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SEAL Blog. Looks like a Warm One.

Sunday February 24th 2008 - 13:48 AM EST
Added by: Don Shipley

A SEAL is always either too hot or too cold, and is always carrying too much gear and we would not have it any other way. My career of being too hot began at our Desert training camp in California and ended in the Middle East many years later.

The camp was a "Bear" heat wise with triple digit temps most of the time. We’d freeze our canteens before going out on operations and during the day training we’d gear up and jump in the shower soaking ourselves before beginning. We also had a canal that irrigated the farms in the area near the camp and after a tough day it was platoon swim call to cool off.

The operations we conducted in the desert were always tough with the worst usually being "Laid Up" during the day, waiting for it to get dark again, so we could continue the mission for days at a time. My worst heat injury came in nearby Yuma, Arizona during a training operation.

We were tasked to watch (Recon) an Airfield and report the planes coming in and out. Four days long, it got painful fast.

The area we were in had little cover and we were exposed to the intense heat continually. Doing rotations of two hours each, we’d pair up and climb a shale rock hill and use our optics from a distance to watch the Airfield. During the heat of the day, the rocks became so hot we’d use cammies from the guys below us and lay on them attempting to insulate us from hot rocks.

The next pair would relieve you and when back in the LUP (Lay Up Point) you’d suffer a bit less but not much.

Being a new guy I was learning hard lessons about surviving in the Desert and I was about to learn a big one from not drinking enough water.

We each humped in 4 gallons of water in anything we could put it in. With the intense heat and little shade the water became as hot as the temperature outside and I had a hard time drinking it.

I tried burying canteens in the sand to cool it off. It didn’t work well as I was having a hard time drinking enough of the bath water to keep me going. So hot, I saw a lizard carrying a canteen.

The problem with getting dehydrated is that once you get that way, you have a hard time recovering and re-hydrating, especially in the field and I was getting worse.

I finally ate the big one on the last day. I came off the rocks and moved away from the LUP delirious. The guys found me under a tree that provided as much shade as an outstretched hand. My Platoon Commander was a gruff older SEAL and very experienced. He slapped me around a bit getting my attention and said he’d shoot me if I didn’t get up.

I got up.

I was pumped with hot IV fluids by our corpsman and we waited for dark to extract.

The extraction was a long hump and while I was over the heat exhaustion part, I was SICK, silly sick, and each step was a test.

Heat Exhaustion’s next step is Heat Stroke and I bordered on that and even after getting out safely I was sick for days.

It was a great lesson and so many years of being in the intense heat I’d suffer from it a few more times, as once hurt, you become more susceptible to it. But I learned the symptoms of it and could recognize it was coming on. Agitation, headache, and I had trouble staying still. The quickest way over it was IV’s and I used to carry extra IV fluids for myself in the field.

I’ve had a lot of IV’s and I could even give myself one if necessary.

I’ve been in the worst Deserts the World has and we always did well using our training and lessons we had learned the hard way. Nothing would prepare me for my final Desert excursion in the Middle East though and we would be tested to extremes.

Libya has the highest recorded temperature on record of 136 degrees and while not in Libya, the area we were in rivaled that each day. Terrible intense heat, we had a few thermometers that only registered 120 degrees and we’d peg them out by 11 am each day. In the afternoon the sand storms would hit covering us and destroying equipment with the fine grit.

Everything in the Desert is "bad" as a survival mechanism. The plants have thorns and the wildlife bites and swarms. One of the guys showed me a huge lizard he had in a box. I had never seen this species and it was a big one. Being experienced in the Desert I asked him what it does. "What do you mean what it does" He replied? I stuck my hand in the box close to the lizard and it slung it’s fat thorny tail at blinding speed smashing it into the box. That’s what I mean "What it does" as everything in the Desert does something to protect itself.

Surprisingly, most Deserts are full of flies, but I had never seen anything that compared to this place. We’ve all seen, hard to look at images, of people and kids in impoverished Countries with their noses and mouths covered with flies and I’d often think "Why don’t they schoosh them away?" We found out here why as in "What’s the use" they’ll just come back immediately and you tire quickly swatting at them so our days were spent looking at each other with our faces covered in flies.

You got used to them...

What we never did get used to were the Camel Spiders. Oooo they were big and poisonous. Most being the size of a man’s hand they were hairy, ugly and very aggressive. I believe they attacked us as their eyesight was poor and they just saw movement and attacked knowing nothing out there was much of a match for them. Their jaws were like two lobster claws and powerful with their favorite meal being the never ending supply of mice we had and you’d often see a mouse run past with a Camel Spider in hot pursuit.

The Spiders used to hang out in crevices and cracks unseen. As you’d walk by they’d leap out and strike. I was sitting against some sand bags for a bit and raised my hand to scratch my nose when the concealed hairy prick jumped on my face and freaked me out. When we tried to kill them they’d rear up on their hind legs and jump at us making a tough target tougher. Having enough of being threatened they’d chase us and could move fast with the only thing faster being a squad of us running in all directions trying to escape the things.

Tough SEALs all running from a Spider. I guess you had to be there.

We also enjoyed plenty of snakes and scorpions and shaking out boots and clothing was constant. I was shaving as a young SEAL in California once. My buddy came up behind me and pulled back my PT shorts dropped something in with me. Never skipping a beat I asked looking through the mirror "what was that?" trying to be cool. He replied with "Scorpion" and I came out of my skin ripping off my shorts. It was a huge black sucker and being my friend he had cut the stinger off before dropping it.

Being his friend, I smashed it into a gob the size of a dinner plate in his sleeping bag with a broomstick. 

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