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post #19
bio: pat

first post
that week

Weekend beginning Friday, January 19th, 2007
This was a training weekend with the National Guard.

Friday night I slept on the floor in my National Guard Armory, and was up at 0500 to start training. We moved out to a wooded area in New Hampshire, and started our training. It snowed Friday night, and rained a little. In the morning, the ground was completely coated with ice, with a light layer of powder - nice and slippery.

We trained for two days and nights. It was cold as hell with wind chill bringing to the temperature to 22 below zero. It's impossible to get much sleep in those conditions. Normally, I just lay in my sleeping bag shivering and praying for the night to end, but at that same time, dreading that moment where I have to get out of my bag and brave the cold air while I get dressed. We don't use tents. They are too bulky and heavy. Only in the most extreme weather do we drag them out - and only then if we are going to be out for extended periods of time.

There are lots of issues concerned with sleeping in weather like we had this past weekend. Every minor mistake can be the difference between life and death - literally. There are a lot of factors to consider. In the summer, if you forget to pack a piece of gear - you can suffer through it and be fine. If you forget your rain gear, you get wet and it sucks. But you'll live. In the winter, it doesn't work that way. If you make a minor mistake, you can die. One piece of gear can be the difference between life and death.

Dehydration is big a problem in the winter. You burn more calories in the field in the winter than in summer. You have to carry more gear, you tend to drink less water (because your cold and the water is cold), and walking through snow and ice wears you down fast. If you are not moving, you get cold, and put on layers to stay warm. When you move again, you generate heat and sweat. The sweat soaks your clothes. When you stop again, that sweat freezes. Now, instead of keeping you warm, all those layers are actively bringing your temperature down. It's a fine line you have to walk to keep warm, but not too warm.

In order to keep your drinking water from freezing, you have to keep it close to your body. At night, you have to bring in your canteens and camelbacks into the sleeping bag with you. If you don't, you have no water. No water leads to dehydration. Dehydration can quickly lead to death. But what if the water bottle you carrying under your clothes leaks, or it leaks in your sleeping bag overnight? Now you're wet. If you can't get dry and warm, your going to shake hands with hypothermia. Hypothermia is a close friend of the death. Those are circles you don't want to travel in.

Everything is a chore, and can lead you down the road to disaster. Let's take tieing your boots. If your boot comes untied, you have to take off your gloves to tie the laces, and expose your hands to raw cold. That sucks. So you decide not to bother. You walk all day. The sun comes up for a while, and some of the snow turns to slush. Your laces, only dragging a little, get wet. Night time comes quick in the winter. The temperature drops again, and your laces freeze. When it comes time to bed down, you have to take your boots off. Usually, the boots come off near the end. You don't want to stand around in the snow too long without your boots on, right. So you strip off your parka, and some of your layers. You sit down, and quickly untie the boots - but the laces are frozen. You can't get them undone. You struggle to get them off, making your already cold hands numb. Finally, you get loose, and struggle into your sleeping bag. You've lost all your body heat fighting with the laces. You're never going to get that heat back. It's going to be a cold night.

But it's not over yet. If you want to be able to put your boots on in the morning, you have to bring them inside the bag with you at night. Otherwise, they will be rock hard when you try to put them on in the morning. You can't operate without boots. So now you bring the boots inside. But the laces are still caked with ice. You tried to get most of it off, but you were so cold, you had to get into your bag. During the night, the laces thaw. The water soaks parts of your bag, and some of the clothes you have in there with you. In the morning, you throw on your clothes as fast as you can, mistaking their dampness for cold, and make sure to tie your boots up nice and tight - you don't want to make that mistake again. Now that you're out of your bag, your damp clothes freeze. Your sleeping bag also freezes, now that it does not have your body heat to keep it warm. You make it through the next day. It's cold, but you survive. Time for sleep again. Only this time, your sleeping bag is caked in ice when you pull it out of your pack. It won't keep you warm tonight.

And that's just battling the weather - throw in hours of patroling and looking for bad guys; Crawling through caves and crossing riversl; laying in the snow while setting in an ambush; and some basic rock climbing and you have my weekend.

That being said.

Weight: 238.5 (Down 2.5 pounds from last weigh in)

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