By Crystal Lewis Brown, Fort Jackson LeaderJune 24, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Less than a week into summer - and with weekend temperatures expected to reach the high 90s - Fort Jackson leaders are doing their part to keep the post's IET Soldiers safe.
Sean O'Brian, head of Fort Jackson's Safety Center, said the impact of heat is often underestimated.
"While the motor vehicle remains the No. 1 threat to our Soldiers and civilians ... heat remains an ever-present threat, particularly to our Initial Entry Training Soldiers," he said.
With Soldiers training in high temperatures -- often while wearing full "battle rattle" - it is important for cadre and other leaders to stay informed on what constitutes a heat injury and how to prevent it.
According to Safety Center heat injury prevention guidelines, examples of a heat casualty include Soldiers who suffer from heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke or water intoxication.
The trick for Basic Combat Training cadre is to provide Soldiers adequate training, while maintaining their safety; something O'Brian said they have successfully done.
"Our leaders do a really good job of conducting hard, realistic training, while mitigating the effects of heat," he said.
One such leader is Capt. Mia Grover, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment commander.
Each day, she said, pallets of ice are delivered to the battalion to ensure Soldiers have an adequate supply.
"We make sure there is ice on site everywhere we go," she said.
She said a daily "hydration formation" before lights out is also important.
"It's just to make sure everybody is accounted for," she said. "That's when they hydrate and (we) check their Ogden cords."
The Ogden cord, a small piece of string holding several beads, is attached to a Soldier's uniform and is a visual indicator of how much water the Soldier has taken in over the course of the day.
"Every time they drink a canteen of water, they pull a bead," O'Brian said.
Each bead represents one quart of water.
The color-coded beads also tell cadre whether a Soldier may need special care. Red beads indicate a prior heat injury, blue indicates a cold weather injury and yellow indicates allergies. The standard beads are black.
The color-coded beads are important, said O'Brian, because a Soldier who has suffered a previous heat injury is more susceptible to one in the future.
Grover said she also monitors her Soldiers during chow time - checking for sweating, looking at their skin and looking at their eyes.
"Looking at their eyes and looking at their skin can tell a story," Grover said.
Cadre also teach combat lifesaver skills early during the summer months, and rehearse what Soldiers should do if they think a battle buddy is suffering from a heat injury.
O'Brian said it is also important to keep in mind what the Soldier has done within a 72-hour period when determining whether he or she has a possible heat injury.
Even if a Soldier spends a limited amount of time in the sun during one day of training, the cumulative effects of being in the heat can still cause illness.
"We advocate if the option is there, for Soldiers to take a cool shower," he said.
This brings the body temperature down, and "resets" the Soldier's body for the next day's training.
O'Brian said it is important to remember two words if a heat injury does occur - 911 and ice.
"If you have a heat injury, call 911 and wrap them up in an ice sheet," he said.
An ice sheet is a bed sheet that has been soaked in ice water.
Both O'Brian and Grover say it is up to the individual Soldiers and battle buddies to recognize when they have had enough, and inform cadre if they begin to feel ill.
"You have to know yourself, you have to know your buddy and you have to know your Soldiers," O'Brian said. "The Army is still a team concept."