BAGHDAD – Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.
April 16, 2006
About a week ago, I thought I'd seen the last drop of water fall from the sky that I would see until I got back to Tennessee. I was wrong.
It rained again last night, and naturally, today it is about 95 degrees. I am thinking it won’t rain again, but I’m no Al Roker. It is truly amazing how the Iraqis deal with rain: Their drainage system essentially boils down to waiting for summer.
Although through the winter months in Baghdad we had some rain and a couple of good storms, the little rain we did get created an awful mess. Combine all the sand with the Iraqi engineering system for drainage and you get mud everywhere. The mud will make things difficult for a couple of days, then the heat kicks back in and dries everything up.
The heat has been getting more and more intense over the past two weeks. We are already having 90-plus degree days, and as we all say, it’s not even hot yet. This will be my third summer in the Middle East. Although it will be nowhere near as bad as Kuwait, where temperatures get up into the 140s, it will be hot, probably around the 120s. But it is a dry heat, so when it's 120, it only feels like 120.
So it’s hot, but there is no relenting in the daily grind. No wearing short-sleeve shirts or a pair of shorts on the weekend. When soldiers go outside the wire they wear nearly 50 pounds of equipment, including body armor, helmet, ammo, water and weapons. Throw in some more weight for radios, medical gear and other such accessories — well, you get the idea. This equipment can weigh anyone down, but soldiers wear all of it whether they are in a static position or on a dismounted patrol walking miles on end for 18 hours a day.
Most of our buildings are air-conditioned — the TOC (tactical operations center), the offices, the trailers and tents we live in, even a number of the HMMWVs (high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles) we drive. But talk to a gunner in one of the HMMWVs and he will tell you that in the summer, being in the turret is like sitting in front of a hair dryer.
War would be a lot more fun if, in lieu of driving around in HMMWVs dodging IEDs, we could drive around in a van and solve mysteries, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. I will say this: Iraq is the only place where the only people driving HMMWVs are the people who should be driving them.
For the most part, as an army we do a pretty good job of fighting off and mitigating the heat. Aside from all the air-conditioning, most patrols normally stock their vehicle with a cooler full of ice water and Gatorade, both of which are always readily available. Most soldiers have moved away from Vietnam-era canteens and carry a CamelBak when outdoors.
When I first entered active duty, for some reason wearing a CamelBak was frowned upon and in some cases not allowed. But after a while, someone must have started listening to soldiers and figured it would be a good idea to get them out in the field.
Nighttime weather over here is interesting, to say the least. In the winter, the temperature drops into the low 40s at night and reaches into the 80s during the day. Air-conditioners blasting during the day, and heaters on full power at night. The temperature fluctuation still amazes me. Now, in mid-April, it is getting into the mid 90s, with lows into the 50s, and I think tomorrow’s forecast calls for locusts. But like I said, I am no Al Roker.