MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE --
Hydrate. It’s heard day in and day out by Marines, and those who attended the bi-annual hot weather standard operating procedure training learned why.
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all things looming over the head of anyone planning strenuous exercise events, especially service members.
Throughout history, heat related injuries are a problem in the military. More than 600 heat casualties were reported during World War I and more than 200 deaths were attributed to heat related injuries during World War II. During the 1980s, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., reported fatality rates between 1 and 5 percent for heat stroke victims.
Navy Capt. Steve Blivin, II Marine Expeditionary Force surgeon, said it is important for those in leadership roles to know their warriors. If a Marine or sailor is feeling dizzy or sick during physical training, a heat related injury may be the cause.
Blivin stated it is a good idea to schedule cooling breaks. Before pushing a service member they should be acclimatized, which can take up to three weeks.
The main cause of heat related injuries is the weather. Air temperature, humidity, radiant heat and air movement all contribute to the area-wide heat index or commonly known to Marines and sailors as the flag system.
Blivin said units can still incur problems even training in green flag or no flag weather.
The weather, in addition to poor nutrition or lack of hydration, is the biggest threat to one’s safety during physical training.
Blivin said supplements such as weight loss pills or performance enhancers dehydrate an individual quicker and should be avoided before strenuous physical training.
Every contributing factor is a recipe for disaster when training, and for individuals who suffer from a heat related injury, immediate help is necessary. Cooling the victim is the most important part when treating a heat related injury. Over-heating can cause irreparable brain damage if left untreated.
Blivin added cooling a victim from 108 to 102 degrees has to be done as fast as possible, but spray bottles and fans are not adequate, taking nearly an hour.
In 2009, Blivin implanted a new way to cool casualties suffering from heat related injuries. Taking between 15 to 20 minutes, using ice and water to cool an individual is far more efficient. The ‘burrito’ method, soaking sheets in an ice-water mixture and wrapping the victim, is effective but the ‘taco’ method is just as effective. The ‘taco’ method consists of holding the victim in a sheet and surrounding them with ice and water.
Getting the victim to a health care facility should be done immediately after cooling them to ensure no lasting effects.
For the first time, the HOTSOP training was taught to those in leadership roles.
Blivin said normally he teaches the trainers, who then train the units, but this time he was going straight to the top.
Blivin said everyone doing physical training is at a significant risk. Whether it is a six-mile hike or a physical fitness test, hydrating, eating right and watching out for fellow Marines are the most important things when avoiding heat related injuries.