View Full Version : Marines Prepare For Harsh Desert Climate

07-18-03, 05:29 AM
26th MEU Marines Prepare
For Harsh Desert Climate

By U.S. Marine Corps Capt. James D. Jarvis
Public Affairs Officer, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

NEAR CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti - For the Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), their expectations for mild weather during their exercises have come to an end with their arrival this week in the sweltering heat of Djibouti, a small East African country.

With seasonal highs near 120 degrees and nighttime "lows" in the upper nineties, Djibouti offers these Marines a unique training opportunity to better prepare their minds and bodies for the harsh realities of conducting training and operations in the desert.

"Djibouti is an excellent training opportunity for the MEU," said Col. Andrew P. Frick, the unit's commanding officer. "The climate is hot, the ground is rugged and there's significant elevation to contend with. By training here, the Marines can become familiar with the kinds of environments where they may be asked later to prosecute the will of the National Command Authority," he said.

While in Djibouti, MEU training will span the gamut of MEU (SOC) capabilities including numerous live-fire training events, aviation delivered ordnance training for their AV-8B Harriers and close air support for their assault and light attack helicopters. Additionally, MEU Marines will conduct a wide variety of training including tanks, artillery, light-armored reconnaissance, water production and distribution and a vast array of combat service support to safely maintain the force.

With so much training to accomplish in a short period of time in the sweltering summer temperatures, hydration will be key to these Marines' success.

"It's not so much the heat that causes problems as it is the heat index which is a combination of the high temperatures and the air's humidity," said Lt. Cmdr. Richard H. Jadick, 26th MEU surgeon. "Once the heat index climbs above 90 degrees, your body becomes too humid for the sweat to evaporate. No longer able to radiate the heat away from your body, your internal cooling mechanisms stop working properly causing your core temperature to rise dangerously high. That's where hydration and limiting strenuous activity during the heat of the day become keys to survival and continued safe execution of the training," he said.

Jadick said that most Marines and sailors would lose up to 3 gallons of fluid per day in such an environment. "Just like a radiator, your body will overheat if you don't replace those fluids. That's why it is crucial to continue to drink water throughout the day. You either hydrate or you die," he said.

In addition to hydration, Jadick recommended several other steps to reduce the risks of heat related injuries. These included working during the coolest parts of the day and having fewer Marines and sailors ashore at any given time so as to not overwhelm the medical and medevac capabilities there. Additionally, Jadick recommended imposing a 72-hour limitation on Marines' exposure to the heat.

Despite the heat, Djibouti is a great training opportunity. "When we structured this training plan, we tried to focus on the units that have had limited training opportunities thus far in the deployment and allow them to garner the most benefit," said Capt. Matthew R. Sasse, 26th MEU (SOC) Assistant Operations Officer.

Logistically, the MEU's first priority ashore was water. "With each Marine expected to utilize up to 10 gallons of water per day for drinking, bathing, and other uses, the ability to store, produce and keep cool large quantities of water is absolutely critical, " said Maj. Keith D. Reventlow, 26th MEU (SOC) Logistics Officer. "In Djibouti, we contracted ice deliveries of up to 2,000 lbs per day. We recognized that if we wanted the young Marines to drink water, we had to try to keep it reasonably cool," he said.

In addition to water and ice concerns, MEU logisticians had to closely monitor their equipment, as these tend to break more often and overheat in extreme heat. "Vehicles are going to overheat, fan belts are going to break, generators are going to have to be shut down for periods of time and we're going to have to do a lot of maintenance to keep everything functioning," Reventlow said.

The MEU can mitigate these challenges and limitations through planning and by ensuring redundancy of all critical systems, especially communications, Reventlow explained.

"If you monitor your equipment closely, keep it clean, provide it airflow whenever possible (elevate laptops to allow circulation beneath them) and build in redundancy, you can overcome the challenges with the equipment and can then focus on keeping your people engaged," Maj. Henry L. Gonzales, 26th MEU Communications Officer said.

This training accomplishes two main objectives. First, it keeps the MEU sharp for real-world operations. And secondly, "It is a morale builder for the Marines as by their very nature, they want to go ashore," Frick said.


Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU (SOC) receive a load of ice to help them stay cool while training in the heat of Djibouti, Africa. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Mark E. Bradley.



07-18-03, 07:45 AM
I love my Marine Corps optimism! One of the harshest places on planet earth and the CO calls it "...an excellent training opportunity for the MEU."

In every clime and place!