I Was a Heat Casualty – An Easily Preventable One

Texas gets hot. Really, really freaking hot. Cook an egg on the pavement and air-fry your skin when you open the car door hot. This leads to a lot of heat casualties while out in the field or at the range in places like Fort Hood and Fort Bliss. I myself was stationed at Fort Hood and wound up going down as a heat casualty – and then having to drive my delirious self to the hospital.

There were a lot of poor decisions that led to this, but I want to talk about the incident as a case study for other leaders to take a moment and understand how they can interdict these incidents from happening. This means that I’m going to do my absolute best here to keep this as non-accusatory as possible. I don’t believe any of the actors involved were malicious, but some sort of negligence led to me ending up in the hospital.

To set the stage, it was a July range day in the aforementioned oven that is called Texas. I woke up with a bit of an uneasy stomach, which should have resulted in me heading over to sick call. But it wasn’t that bad, and I hadn’t qualified since prior to our previous deployment to Afghanistan. More troubling, I was one of our limited range control NCOs. This is an important distinction because here is where I made a suboptimal choice due to pressures to get Army requirements done. It’s not the Army’s fault; it’s just the first step in a series of poor choices.

While riding out to the range in the back of an LMTV, I quickly went from queasy to the undeniable stomach flu. I let my NCOIC know that I might not be able to continue and was assured they’d work to get me back on the first ride back to the unit. That was at 8 am. By that time, the sun was quickly starting to remind us that we’re still in Texas, and now I’ve ran into a serious problem. I can’t keep any water down.

Over the next four hours, I rotated between an “air-conditioned” HMMWV, a porta-latrine, and repeatedly reminding the range cadre that I was quickly depleting my fluids. The first sergeant was also the ‘medic’ for the range, which left little time to deal with a side issue like a sick soldier. Finally, the first group on the range finished up, and I was dropped off at my car.

Not the hospital or medic station. My car.

I wound up driving myself to the hospital on the other side of the base and checking into the emergency room, where my veins guzzled a few bags of IV solution. I was released a few hours later, forever to be identified as a heat casualty.

The lesson here is that there were a lot of individual mistakes that led up to me going down at the range, mistakes that could have been avoided had someone taken the time to identify the potential risk and do something to mitigate it.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Garrett Ferrara

Garrett is a writer, perpetual student, and seven-year Army veteran. Currently studying Anthropology and Writing & Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida, he's hoping to stretch the G.I. Bill all the way to a PhD. Bilbo Baggins is his favorite literary character; a character that traveled, fought battles, and finally settled into a simple life. He's looking forward to squaring away that last phase.
Garrett Ferrara

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