Support our mission

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Staff Sgt. Jeffery Marjerrison sweated it out in full battle gear through two tours in Iraq, where temperatures can easily reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even that wasn’t as bad as 87 degrees in parts of South Korea, where humidity makes the body feel much hotter.

"When you’re from places that have no humidity, and you’re not used to it, it’s almost unbearable," said Marjerrison, of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry.

As temperatures heat up throughout the Pacific, Marjerrison and other supervisors around the Pacific say they’re keeping an eye out for heat injuries and making sure their soldiers take precautions.

The military uses a "wet-bulb" temperature reading, which takes humidity into account, when determining outdoor physical activity. Some bases also use a color-coded flag system to warn people when heat rises to dangerous levels.

The high heat and humidity combination in the Pacific theater shouldn’t be underestimated, officials say.

"The body cools itself from evaporation," said Lt. Col. Alan Gatlin, 2nd ID’s new division surgeon. "With the humidity level higher, sweat isn’t evaporating, and the cooling isn’t nearly as efficient."

It takes 10 to 14 days for the average person to begin acclimating to the local weather, according to U.S. Army guidelines, though that can vary.

Studies tend to cast doubt on the belief among some people that sleeping in air conditioning will prevent acclimatization, Gatlin said.

"Short periods in air conditioning don’t seem to reset that [acclimatization]," Gatlin said, citing studies.

Drinking water when thirsty — and sipping it even when not thirsty — is essential to preventing heat injuries.

Tim French, of the 2nd ID safety office, says he conducts weekly safety spot checks of division units.

"The NCOs are always drinking water and persuading their soldiers to do so," French said.

That even goes for the military police kennel, where the dogs are considered "soldiers" and hydrated accordingly, French said.

During strenuous exercise in the heat, servicemembers should look out for signs of cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke in those around them.

Heavy sweating combined with pale, cool skin can be a sign of exhaustion, along with headache, nausea, dizziness and loss of appetite. During heat stroke, which can be fatal, sweating stops and skin may become flushed and hot.

Guidelines issued to servicemembers range from moving heat injury victims into shade to immersing them in water in extreme conditions.

Although sunscreen use is not required, commanders are also encouraging soldiers to wear sunblock with SPF 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

A commander can use discretion to mete out Article 15 nonjudicial punishment to a soldier with severe sunburn if it damages unit readiness, according to Army regulations.

twitter Email

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up