RANGER AGAINST WAR: Physician Heal Thyself <

Monday, November 07, 2011

Physician Heal Thyself

Mister God
For his squad

A marine,

For his queen,

A G.I.,

For his cutey-pie

Is not

--Too Darn Hot
, Ella Fitzgerald

A conservative is a man who is

too cowardly to fight and too fat to run

--Elbert Hubbard

Bring me li'l water, Sylvie,

Bring me li'l water now,

Bring me li'l water, Sylvie,

Every little once in a while

--Bring Me L'il Water, Sylvie,



Army Times recently covered an investigation into the heat exhaustion-induced death of a Ft. Bragg paratrooper this summer, but there is something beyond the heat which is of concern in today's Army. This training exercise also indicts the poor condition of many of today's soldiers

For anyone who has suffered heat exhaustion (as has Ranger), it is a scary experience to feel the body shutting down while one is left with little ability to remedy the situation. Heat exhaustion can strike in extreme cold, as well, if one wears too much clothing during extreme exertion.

"At 5:30 a.m., 59 soldiers from various units set out from Pike's Field dressed in their Army Combat Uniforms and boots. They were carrying 30 pounds of gear, including rucksack, weapon, protective vest, gas mask and helmet.
"About two hours into the march, a female soldier felt dizzy between the sixth and seventh miles and voluntarily left the course, Putzier said.

"He also received word that some soldiers had collapsed and were receiving treatment at an aid station; several were taken to the hospital.

"Organizers at that point decided to halt the march early."

Peanut gallery analysis: The body can only endure the heat by sweating, opening shirts, unblousing trousers and hydrating; not rocket science. We evolved to cover long distances to outrun our prey, but modern man throws up manifold impediments to this natural ability -- everything from using antiperspirants to sleeping and working in air-conditioned billets.

While the heavy gear load contributes to the burden, the helmet and body armor are the killers as they trap in core heat. So that's the trifecta for attaining sure-fire heat exhaustion. (The troops may also have had camouflage paint blocking their pores.)

In my Army, we generally wore cotton clothing and stripped down to breathable garments, which helped us slake off the heat.

"At every mile marker, there were water stations, each manned by a combat life saver. The stations were equipped with sheets soaked in ice water, which are used to quickly cool off heat casualties. Water 'buffalo' trailers were at the midpoint and the end of the circular route."

The 44th Medical Brigade
is assigned to 18th Airborne Corps and as such should be a highly physically proficient unit. Nonetheless, 131 of the initial 190 dropped out of the two-week course, and of the remaining 59, 37 required medical treatment and 13 were admitted to a hospital intensive care unit, one in critical condition. Only eight soldiers received their Expert Medical Badge (no breakdown by gender.)

It is strange that medical personnel do not have more expertise on maintaining their own medical condition: how can they care for the troops in a hot Middle East environment if they are unable to care for themselves? They should not be newbies if they are competing for an advanced qualification badge.

Poor nutrition was also listed a factor contributing to the heat exhaustion -- how could this
be a factor when discussing the diets of garrisoned medical personnel? After eight years of Iraqi conflict, it would seem the Army would have a hook on this problem. In the same issue was this: "Army says number of medically unfit GIs on rise" ("About 15 percent of the active forces aren’t able to deploy for medical reasons.")

These troops may look good, but they still fail the test. Thinking back on my training, we looked anything but nice, but we carried on in a military manner.

Iced blankets and water buffalo trailers are niceties not afforded in a combat environment.

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Blogger FDChief said...

The EFMB has always been a knockout, but usually not because of the road march. I had a brain-fart on CPR back in the Eighties and boloed; I think we badged something like 10 out of 200. It's SUPPOSED to be hard - if your unit gets a bagful of EFMBs then somebody is putting the fix in.

And 44th BDE is the ash-and-trash medical service support unit at Corps. Silent killers, they ain't. I'm not surprised that the sputum-suckers and cast technicians there weren't exactly ready for the burning sands of Egypt.

But I'm surprised at this level of heat casualties. Somebody either wasn't training the EFMB candidates adequately or not paying attention to the wet bulb. Poor leadership, either way.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 1:06:00 AM GMT-5  

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