldiers."