A neighbor stepped out of his car and waved hello. I waved back: “How are you?”
“Hot.” He threw an appraising eye at my hedge trimmer and freshly shorn bushes and shook his head. “Too hot for me” he added, and headed indoors.
I picked up a rake and started corralling the clippings. The school teacher across the street arrived home and tossed a friendly “Warm enough for you, Sarah?” over the road.
[Side note: After assuming my name was “Sarah” all these years, I’ve finally learned that it’s properly pronounced SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY-uh-ruh. Thank you to the South for correcting my misconception.]
The neighbors know it’s hot. I know it’s hot. We all know it’s hot, right? Enter the Army. Many Army units and individuals are highly trained and run like a well-oiled machine – Special Forces on a mission, my husband’s team handling a trauma patient, those efficient jerks doing artillery target practice at six in the morning on Saturdays. However, the Army is still a government organization ruled by a vast unwieldy beaurocracy where committees recommend the formation of other committees who request reports which need summaries which are turned into memos, which are filed in drawers, all at vast expense to the tax payers. “It’s hot, drink some water” doesn’t cut it in the Army. We need a system. We need….*drumroll*….Heat Cat.
With summer in full swing, the Fort updates and broadcasts the current Heat Cat throughout the day, accompanied by the Army Work/Rest and Water Consumption Table. The chart looks like this:
Taking numerous factors into account, this table tells you exactly how much water and rest you need as the temperature rises in two to three degree increments. So, for example, if it’s 87 degrees out and you’re “Walking hard surface at 2.5 mph, < 30 Lb load”, you’re in Heat Cat 3 at easy, which means NL (No Limit) on work and 3/4 qt. per hour fluid intake.
What if, being a dedicated Army spouse, I decide to put this thoughtfully developed government system to work in our own home? Suppose I’d wanted to use it for those two hours of hedge trimming this evening?
First, I need to classify my work. It’s definitely harder than “Manual of Arms” and probably easier than “Walking hard surface at 3.5 mph, ≥ 40 Lb load” or “Field Assaults.” As the best approximate, I’m going to match it up to “Defensive Position Construction” or “Individual Movement Techniques, i.e. Low Crawl or High Crawl.” That puts it in the “Moderate Work” classification.
So far, so good. Then I review the additional factors sections. Am I an average-sized, heat acclimated soldier wearing BDU, hot weather? Close enough. I’m supposed to reference TB MED 507 for further guidance if I’m unsure, but oops, I don’t have it handy with the gardening tools.
I’m not wearing body armor, so it’s not necessary to add 5 degrees to the WBGT index.
I’m not wearing NBC (MOPP 4) clothing while doing Moderate or Hard Work, so there’s no need to add 20 degrees to the WBGT index.
For efficiency’s sake, we will skip the evaluation of individual variation in water-consumption needs (+/- 1/4 qt/hr) and the full sun/full shade variation (+/- 1/4 qt/hr).
That puts the preliminary analysis out of the way. On to the actual table. I don’t have a thermometer handy (I know, everyone else carries a thermometer at all times, what was I thinking?), but will assume it’s between 88 and 89.9 degrees Fahrenheit, which puts us in the red line for Heat Cat IV. A scan across the line indicates I should be on a 30/30 Work/Rest cycle with a Water Intake (qt/hr) of 3/4 qt.
Hooray! Thank goodness for the Army! I was lost and ignorant before, but now I’m completely prepared trim the hedges! Except…wait…that took so long the sun’s gone down, which caused the Heat Cat to drop…which means I need to start over again.
On second thought, maybe I’ll just trim the bushes for two hours, rest when I’m tired, drink a lot, and do just fine. I, at least, can opt out. My lucky husband is required to go through regularl Army Heat Cat training.
Ever wonder where your tax dollars go? Now you know.
Image source here