This picture is what 117 degrees looks like when you glance straight up at the sun (kids, dont try this at home). It reminds me back in Afghanistan when a Lt and I were talking about a particular tactic on a mountain side and he knelt down on one knee in the heat, donning full battle gear as we shot the shit. He began to wipe his sweat covered head. You ok Lt. I asked as he scrunched down and folded up like a bug. He said, yes Sir, I’m just trying to get into my own shade. We laughed but in all reality, that’s what he was really trying to do. That’s what 117 degrees is like. “Its HOT, you don’t understand!!!"
We departed our friendly lines early. It was still warm. Those in Arizona know how we feel in the morning and it’s in the high 90s. Its warm, you are a bit uncomfortable but like we all have been “warm” before, you ignore it until you make a comment like “For the love of God it’s hot” and you go inside to get cooled off with a nice cold drink. You’re cramped up into a Hummer (for us over six foot), battle gear is tight fitting, a small bit of anxiety is inside you but you’ve done this many times before. Go through your operating procedures, go to condition one on your weapon systems. A simple click off safe and you bring a big can of whoop ass to the fight in a second. The systematic checks and procedures continue, you all work together and don’t have to say a word, you know it by heart. You raise a shoulder to let the body armor rubbing your waist move position to stop the already developed rubbed area on your hip. This is usually when the fine moon dirt much like flour swoops up from the crack in the door and coats your body and you make one of those bpuuff noises from your mouth to try to stop it from coating your lungs. Too late. “ I got the black lung, POPs” one of my Marine says the line from the movie “Zoolander” and we all get a chuckle. The drive is relatively short as you scan for some signs of some a waste of air that planted a little surprise for you in the road. Now you’re in the realm, good layer of dirt on you as you get out to search an assigned area. Before it was warm, ok now it’s hot as you feel the heat bounce off the dirt back up at you and burn you retinas. Stooooopid dinosaurs, no wonder they died, its as hot as the surface of the inferno sun out here. Sweat on your cheeks, back and in that previous rubbed spot that is just the icing to really piss you off. Scumbags were here, you see signs that show they just left or left and are watching you look for them. We have a bigger margin of error, they can’t mess up once, or they are dead. You finish off your first bottle of water and grab another, warm bottle of water after searching a house. You get into the hummer and see the seat soaked with sweat, swell, my kidneys are probably just about to shut down in 3-2-1 you think as the drips of sweat go down your shins. Fold legs back into the origami position and you’re off.
You take your helmet off during a debrief after the mission and you can feel the fresh air hit your skin although it’s a nice ultra violet sun burning wind hitting you, it still is a wind, with really fine sand filling your ears. Damn fine sand has been giving us hell as the wind picks it up, along with everything else in the sand, mummy poo, DNA, and the most recent sand flea eggs. Yes, we have had fly larva in Marines eyes and now sand fleas crapping their eggs in Marines ears. Brings a new meaning to the title “Dirt People”.
Its 1400 and every bit still well over 110. This is one of the only times of the day that flys say screw this and go hide somewhere nasty. Everything is hot, the wind, the fire retardant clothes you wear, I bet if we dug ten feet down there would be lava. There is always a chance of another mission later in the day so you maximize your time. If you’re not doing laundry in some sorry excuse of a trashcan filled with water, you “PT” (physical train/exercise). I got this damn rocket scientist idea to go for a perimeter run. The heat hits your back as you stretch and you feel the heat release your muscles,ahhh that feels good. What the hell am I doing, this doesn’t feel good you think as you begin to pick up speed as you take the first few steps. The first half mile is always the worst for me as usually I’m trying to keep my heart from exploding and wipe the sweat out of my eyes at the same time. Then as I loosen up, the sun crazy, rabies infested dogs begin to bark at you. This is your signal to step it up because they are saying, “George, look, another Marine is running for it, get jake, its lunch time” and before you know it you have 2-3 four legged butt lickers chasing you growling. Jake he’s the shepherd for the devil and the three legged one is the ring leader. Ya, try to play tuff guy and shout at them, they like the rough talk. Stumble and you’re a jeky stick to them. You could have a patch over your eye and have a broken leg and son, your gonna run!“Its HOT, you don’t understand!!!"
I loose the dogs, this time and my tongue is swelling up in my cotton dry mouth as I have my head cocked to the side and think I look like Ricky Bobbie from Talladega Nights, screaming “Help me Tom Cruise, I’m on fire” arms flaying around and dogs just sitting looking at me saying “He bad white meat, don’t eat him, you’ll die”.“Its HOT, you don’t understand!!!"
Light headed and feeling my pulse pounding away I finish the couple mile run, and think, well that was stupid. As you gulp some water you can feel the pores in your mouth expand back to their original size. Air out your feet and try to kill that fungus that has a mind of its own and begin to aid your breathing with a nice cigar.
Word of another mission comes down. You have enough time to through on a dry t-shirt and throw down some chow and suit back up. Your clothes are still wet from the previous mission but the sweat rings are hardening up on the sleeves. Just sitting in the hummer makes you sweat as you feel the rivers of perspiration flow into regions where for the love of god nothing should go. Your clothes are now like a wet towel on you under your armor. Your on your fourth bottle of water and haven’t had to pee, notsogood. Gatorade taste like heaven as you try not to completely wash all of the minerals out of your body and have a heart attack. You try to shift your butt in the sweat soaked seat but it doesn’t matter you’re a big pile of nastiness, the flies have given up on you or died when they landed on you and did I mention there is little air circulation inside the vehicle even though there is a big hole for the turret? “Its HOT , you don’t understand!!!"
Just one cloud, is that too much to ask for, one cloud? No such luck as you talk into the radio and forget to get ready for the moon dirt shooting into the door. “Nice dirt covered teeth” taste like chicken……or not. Is it a bad sign when it’s so hot the birds don’t even fly, they just run on the ground with their mouths open trying to keep their hearts from exploding…………went for a perimeters run huh? I ask the vulture looking thing starring at us. We get back after the mission and peel ourselves out of our vehicles. Sweat covered from head to toe and gear covered with sweat rings. You could shower later but you have to remember“Its HOT, you don’t understand!!!"