Heat hits hand grenades
The Army considers a number of meteorologic factors to determine “safe-to-train” conditions during the aggressive heat of summer months.
This summer at Fort Knox, Cadet Summer Training has employed the use of the WetBulb Globe Temperature which measures the heat stress in direct sunlight, while taking into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover. The WBGT better measures the affect of working in direct sunlight than the heat index does and for that reason, many military installations employ it.
On the afternoon of June 30, Cadets of the Alpha Company 6th Regiment didn’t need a fancy thermometer on a tripod to know the heat and humidity was miserably hot and borderline dangerous to work in.
According to the National Weather Service, working in direct sunlight in temperatures at or above 90 degrees fatigues the body after 15 minutes. Resting 45 minutes of each work-hour is advised.
Which is why the Hand Grenade Assault Course scaled back its mission that day. Staff Sgt. Charles Hardesty, stationed in Fort Knox, stood ready to distribute magazines loaded with blank ammo. He said Cadets modified their uniforms to increase airflow and decrease the chance of becoming a heat casualty.
“They aren’t crawling today, and no individual movements,” he said. “They’re walking through the course. And they’re only doing the first three stations.”
Sgt. 1st Class Frank Beman, also stationed in Fort Knox, instructed pairs of Cadets as they maneuvered their way through the modified course.
“Two hours of training for five minutes of execution,” he announced to his first set of Cadets. “Due to weather, we aren’t doing any [individual movement training].”
Cadet Joshua Hethers from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff was disappointed about the restrictions placed on the course, but appreciated the training his company received before jumping into the thick of things.
“The heat category limits a lot of what we can do,” he said. “But the actual teaching that they gave us over there at the stations gave us a nice solid foundation to come over here and do everything.”
Prior to the Hand Grenade Course at LDAC, Hethers said the training he received regarding grenades was basic.
“I’ve thrown the plastic training grenades before back at my university but this is my first time that I’ve been able to use the training grenades that actually have the blasting cap in them,” he said. “It was really exciting. Besides the fact that I can’t throw with my left arm, it was a really good experience even with that detriment.”
For Hethers, the most helpful part of the experience was the step-by-step instructions given during training.
“We had covered some very, very basic grenade employment back at my university when I was a freshman so that was three years ago,” he said. “But not to this depth nor anywhere near this. We were given fakes and we just throw them around and that’s really it. We weren’t given a lot of the explanation and the know-how, they just said, ‘Okay, hold it like this, twist, pull pin, frag out.’ But here, they went through it step-by-step, ‘You have to hold this a specific way, you have to do this, you have to do that, and if you don’t, it could end up being very bad for you.’”
Hand Grenade Assault Course is just one rung on the ladder of LDAC, escalating Hethers to a leadership position within the Army.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It makes me feel awesome because I’m going into a profession that only one percent of the population can, and I get to lead America’s finest. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling, really, is what it is.”