Commentary

August 17, 2012

Individual Preparation crucial for success in extreme environment

by Robert J. Kaschak
452 Emergency Management technician

As we combat triple digit temperatures, we make all the necessary adjustments to minimize exertion, time in the sun and energy usage. Yet, next month, many of our wing personnel will be heading off to Gulfport, Miss., in support of the Operational Readiness Exercise.  Not only will they be subject to intense heat, but the added humidity will further complicate the situation and beckon greater cause for concern.  Many of the current participants experienced this scenario back in October 2007 and remember the heavy toll taken on Airman, as we had numerous personnel succumb to  heat stress issues.

One way to counter the extreme conditions is to build personal stamina and endurance. These terms are used interchangeably and to most people are the same. While they are synonymous, there is a subtle difference.  Stamina is a measure of your capability to sustain prolonged stressful effort. Endurance is best understood in relation to time and is defined as the maximum amount of time one can perform a certain action. The basic difference is best stated as one of focus.

Stamina is limited to performing at maximum capacity while endurance is about maximizing time regardless of capacity at which one is performing. For example, in keeping in tune with the recently completed Olympics, a sprinter may focus on stamina to run as fast as possible over a given distance, while a long distance runner is more interested in endurance–he runs as far as possible with speed a secondary concern.

There are several ways to improve personal stamina and endurance. From the physical standpoint, you can do some form of cardiovascular exercise such as running, swimming, jumping rope or biking. As you perform these activities, gradually increase the intensity to enhance endurance.  The athletes competing in the Olympics spent years building these attributes.

We should approach the upcoming ORE in the same manner. This is the military equivalent of competing on the big stage, and you certainly want to be ready to do your best.

Units are working hard to ensure personnel acquire the needed skills and knowledge to participate.

The emergency management flight has been training personnel nonstop since the February exercise. However, despite all the training accomplished and knowledge gained, how do we prepare the military population to spend anywhere from one to three hours a day, for five days in protective gear and chemical defense ensembles in extreme heat and humidity?  The answer to this one is individual preparation.

You can certainly work on strengthening physical skills, but remember not to neglect your mental conditioning as well.  Basic things like starting to hydrate at least a week out and developing a decent sleep cycle prior to deployment are great ways to start. There are a myriad of informational websites that explain how eating healthy can help maintain energy and focus.

There is nothing easy about maintaining MOPP 4 posture in extreme conditions. There is no guarantee that performing all the above actions can make it less demanding. However, it may allow you to function at your best when needed and in a safer manner.
Despite all the training, education and preparation, the unexpected will still be present. There will be those who show up the day of the deployment as last minute fill-ins, some will arrive straight from their civilian job and others will have never took time to prepare because of being too busy. We want to minimize these instances as much as possible. The solution for this is based on the individual planning and efforts of our Airmen.

We want this exercise to be successful and safe for everyone. A suitable result would be no casualties to complement an outstanding grade. What are you willing to do? The time to analyze your own stamina and endurance is now. We need every member of Team March to be ready. Airmen, take care of family issues and be ready to perform in true Team March fashion!




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