Freezing weather: Training stays on schedule Print E-mail
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Story and photo by Melissa Buckley
GUIDON staff
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Training doesn’t stop because of freezing temperatures on Fort Leonard Wood, but outside operations adjust to keep troops safe in the bitter cold.

“Special considerations must be made to ensure that the training scheduled, resourced and planned can be conducted in a safe manner. We have 14 weeks to take a group of volunteers and transform them into U.S. Army combat engineers and bridge crew members. Every hour of every day is planned out several weeks in advance, with that goal in mind,” said 1st Lt. Dustin Dobbins, Company C, 35th Engineer Battalion, executive officer.
Last week, Company C, 35th Eng. Bn. Soldiers spent their fifth week of Basic Combat Training on the range for basic rifle marksmanship. 

“Each day this week, the actual morning temperature has been below zero. But, that does not take into consideration the wind chill — that is what makes a tough condition even worse. Several things were modified this very cold week. The trainees were allowed to wear more warm weather gear, in loose layers, while firing their weapon on the range. A hard structure building on the range was identified as a warming shack, where trainees would be located before and after their time on the firing line,” Dobbins said.

Pvt. Roberto Macias, Company C, 35th Eng. Bn., is from Moreno Valley, Calif. He said training at Fort Leonard Wood right now is shocking, since the temperature at his hometown rarely drops below 60 degrees.

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Pvt. Roberto Macias, Company C, 35th Engineer Battalion, attempts to qualify on Range 7 during basic rifle marksmanship training.
“I’m enjoying my time here, but I’m still trying to get used to the cold. To me, it’s a new experience — a new challenge. The cold weather gets my adrenaline pumping,” Macias said.

“The hardest part for me is the wind. It makes it harder for me to move and give it 100 percent. The wind keeps the cold on my mind. My hands hurt when they feel like they are freezing up,” he added.

The new Soldiers-in-training aren’t the only ones Dobbins worries about.

“We currently have a class of more than 170 trainees, and on the range they are broken down into many sub tasks and locations. Drill sergeants must be at all these locations supervising, providing guidance and direction at all times. We established a cadre rotation that allowed two drills sergeants to have 15 minutes in a warm environment at a time, then they would rotate, giving another a chance to warm up,” Dobbins said.

There are several risks involved with service members and civilians who are required to work outside in cold weather, according to Gregory Hipps, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Safety Office safety technician.

“The number-one risk encountered by Soldiers operating outside is lack of preparation and acclimatization; you must prepare for the weather in much the same manner as you would prepare for an enemy in combat. In these conditions, your body undergoes a number of physical and emotional changes that can have a detrimental impact on your health and duty performance,” Hipps said. 

Hipps said overconfidence can be dangerous in freezing temperatures.

“You are not superman or superwoman. Your body is not immune to the affects of cold weather, rain, snow, or rapid temperature change. Wear your personal protective equipment and cold weather gear; adjust it due to temperature changes and work rest cycles to allow for overheating and cooling,” Hipps said.

According to the U.S. Army Public Health Command, cold weather-related injuries include hypothermia, frostbite, frost nip, chilblains, trench foot, snow blindness, injuries due to heaters, carbon monoxide poisoning, and accidents due to impaired physical and/or mental function resulting from cold stress.

“In my military experience, the most common cold weather experienced by Soldiers is frostbite and frostnip; the next one would be hyperthermia,” Hipps said.

Hipps added that proper nutrition and hydration are critical to avoiding cold weather injuries.

“Regardless of the temperature, your body requires about three liters of total fluids per day; this is generally intended to mean water, or other healthy fluids. This does not mean three liters of coffee, energy drinks or any of the other caffeine sources used to provide instant energy,” Hipps said.

“In cold weather conditions you still sweat and your body needs to replenish those fluids on a regular basis. Slamming two to three cups of water or a canteen full of water is not as beneficial as sipping it over a period of time.”

Staying hydrated is something Macias is trying to stay on top of.

“I have to remind myself to keep drinking water. I don’t usually drink as much water when it’s cold, but I have been keeping my CamelBak full to stay hydrated,” Macias said.

He’s looking forward to continuing his basic training, even if it is freezing outside.

“It’s really cold, but I’m getting use to it now. I’ll just keep moving to keep warm. It usually works out well for me,” Macias said.

For more information about cold weather injuries visit www.phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/discond/cip/Pages/ColdCasualtiesInjuries.aspx.
 
Last Updated ( Friday, 21 February 2014 )