BCT Soldiers keep their cool during Southern summer heat

By Mr. Andrew R McIntyre (Jackson)May 31, 2012

Spc. Daud Aliahmad, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, fills up his hydration system after returning from the firing lane Tuesday. Soldiers in Basic Combat Training are monitored for their water intake to avoid heat injuries in the hot... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Drill sergeants and Basic Combat Training company commanders have a number of ways of keeping Soldiers cool during the summer heat.

Capt. Erik Johnson, company commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, keeps an eye on all the Soldiers of his company from the firing range tower to ensure they show no signs of dehydration and perform well on the range.

Johnson explained that one of the main ideas he stresses to the Soldiers is a "buddy-check" system. This system is applied throughout the company. Soldiers should check one another to make sure their battle buddies do not show signs of dehydration.

As Soldiers return to their gear from the firing line, they are required to fill their 32-ounce hydration backpacks immediately. Soldiers are encouraged to drink about 1 1/2 quarts of water per hour to avoid heat injury.

"On the very hot days we provide an Arm Immersion Kit for the Soldiers," Johnson said. "This kit enables Soldiers to roll up their sleeves and immerse their arms in an ice bucket of water to allow the blood temperature to drop for cooling during the hot days."

As the temperature rises, the drill sergeant cadre members and commanders will continually watch the heat category status. Depending on the heat category, the Soldiers will alter their uniforms to allow more air to pass through in an effort to keep cool, Johnson said.

BCT companies follow an Armywide heat category system in order to effectively designate how much training should take place in certain heat conditions and the amount of required water in-take.

Another method used to monitor Soldiers' hydration is the Ogden Cord that all BCT Soldiers wear on the collar of their uniforms. The cord consists of black beads that are attached to a piece of string. These beads indicate how many quarts of water the Soldier has taken in.

"Ogden beads are just one more way for us to keep track of the Soldiers' hydration," Johnson said.

If a Soldier has had previous heat injury issues, he or she will wear red beads. Soldiers with previous cold injuries wear blue beads. Soldiers with allergies wear yellow beads because some allergy medication is affected by heat, said Sean O'Brian, director of Fort Jackson Safety.

"Every time a Soldier drinks a quart of water, he or she is required to move one bead up on the attached string," Johnson said.

Pfc. Andrew Chewning of Ohio said he usually drinks three full hydration packs of water a day.

"It's not difficult at all to stay hydrated in this heat. I just drink throughout the day," Chewning said.