"If the Military Isn't Able to Adequately Support the Troops..."

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Wed Jul 23 03:20:21 MDT 2003


"...Then It Should Bring Those Troops Home."

*****   Posted on Wed, Jul. 02, 2003
Concerns raised about water rations for deployed troops
By RICK MONTGOMERY
The Kansas City Star

In a place where the hot wind feels like an open pizza oven, U.S.
soldiers occupying Iraq each get two tall bottles of delicious
drinking water daily.

The ration totals a bit more than three-quarters of a gallon of
bottled water per soldier per day. Of course, "day" can mean long
hours in heavy gear, with temperatures approaching 140 degrees by
August.

Yet, according to the U.S. Army's own manuals, some troops toiling in
such weather may need up to three gallons of water a day to stay
healthy.

Responding to congressional concerns about water and food rations,
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers recently acknowledged
in a letter that "some problems exist," particularly in remote spots
far from supply depots.

But he assured U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri that most troops are
well supplied with drinking water -- even if it may be the locally
"purified" variety that tastes funny.

"There is an abundance of purified water available" to soldiers
willing to gulp down filtered and chemically treated water from Iraqi
rivers, according to Myers' letter.

They far prefer the bottled stuff, however. Chlorine the military
puts in purified water produces a taste that worsens the warmer the
water gets.

Still, to stay hydrated in the heat, "it would be in a soldier's best
interest to suck it up and drink some bad-tasting water," said Scott
Montain, a research physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute
of Environmental Medicine.

An Army press officer in Baghdad, Capt. Jeff Fitzgibbons, said
limiting troops to three liters of bottled water is "mostly a matter
of logistics, of moving (water) out to various places" to make sure
all military posts are continually stocked.

"Surprisingly...the number of heat casualties is actually pretty
small," said Fitzgibbons, who characterized the water supply as
sufficient in most places....

Skelton, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee,
said he began receiving several complaints about water and food
rations last month from colleagues who were contacted by worried
constituents.

In a letter to Myers, Skelton relayed a report that one military
police unit in Iraq was "down to only two MRE's (meals ready-to-eat)
and two sixteen-ounce bottles of water a day." A platoon of the 1st
Marine Division outside Baghdad reportedly was getting by on one meal
a day.

"Water and food are the problem," Skelton said. "As we speak, I hope
it's corrected...It has been brought to the proper attention of
commanders."

Concerns also were voiced in a recent letter to home from Staff Sgt.
John Edmondson, an Army reservist from Kansas City, North:

"If you want to write to congressional rep on soldiers' behalf, you
can demand to know why they are only supplying soldiers with 3 liters
of water -- two large bottles -- a day, in 120 degree heat and still
having to wear full uniform...(which adds 10 degrees).

"Tell said rep that if the military isn't able to adequately support
the troops, then it should bring those troops home."

In the letter penned May 31 to his mother, Edmondson reported having
"had heat exhaustion once already."

Christine Edmondson received her son's letter from Iraq several days
ago. She phoned the offices of local members of Congress and provided
portions of Edmondson's letter to The Kansas City Star.

"I want my son in a vertical position when he comes home," she said.
"He's not one to go around complaining."

The daily bottled-water ration equals a few ounces more than three
quarts. Given the extreme heat, that amount falls well short of
recommendations cited in Army deployment manuals.

One manual, Nutritional Guidelines for Military Operations in
Temperate and Extreme Environments, states on page 35:

"Approximately four to six quarts of water per day are recommended
for light work in warm weather. More water is needed as physical work
and temperatures increase. Up to twelve quarts of water per day may
be required by military personnel working in hot conditions."...

During combat this spring, some forces endured days of inadequate
food and water because their units moved far ahead of supply lines.
As recently as May, Fitzgibbons said, "there were units having
trouble getting their fair share of water -- the Army admitted that
-- but the logistical network has gotten better."

According to Myers' letter to Skelton, not all troops are getting
their daily ration of bottled water "because of ongoing operations."
In such cases, the general wrote, "purified water is available as a
substitute."

That means water drawn from local rivers and wells that has been
filtered and treated for human consumption by the military's Reverse
Osmosis Water Purification Units, or ROWPUs. Many soldiers, however,
try to limit their use of purified water to bathing, not drinking.

"They shouldn't get sick at all from ROWPU water," said researcher
Montain. "But in hot weather it probably tastes terrible."

To reach Rick Montgomery, national correspondent, call (816) 234-4410
or send e-mail to rmontgomery at kcstar.com.

<http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/6218852.htm>
*****
--
Yoshie

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