Heat tests military training and technology

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

KUWAIT CITY -- For battle-weary troops already two weeks into a full-fledged war, one more challenge still looms -- the desert heat.

With April and its 80-degree temperatures marking the start of summer, troops already loaded down with packs weighing up to 100 pounds will become another element of the war.

Temperatures in southern Iraq were expected to reach the 90s by Thursday. By June, temperatures should break 100; by July, it could reach 120 degrees.

"Heat is a factor like an enemy position is a factor," said U.S. Marine Maj. David C. Andersen. "That is simply something you have to take into account."

The soaring temperatures and unforgiving weather may prove to be the ultimate test of the military's training and technology. U.S. military planners have been factoring in the hostile realities of the desert environment.

Though they insist it doesn't change their timetable, smart commanders know that weather can become an important ally or enemy.

Last week, sandstorms that dropped visibility to a few feet slowed the U.S. infantry's advance toward Baghdad. Heat could force military commanders to adjust their strategy.

"You may see even more night operations," Andersen said. "Of course, we prefer fighting at night anyway."

British and American troops have a nighttime advantage with their high-tech equipment, including sophisticated night vision goggles.

For allied British troops, training for the heat was an early requirement. The soldiers, who operate under a buddy system, are required to make sure their partner consumes enough water each day, said military spokeswoman Capt. Martine McMee.

"Commanders are responsible for making sure the troops drink enough water," she said. If troops are inside their chemical suits, they have to drink more, she said.

Under intense heat, commanders will rely on a heat stress index, she said.

"As the index goes up, the amount of work you can do without a rest is less and less," McMee said. "For example, it could mean 15 minutes of hard work and 30 minutes of rest."

But many of the troops have gone through rigid training in Southern California.

"That is a brutal environment, too," he said. "When you get here, you just refine the techniques. You do get used to it after a while."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: