News

Heat doesn't mean ops cool down for 1st FSSG in Iraq

30 Jun 2004 | Lance Cpl. Samuel Bard Valliere

Like a blow dryer blast to the face, the summer months have swept across Iraq. Despite the sweltering heat, troops in Iraq, their skin aglow with a sweaty glaze, are still pushing through business as usual.

Even with the temperature consistently climbing into the triple-digits, operational commitments aren't going to change. Therefore, the Marines are taking extra precautions to make working in the heat less dangerous.

Highs from June through September are expected to average a scorching 110 degrees, while the predicted low rests at an average of 75 degrees during the night, said Gunnery Sgt. James M. Kubacak, 32, the 1st Force Service Support Group's chief weather forecaster.

Some units here have shifted working hours so Marines aren't burdened with as much manual labor between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., when the sun is high in the sky and the temperature is at its peak, said Kubacak.

The Marines still work during the afternoon, though, while the light provides enough visibility to get things done, said Maj. Jason Wallace, 34, the 1st FSSG's operations officer, who added that, "if it can be accomplished at night, it will."

The Supply Management Unit's Marines here, who work long hours outside preparing gear to be delivered to I MEF troops via 1st FSSG convoys, have already shifted their work hours toward the morning, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mike Naputi, 33, who helps to oversee the unit's operations.

The supply Marines try to get the majority of their work done around dawn to avoid some of the mid-afternoon heat, said the Murrieta, Calif., resident. Additionally, the unit's Marines have set up camouflaged netting to shield themselves from the sun later in the day.

Shade is not enough. Rising heat means troops consume more water and, therefore, more is needed, said Maj. John S. Meade, 36, Combat Service Support Group 15's operations officer.

The supply Marines are also responsible for receiving and distributing much of the bottled water I MEF troops drink.

Delivery of water to I MEF troops has been stepped up to accommodate the surge in demand. Everyday, CSSG-15 pushes between 12,000 and 18,000 cases of water to bases around western Iraq, said Sgt. Gustavo A. Terrazas, 22, the unit's assistant rations chief.

Each camp is supplied with a constant 10-day supply of water that affords each person six bottles per day, said Meade, a native of Greeneville, Tenn.

"I have nightmares about water," joked the Santa Ana, Calif., native.

Having that water available is paying off, said Lt. Cmdr. Tim Mott, 35, the chief doctor at the 1st FSSG's Headquarters and Support Battalion Aid Station.

The heat hasn't led to any overwhelming medical problems yet, he said. Only one person has been treated here for a minor heat stroke, and Mott doesn't expect many more casualties.

Mott credits a program which uses color-coded flags that fly throughout the camp, alerting troops of the heat threat and serving as a reminder to drink water. Every hour, the temperature is taken and flags are changed to reflect any change in the degree of heat.

The system has been effective, and leaders have been using its guidance when determining workloads for Marines, said Mott, a Queensburg, N.Y., native.

Being safe when it's hot is as much up to individuals as it is commanders, he added.

One of the gyms here was temporarily closed when the temperature inside the tent hit 118 degrees after its air conditioners went down. Before it was closed, Marines and sailors were still working out, said Mott, who added that Marines should step up their water consumption when exercising in such high temperatures.

The heat isn't just a risk to Marines, said Gunnery Sgt. Gregg A. Smith, 39, the base operations and utilities chief here. Generators that power the camp have also felt the effects of high temperatures.

The engines sometimes shut down when the temperature reaches about 104 degrees, cutting power to work areas and living tents where Marines rely on the electricity to run air conditioners and computers, said the Wahoo, Neb., native.

Some units have raised camouflaged netting to shade their generators and drip water onto the engines in an attempt to cool them.

The next wave of I MEF Marines arriving in Iraq to relieve those currently deployed can expect cooler days. Temperatures are expected make a 34-degree drop to an average high of 76 degrees in November.
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