12 August 2010

Water, Water Everywhere

The heat at Camp Shelby, Miss., is a gut-punch, and the back-and-forth between allegedly air-conditioned buildings is a forced march along molten blacktop. If there's any breeze at all, it smells of pine and asphalt, skunk and sweat--his sweat, her sweat, your sweat. After even a short walk between buildings, your uniform will be soaked. The trick to survival is to learn how to not mind being sweaty. Or sticky. Or smelly.

The brigade commander has issued a uniform policy that includes the wear of a "hydration system" wherever you go(canteens went out with the 20th century Army). The need to drink water is constant, and everyone reminds everyone else to "drink water!" There are even official Army posters about how to self-diagnose the color of one's urine.

I remember working Washington, D.C., and sweating the walk between pools of cool. I'd pop out of a dark Metro tunnel, and trudge and sludge my way to an office kennel. The Nature Channel is right: There are good reasons why desert animals are nocturnal--and my younger self was living proof of it.

Camp Shelby forces the same kind of avoid-the-sun survival techniques, except in a rural setting. If you're lucky enough to work in a air-conditioned office or tent, you tend to optimize business there, particularly in the afternoons. Recently in Mississippi, it's been highs in the mid- to high-90 degrees Fahrenheit, with nightly lows in the mid-70s. Factoring in humidity, the heat index has been up to a feels-like-110-degrees-F.

Sure, it's hot, but it at least it's a wet heat. With 100 percent chance of perspiration, everyday.

The equipment of choice is the Camelbak-brand hydration system. I carry a non-Army issue piece of Camelbak merchandise, one with pockets enough for some sunglasses, hand-cleanser, and a broken-down Meal Ready to Eat (M.R.E.) It's pretty girly, I'll admit--probably the equivalent of those little why-bother-sized backpacks worn by teenyboppers and mallrats. But it gets the job done.

I've taken to the practice of putting ice from an ice machine--Army chow halls usually have them--into the bladder of my Camelbak. It keeps my liter of water reasonably cool for a couple of hours, although too much ice ends up creating a pool of condensation at the bottom of the bag. Since water flows to the path of least resistance, the condensation occasionally begins to drips through, and I end up with a soggy butt.

War is heck.


  1. I understand exactly what you're talking about when you say that the heat and humidity makes one sweaty, sticky an stinky.
    My AC here in the MetroAtlanta area has decided to go South for the rest of the Hot Season. Lucky Me.
    As for a 'soggy butt'...being a LARGE-chested female that's not exactly what seems to be giving me fits with all the dripping ick-kies.

    Miss Em

  2. My pee is always GREEN...Army GREEN.
    Shelby sounds like Ft Polk...crappy. Did they find some comdemend WWII barracks to stick the Guard in?

    This is my last AT man...then I'm retiring.

    Good luck...

  3. Yes, at least it's a wet heat, so mold has a good chance of settling in your shoes.
    Next up: you'll have to write about the bugs. "Bite me" would not be an inaccurate motto for your situation.

  4. Wait a minute. Do you have to actually pee on the poster to compare the shade? That seems wrong, even from Uncle Sam. And what if you take vitamin C? Can you adjust for that?


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