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Coalition Troops in Iraq Endure Searing Heat - 2004-07-10

The life blood of coalition troops working in Iraq these days is water, and lots of it. That's because the country is in the dead heat of summer, and temperatures are only expected to climb higher.

It is blistering hot in Iraq these days. Temperatures are soaring well over 44 degrees Centigrade and climbing.

"It is terrible," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. K.J. Kanganofonan. "It is so hot. Never leave, never come here. Iraq, Baghdad is the worst place. The heat is terrible."

In a few weeks, temperatures will rise even higher. For the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, the heat is worsened by the heavy, protective gear they must wear while performing their jobs.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary Hurst says he has seen the effect heat has had on his fellow soldiers.

"Sometimes, it can make people mad, like real irritable," said sgt. Hurst. "Makes them pissed off [angry] real easy. Some people, it doesn't bother them too much at all."

The sergeant says everyone has been instructed to keep an eye on fellow soldiers.

"So far, our unit has been really good," he said. "We've only had one heat casualty from dehydration today. And, all we did was give him an IV [intravenous drip], let him sit in the shade, cool him off, and then we just watch our guys a little bit closer now."

Soldiers drink as much as a 1.5 liters of water every 30 minutes.

Lt. Jim Kemner leads a group of U.S. soldiers helping to protect Iraq's Defense Ministry in Baghdad. He says the heat saps the body of its energy.

"It drains you really quick," said Lt. Kemmer. "You've just got to make sure you drink enough water, make sure everyone else drinks enough water, try to get some shade when you can. We got an air conditioner in the break shack, so you try to rotate the guys through as much as you can. But, it just drains you really quick."

One soldier took off his bulletproof vest to reveal his dripping wet camouflage shirt. He smiled and said, "It's my sweat that keeps me cool."

Just a few minutes outside is all it takes to begin sweating profusely.

Lt. Josh Southworth says it's just part of the job.

"It's definitely hard to work in it," he said. "But, you know, it's what we do."

And, then he tipped up his bottle and took a long drink of water.