Beware the Heat!

By: Sgt. Dale Elliott, 75th Troop Command Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

NOTE:  Each week kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs.  This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story.  This is one such story ….

heat_1 GREENVILLE, Ky. — Last year Kentucky saw record breaking high temperatures throughout the state. With this heat area hospitals saw several heat related injuries and deaths.  Despite the risks members of the Kentucky National Guard fought the danger, continued training and worked through it.

This year may not be so bad. “I don’t think there is any data whatsoever to suggest a record hot summer,” said Marc Weinburg, chief meteorologist for WDRB TV-41 in Louisville.  “The La Nina that has dominated our weather for the last year is over and its impact is done. The last month has deviated greatly from the last year showing the impact from the La Nina is over. I think there really is an equal chance of warmer or normal for temperatures this summer.”

Even though he does not expect a record breaking summer all of us should start thinking about being prepared for the heat.

“It is important to listen to the signals that your body gives off during strenuous in heat,” said Weinberg.  “If you feel light headed or your body is telling you it is time to take a break then it is important to listen. There are a lot of warning signs before heat exhaustion or heat stroke occur.”

In 2011, 13 different units participated in annual training at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky. Despite the risky nature of some of this training the weather did not severely effect any of the soldiers.

OCS Ruck March

Carson Gregory, a Kentucky National Guard Officer Candidate with class 54-12, takes a break during his 10-mile ruck march that marked the completion of phase two of the classes’ training at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center April 15, 2012. (Photo by Spc. David Bolton, Public Affairs Specialist, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky Army National Guard)

Lt. Col. Ruth Graves, WHFRTC manager, was pleased with these results.  “We have been at heat category 5 for a few weeks now. We  have safety briefings everyday at our sync meetings with the help of range control.”

“With several of these units in 24 hour operations, keeping safety on the minds of everyone involved frequently. That has helped keep this a safe year,” said Graves.  “Some units have had heat-related injuries, but these were easily treated because they were paying attention and was able to catch it before they became serious.”

Fort Knox range control also monitors heat categories for training, but the individual units must do their own monitoring.

“One thing the units and people training need to remember is that when we do a heat category reading, that reading is at the Range Control building.” said Charles Blakey, an employee of Fort Knox Range Control. “The units have to monitor on their own. It may be 99° here but in other parts of the base it could be 105° or 110°.”

The military as a whole has been focusing on “self aid” and “buddy care” for quite a while now and it seems to be paying off. Soldiers are keeping themselves and their “battle buddy” properly hydrated. This training and good leadership monitoring has drastically reduced the serious injuries and deaths related to heat injuries.

Every year you can watch the local news and see examples of heat related injuries and deaths, it becomes clear that what the military is doing has made an impact on soldiers health. It also becomes clear that civilian employers and civilians in general need to take a lesson from the military and apply those “buddy care” principles.

Citizen Soldiers and Airmen should also keep “buddy care” in mind when with their civilian employer or family members.  Who knows — the knowledge you share might save a life!