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Rocky C
02-24-16, 10:12 AM
The Marine Corps is taking steps to better prevent heat-related injuries and deaths after a North Carolina-based corporal died during a 6-mile hike last summer.

Cpl. Alexis Aaron Alcaraz, a 22-year-old field radio operator assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, fell out of a unit hump just before sunrise Aug. 13 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Officials concluded that he died of heat stroke, according to the investigation into his death, which was obtained by Marine Corps Times via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The investigating officer determined Alcaraz might have been more susceptible to heat illness because: he didn't have a full night's sleep, he went on the hike on an empty stomach, his normal routine had been disrupted while on temporary assignment duty in the days leading up to his death, or that he had consumed alcohol while on that trip.


Knowing temperatures would rise throughout the day, Alcaraz’s leaders scheduled the Aug. 13 hike for the 1/8 Marines to kick off at 4:40 a.m., about two hours before the sun was scheduled to come up that day. While the temperature stayed below 73 degrees throughout the duration of the hike, the early start meant the Marines participating couldn’t hit the chow hall, which opened at 6 a.m.

While an operational risk management worksheet for the hike states that "section leadership will ensure each Marine consumes chow prior to departing for the event," the investigating officer found that no arrangements were made to provide the members of 1/8 with food prior to the hump.

“The early step time meant that individual Marines had to acquire food for themselves the evening prior to the hike at their own expense,” the investigation states.

The investigating officer recommended that in the future, the division “mandate that all units conducting extended duration physical training outside of mess hall hours … provide some form of nourishment prior to execution.”

Specifically, “1st Battalion, 8th Marines should have provided Meals, Ready to Eat or field rations for the hike participants,” the investigation states.

Alcaraz's death prompted the commanding general of 2nd Marine Division to direct a unit-wide safety stand down, said 1st Lt. Joe Caldwell, a spokesman for II Marine Expeditionary Force. Topics covered during the stand down included hot- and cold-weather injuries, safety procedures and operational risk management, he added. Division staff also developed new training materials for commanders.

"These products stressed the importance of nutrition as it pertains to preventing heat injuries and also required commanders to develop nutritional plans as part of their operational risk management process for combat conditioning," Caldwell said.

Alcaraz had no signs of existing health issues before collapsing that humid August morning with a body temperature of 106.7 degrees.

The Marine, who joined the Corps in June 2012, had earned first-class scores on his past physical and combat fitness tests. The medical officer found “no evidence of chronic or acute medical issues” in Alcaraz’s medical records. He was not dehydrated, had no record of being on the body composition program, and had no drugs or alcohol in his body.

Several witnesses in Alcaraz’s unit told the investigating officer that the corporal had fallen out of a hike about three weeks before his death, but the communications platoon commander said that hump “was longer with heavier equipment in hotter weather.”

The battalion's operational risk management worksheet for the Aug. 13 hike states that any Marine who had been a heat casualty in the past needed to be identified prior to the event. Even though Alcaraz had fallen out of the hike in July, he was not treated for heat illness at that time.

Two days before his death, Alcaraz and another Marine drove about 225 miles north to Fort Lee, Virginia, where they dropped off a piece of gear to another unit training there. The Marines stayed overnight in Richmond where they went out for dinner.

The Marine who traveled with Alcaraz told the investigating officer that the corporal drank three or four Long Island iced teas that night. The pair returned to Lejeune midafternoon the following day. The Marine saw Alcaraz in the barracks later that evening drinking water and Pedialyte, the investigation states. They talked about the upcoming hike.

About 90 Marines with 1/8 set out on the 6-mile exercise just before 5 a.m. It was scheduled to last about two hours, and GPS data collected by the investigating officer shows that the Marines kept a pace of about 3 mph.

Around the fifth mile, Alcaraz began stumbling. He told a corpsman he was dizzy and complained that his right arm was numb before falling to one knee and losing consciousness, the investigation states.

Within five minutes, a safety vehicle arrived to assist. The corporal’s clothes and gear were cut away, and he was packed in ice in order to lower his spiking body temperature.

Alcaraz was taken to the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital where emergency room personnel tried to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead by medical staff at 6:47 a.m.

Alcaraz's family members could not immediately be reached for comment about the investigation's findings or the Marine Corps' new safety measures following his death.

Marine deaths during physical training are rare. Two Marine officers died during PT in 2014. One died during a unit PT run and the other during the 3-mile run portion of his annual physical fitness test.

Natalie P
02-24-16, 11:19 AM
Wow, that's so sad. I remember Rocky talking about his friend Pat who is a Marine here and what happened to his daughter. Sounds pretty much the same if I remember correctly. Rocky almost cried about that happening. I could tell he was not good for awhile.

Prayers, thoughts and I will light a candle for these Marines :(

MunkyVsRobot
02-24-16, 07:59 PM
whats dumb is there is absolutely no reason for everyone to be humping like that either. Believe me I am aware that we still need to be ready for combat at a moments notice but some of these commands are going over board. Not saying that maybe the fallen Marine wasn't partially at fault for what happened but some of these commands are really really going over board. He isnt the first to have died since 2 MEF became a hiking MEF there is a mando hump every month just because the prior CG whispered he might want to do a 2 MEF hump.

When those whispers trickled down the pipeline we started doing weekly humps then it went to monthly humps. Problem is the new pack is a piece of crap it isnt meant to be humped with, with a flak on and where as we just finished OEF/OIF slaying the Marines with humps at the current moment isn't necessary. I could be wrong it has happened before as I stated I am aware we need to be ready to hump (some of us anyways I am a POG and in all reality if deployed to a combat zone unless stuff gets real bad I wont leave the wire.) it just seems like too much at sometimes.

jab116
02-24-16, 10:47 PM
whats dumb is there is absolutely no reason for everyone to be humping like that either. Believe me I am aware that we still need to be ready for combat at a moments notice but some of these commands are going over board. Not saying that maybe the fallen Marine wasn't partially at fault for what happened but some of these commands are really really going over board. He isnt the first to have died since 2 MEF became a hiking MEF there is a mando hump every month just because the prior CG whispered he might want to do a 2 MEF hump.

When those whispers trickled down the pipeline we started doing weekly humps then it went to monthly humps. Problem is the new pack is a piece of crap it isnt meant to be humped with, with a flak on and where as we just finished OEF/OIF slaying the Marines with humps at the current moment isn't necessary. I could be wrong it has happened before as I stated I am aware we need to be ready to hump (some of us anyways I am a POG and in all reality if deployed to a combat zone unless stuff gets real bad I wont leave the wire.) it just seems like too much at sometimes.

As a grunt I'd have to agree with you. It's the same over here at 1 MEF as well. I got some buddies in inf BN's who are supposedly having to do a 5,10, 15, and 20k full kit every month. All while they adopt a new slogan of "hike or die". Unnecessary games and it's only a matter of time before it happens again imo.

irpat54
02-25-16, 01:46 AM
man this really sucks,, prayers outbound for the family, it will take quit a while to get over the shock that is for sure,,, no one wants that visit from the Marines,,

what I don't understand is what caused this,, there must have been other circumstances other then alcohol and heat, I guess they won't know until the autopsy is done, and we here will probably never know for sure..

Rocky C
02-25-16, 09:34 AM
Prayers Outbound....

Big Boz
02-25-16, 10:43 PM
what I don't understand is what caused this,, there must have been other circumstances other then alcohol and heat, I guess they won't know until the autopsy is done, and we here will probably never know for sure..


To me it sounds like he never fully recovered from the first incident of heat exhaustion which made him more susceptible to it even if the 2nd hump wasn't as long or as with as much gear.

We all also know how "thorough" some of the medical exams can be. Like the guy who was told he just had a strained back muscle but for 2 weeks could only get dressed by laying on his side in the fetal position. Turns out motrin doesn't do much for a slipped & herniated disk.

It really sucks to hear about a young Marine going out like that.

troop901
02-26-16, 05:01 PM
Back when I got to my grunt unit we did atleast 1 to 2 humps a week, anywhere from 3 miles to 20 miles because we were getting ready for the MCCRES. I could never understand why they spend billions on transport vehicles and aircraft and we had to hump pass them. My unit had two different humps that became known as the march of death, the first I was not on because I had just got there and was on the rear party, but the second, it was in July and hot as hell, we did 20 miles in that heat. We had not been resupplied with water from the day before nor did we even get MREs for breakfest that morning. I saw Marines fall out that day that never had before due to the heat. One, who was my buddy, just fell out and started to stagger over towards New River, they had to go get him, he had no clue where he was, he just wanted to get to the water. Our Lt. Col. got his butt ripped by the Navy doc. because they got flooded with heat related cases.
There is no need for these humps to still be going on, I see from other posts that most agree that we still have to be ready to hump up a hillside or something, but how often do Marines have to hump 25 miles in less then 8 hrs.
SF

MunkyVsRobot
02-26-16, 08:13 PM
exactly and to my knowledge ( i havent experienced this first hand only heard stories) IF there is a real hump it is rarely with full kit. I have heard that it is usually with a day pack and like a day or twos worth of stuff, im sure there have been instances during OEF/OIF where people humped with everything Ive just heard it didnt happen too often. Maybe in the beginning it happened more and then trickled down as it dwindled down. Still not necessary to be able to hump 6000 pounds 1 million miles in less than 30 minutes.

thegimprider
05-29-16, 06:19 AM
No mention of a black flag warning I would call this a fluke death. Sudden unless the Marine was hiding his symptoms. I've dealt with dehydration/heat exhaustion on long distance cycle tours and everyone who does sports should be very aware of early warning signs. Pee Clear, the annual Burning Man newspapers title says much.
Dehydration/heat exhaustion causes confusion and mental impairment equal to getting very drunk. Hallucinations are common even in early stages.
I don't think a single death like this warrants a change in PT program but might mean education of danger was not clear. I sure got well instructed in boot camp but I was in a unit that pushed harder than most with 10 mile per day runs from day one.

Zulu 36
05-29-16, 10:22 AM
I wrote about an incident in my book Stepping In It (shameless plug) that happened to my boot camp series, and a sad event in my platoon. Essentially, the series commander decided to take the whole series on a run during a black flag Sunday, while we were at Edson Range. August 1971.

It was so bad that DIs were openly bad mouthing the lieutenant in front of recruits, and DIs were falling out of the run, along with dozens of recruits. The King Rat in my platoon ran until he passed out, then managed to hit his head on a rock when he fell. He was in full fledged heat stroke (plus what turned out to be a closed head injury).

The platoon commander grabbed me and between us, we took turns fireman carrying the Rat to the nearest barracks several hundred yards away, and straight into the shower. We were both nearly done in ourselves. To this day I don't know how I managed to be any help at all, had to be all adrenaline.

Anyway, the sick bay sent an ambulance with two Marines and no Corpsmen. I rode in the back with the Rat and he stopped breathing several times. Not knowing what to do, I was told to slap his face (great for his head injury I'd bet). That did kick start him back into breathing.

Anyway, the docs and Corpsmen really piled in to work on the Rat and I'm sure did their best. He survived, but basically became a vegetable. A shame as he would have been a hell of a Marine.

There was quite the investigation and I was scheduled to testify, but was never called. The platoon commander did testify. The upshot was the series commander was not relieved literally, but he was no longer allowed to do anything. The company commander and series gunny had to pickup the slack. When we graduated, the lieutenant was transferred somewhere. I think he had some connections to avoid an outright relief for cause.

I guess he thought running recruits with five or six weeks experience into the deck was going to make us tougher Marines. All he did was earn the enmity of all of the series DIs and recruits, not to mention ruining his own career.

thegimprider
05-29-16, 01:07 PM
not to mention ruining his own career.
Destruction of government property! Yes we break when used too hard. When one leader does it they get fried but when it comes from the top it all gets justified. Multiple combat tours is very likely the major cause of high current suicide rate. My company commander wanted his Marines to run marathons and ran us 10 miles per day...Platoon 1001...I graduated from 3017 with an extra 5 weeks MRP. Many more of my unit cycled through MRP with a 60% drop rate.
VA just sawed my lower legs in half to add cadaver bone, correcting that 1977 compression fracture, it hurt but I kept on running. Switched to bicycle for all my cardio PT the next 6 years to maintain 1st class PT scores. I only ran in PFT once per year under 18 min.
The famous drowning of a platoon from PI was a story of training gone bad.