>>> The News: JAY KAY!
By staff writer Amir Blumenfeld
August 11, 2004

The real news (for boring people)
The breakdown (for college people)

Heat of Battle Takes Toll on U.S. Forces

By Edmund Sanders LA Times

NAJAF, Iraq — In two days of combat, U.S. Army Spc. Steve Koetting dodged bullets, overcame sleep deprivation and endured the stress of fighting grave-to-grave in a cemetery against an enemy who rarely showed his face.

This summer… Alec Baldwin is… “The Commander.”

In the end, however, it was Iraq's oppressive heat that put the 21-year-old soldier on his back and out of the fight.

Man, Iraq is getting pretty sophisticated. I don't even think America can control its own climate anymore!

Koetting is one of about half a dozen soldiers who have been evacuated from the front line in recent days because of heat exhaustion and related problems. Several dozen more have been treated on the battlefield in this south-central Iraqi city, where U.S. troops and armed followers of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr are squaring off.

Mugtada Sadr…I'd like to buy a vowel! HA HA HA HA! *Sips ice water*

With temperatures approaching 130 degrees, medics fear that casualties will increase. “This could become a significant problem,” said Brian Humble, senior medical officer with a Marine emergency facility at a camp just outside Najaf.

“Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk!” Private Dawson said as everybody squirmed and gave faces that connoted, “If you say that one more time I'm going to shoot you in the neck.”

In the run-up to last year's invasion, military strategists voiced concerns about fighting during Iraq's unforgiving summer. By sending troops into Iraq in March and reaching Baghdad in a matter of weeks, the military avoided major combat in the hottest season. By August, operations consisted mostly of patrols and raids.

We should use ice bullets. That way they'll melt and nobody will die! (That's the last time I let a GIRL write for my article….right?!)

Even so, several soldiers died of heatstroke and other heat-related problems last year, military officials say. Now, with the resumption of battle in Najaf, the military is facing exactly what it wanted to avoid.

Funny enough, if you rearrange the letters in Najaf it spells Ja Fan, which is Norwegian for “The Fan,” which is what they need in Najaf, because it's so DARN HOT! (Seriously girl, get away from my keyboard!)

In addition to increasing casualties, extreme temperatures are a severe morale buster for troops. Tempers get short, behavior gets more aggressive and battlefield mistakes are more common, troops say.

Oh really? Is that what happens when you're hot as hell? Thanks troops, I would have no idea! See how bitter I'm getting! And it's only 89 here!

“It really demotivates you,” said Koetting, who suffered from cramps and lethargy before being treated for dehydration Monday. “It's by far the hardest part of all this.”

“Yup…the HARDEST PART,” Koetting said, fanning himself as he dodged 23 land mines.

In the most serious cases, victims can become disoriented, lose consciousness and die. Military officials are so concerned about this that they've ordered officers to conduct urine checks of soldiers to look for signs of dehydration, Humble said.

I don't get what the big deal is. No matter how hot they get, I'M still pretty comfortable. I mean, I could use a little more A/C, but I'm not complaining.

Before arriving in Iraq, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit's 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, trained in the Californiadesert, and every Marine had to sit through a presentation on the risks of dehydration.

But it was outside and kinda hot so most people didn't pay attention.

But nothing prepared the Camp Pendleton-based Marines for the Iraqi summer. In battle, troops can sweat about 2 quarts of water an hour, but the body can absorb only a bit more than half that amount in the same time, regardless of how much is consumed.

So why don't they implement my patented “lick the sweat off the troop in front of your neck” theory?!

“So when you're out there fighting, you can never get enough water,” said Capt. Sudip Bose, an Army emergency physician who has been treating heat-exhaustion victims in Najaf.

“It's kinda funny when you think about it,” Bose said, chuckling, “Also, I'm a huge dick.”

Body armor and equipment weigh up to 40 pounds and can raise body temperature by 5 degrees. M-16 rifles can heat up so much, they become literally too hot to handle.

The handle becomes too hot…to handle! Oh that's priceless! *A single bead of sweat emerges from my brow…I become furious at my assistant for not keeping my core temperature regulated*

In the cemetery where much of the fighting has occurred, the only place for soldiers to escape the sun is in sweltering Humvees and tanks or in some of the hundreds of large crypts and mausoleums, where photographs of the dead stare back at them.

They're lucky, at least their icy cold stares of death will drop their body heat down one iota! What's that? Icy cold is just a metaphor?! Really?! I had NO idea.

“It's eerie,” said Capt. Patrick McFall, standing inside a mint-green concrete tomb. “This is someone's sanctuary.”

Then why are you jerkin' it all over the tomb, dude? Why are you effing jerkin' it?!

In the summer sun, Bradley fighting vehicles can turn into virtual ovens, with temperatures surpassing 150 degrees. Most of the serious heat-exhaustion cases so far have involved soldiers who fought on foot, then climbed back inside tanks, Humble said.

Johnson, quit baking lavash bread in my tank!

Ice, brought in coolers by supply convoys, is a precious commodity on the front lines.

But Vanilla Ice, brought in by the USO, has become an even RARER commodity on the front lines. Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it!

“On the bright side, it's easy to make coffee in the morning,” said one red-faced soldier, sitting on top of his Bradley and holding a water bottle filled with coffee. “Want some?”

“No thanks,” the reporter replied. “Hey, your nose is bleeding….” The soldier just smiled as blood ran down his face past his neck, his face motionless. The reporter simply looked around to see if anybody else was seeing this, closed the soldiers eyelids, and tipped him over into a grave. “That coffee sounds pretty good right about NOW!” the reporter exclaimed, whilst everybody in his battalion began cracking up before his sentence was even completed.