Fort Sill trainees acclimate to triple-digit heat

FORT SILL, Ok (KSWO) - It's only the second week of basic training for the 1st of the 40th on Fort Sill, which means these trainees are still getting acclimated to the Oklahoma heat. Wednesday, they went through the team development course and although there are plenty of trees to provide some relief, efforts to stay cool don't stop there. Drill Sergeant Bethany Harris says there are several stations to mitigate the risk of heat injuries.

"We have air conditioned tents, which is our DRASH tent, we have solar shades and misters in the solar shades," said Drill Sergeant Harris. "We also have water at each station and ice sheets for reactants, not actual mitigation."

The drill sergeant relies on what's called a wet bulb to determine what kind of safety precautions to take. It gives an adjustment temperature based on humidity in the air. The wet bulb reading on Wednesday morning was 96, which fell into heat category two. At that point, trainees had to adjust their uniforms accordingly.

"When they're in a heat mitigation uniform, they have their pants un-bloused and they have their trousers folded right at the second cuff of their boots," Drill Sergeant Harris said. "The cuffs of their tops are cuffed in and open, so they get air through their tops and their bottoms."

The most common heat-related injury soldiers face is dehydration. Other injuries include heat exhaustion and in extreme cases, heat stroke. If it comes down to it, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Heaton says emergency services waste no time getting a soldier the proper care.

"We have 911 access to the Reynolds Health Clinic that they can provide immediate response service as well as the two hospitals downtown with Comanche and Southwest," Lt. Col. Heaton said.

While much of the responsibility falls back on the soldier to stay hydrated and eat properly, Drill Sergeant Harris leads by example and motivates her platoon to keep driving on.

"I let them know they'll go through hardships and its not going to end here, it starts here," she said. "It only gets harder but knowing they can get through these nine weeks, they'll be okay. They can get through anything."

Heat related injuries do happen on occasion. In the last two weeks on Fort Sill, two soldiers were evacuated by ambulance. One was a trainee, the other was active duty.

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