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Pfc. Victoria Thompson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, bundles up against the cold last week.
Pfc. Victoria Thompson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, bundles up against the cold last week. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — With chilling winds whipping across the Korean peninsula and temperatures dropping into the single digits, the U.S. Army is stressing cold-weather safety to its troops.

Part of last week’s New Horizons Day — an 8th Army-wide safety stand down — focused on protecting soldiers from the frigid elements, including classes on cold-weather injuries, gear and risk assessment.

Maj. Jason Pike, commander of the 5th Medical Detachment at Yongsan Garrison, said keeping soldiers safe in the cold is “very much part of the Army conscience,” and is the “responsibility of both the individual soldier and the command.”

Soldiers coming to South Korea are issued cold-weather gear and are trained to use it properly, Pike said. And, he stressed, the training is mandatory.

“It’s non-negotiable,” Pike said. “It doesn’t matter where you came from or if you’ve had the training before. You’re going to be trained here.”

In today’s climate, every cold-weather injury is closely scrutinized, said Army officials. If a soldier suffers an injury from cold weather, “that’s bad,” Pike said. “Someone would be held responsible. If one of my soldiers were injured, I’d probably lose my job.”

At Camp Red Cloud, 2nd Infantry Division headquarters, soldiers gathered in small groups last week to conduct their New Horizons safety training.

Staff Sgt. Bradley Nylander, of the 2nd ID’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company’s operations section, taught “Winning in the Cold,” a class on injuries.

He stressed to the soldiers — from privates to sergeants major — that staying safe in the cold is everyone’s responsibility.

“You have to ensure your soldiers are staying healthy,” Nylander told the noncommissioned officers.

“You have to make them take off their boots and socks and show you their feet,” he said. “You have to make them bring extra socks and T-shirts and ensure they change them if needed.”

Nylander said cold affects soldiers directly — frostbite, chilblains trench foot, hypothermia and dehydration — or indirectly, through fatigue or problems with heaters: injuries from the heaters themselves, carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly vented heaters or tent fires.

Staff Sgt. Omar Bunch’s class on the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System stressed the importance of wearing the proper gear.

Bunch, of HHC, called it a “big mistake when soldiers wear all this gear when it’s not that cold out yet.”

“They’re doing their body a disservice,” he said, by not letting it become accustomed to colder conditions.

Bunch said the training is vital so soldiers can learn the right gear to wear for different conditions. “When used properly, this gear will keep them safe,” he said.

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