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CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — Hard training during the South Korean summer has helped 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team avoid heat injuries during its first two weeks in the Middle East, officials say.

Since the first Strikeforce soldiers arrived in Kuwait earlier this month, no one has succumbed to the heat, Strikeforce surgeon Capt. Matt Hing said Thursday.

Other units based in Kuwait have not fared so well in the 120-degree temperatures, he said, citing a National Guard unit training alongside the Strikeforce at Udairi Range that suffered two heat injuries in a single day last week.

Hing, 32, of Sacramento, Calif., has spent the past year in South Korea with 2nd ID. He said Strikeforce soldiers are used to training in the hot conditions near the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

“We come from a unit that is used to extreme heat and we are used to being on a high state of alert for heat injury during spring and summer months,” he said.

The 2nd ID had several heat injuries last summer, but Strikeforce avoided such problems during training for the Middle East deployment, he said.

“In South Korea, we trained not just to rehearse different combat situations but we wanted to be outdoors for an extended period,” Hing said.

A range of tactics have helped Strikeforce keep heat injuries at bay, he said.

Every Strikeforce soldier has been issued two CamelBaks and ordered to drink from them regularly, Hing said.

“We are enforcing hydration and we made it easy for soldiers to hydrate,” he said.

At Camp Buehring, there are pallets of water scattered throughout the areas where Strikeforce soldiers live and work: in buildings, outside doorways, and inside tents.

Pvt. Jason Sparks, 19, of Company C, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, said training in the Kuwaiti heat does not bother him.

“It seems cooler than South Korea because it doesn’t have humidity,” he said.

The Monroeville, Ohio, native and his buddies each take four bottles of water and a full CamelBak when they train in the desert, he said.

“As long as you stay hydrated, you are fine,” he said.

Soldiers are particularly at risk of heat injury because they spend so much time working outdoors, Hing said.

“Our soldiers literally exercise three to four times a day and they are doing other stuff between their workouts — walking from site to site with a rucksack, carrying heavy equipment. Even the support units have long hours and are exposed to the elements for long periods of time,” he said.

Serious heat injuries include heat exertion and heat stroke. A person suffering from these conditions has an elevated core body temperature, Hing said.

“With heat stroke, the core body temperature is 105 degrees or more. It is so high they could get brain damage,” he said.

A person with heat stroke may become confused and start behaving strangely, he said.

“The reason why heat stroke is so serious is because people who get heat stroke can get all sorts of organ failure. It can kill within hours or days,” he said.

Drinking enough water is just one part of heat injury prevention, he said.

Eating regularly, getting adequate rest, using sunscreen and steering clear of caffeinated drinks all help prevent soldiers becoming dehydrated, he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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