if you have ever been surprised by the wave of heat that ripples out of an oven as you open the door, then you know what iraq feels like. today was the second consecutive day off 100 degree-plus temperatures, and we're only 2/3 of the way done with april. the heat lasts from mid-april until the middle of november, and it is constant. there are no cloudy days, no rain, no reprive from the brutal sun and hot winds.
while your brain sizzles under a ballistic helmet, the core of your body is being superheated by the kevlar and ceramic in your body armor. long sleeve shirts over tshirts, long pants and boots add to your personal sauna. the sweat runs down your face, in your eyes, and soaks everything youre wearing. everything that is normally annoying becomes an awful experience. typical hydration for me is about 4 quarts of water per hour that i am not in air conditioning.
intresting fact: no matter what you are doing, you talk about the heat. it is an unavoidable and completely acceptable topic. Example:
Matty America: ... put his whole hand in! can you believe it?
Specialist Kipping: it's fucking HOT.
MA: i wasn't talking about that, but yeah. i need some cold water.
SK: grab one for me, too? im sweating my sack off.
MA: man... it's HOT.
as you can see, it is a rare social occasion where whining actually constitutes an entire conversation. mentioning specific body parts that happen to be perspiring an inordinate amount is also acceptable. mentioning how good other males look while drenched in sweat is not specifically covered under Clinton's "dont ask dont tell" policy, thereby allowing us some room to explore exciting vagaries in army regs.
the key to survival here is hydration. approximately 2/3 of the water i have consumed in my life has been in iraq. you can tell immediately that youre getting closer to falling over dead from heat stroke when you get spotty vision and a very dull but painful headache. we keep our water in large insulated bins full of ice, and it is quite refreshing as long as you dont leave it out for more than 5 minutes. after that time is up, it has already attained the temperature of the air around it, and can actually burn your mouth to drink. conversation after imbibing scalding liquid sounds something like this:
Staff Sergeant Senile: AHH! it burned my lips! it's so hot!
Matty America: it's really hot out. the water is hot, and it's hot out.
SSS: man, it is so hot, i have a river running down my asscrack.
MA: wow. it is really hot out. i mean SERIOUSLY hot out.
SSS: its really hot, and my water is really hot. tomorrow is supposed to be hot, too.
MA: uh-huh. yesterday was hot, too.
that conversation has hours of potential that i won't dive into. for the full transcript, buy me four drinks when i get home and i will gladly tell you anything you want to hear.
recap: iraq is hot, water can get hot, iraq gets really hot, sweaty guys look better even to other guys.