Sgt. Sylvester Cline didn’t have to die. The 32-year-old Iraq veteran was training at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas in June 2016 under grueling heat when he fell ill and was rushed to a nearby hospital—where heat exposure took his life.
And he isn’t the military’s only heat-related casualty in recent years, NBC News reports. Since 2008, at least 17 service members have died of heat exposure while training at US bases.
Cases of heat exhaustion or heatstroke among active-duty troops rose from 1,766 in 2008 to 2,792 in 2018, per military data.
But the Pentagon is still wrestling with a basic problem: how to develop a heat-prevention strategy and educate officers about it while preparing troops to fight in hot places like North Africa and the Middle East.
Then there’s climate change: “No one is going to talk about climate change because of the political aspect and who is in the White House,” says a military official who chose to stay anonymous.
But Major Meghan, a Fort Benning doctor who calls climate change “an obvious statement of fact,” helped create an Army “heat center” for medics and wrote a white paper about the growing threat.
Defense officials say they’re also creating new gear and technology to keep troops cool. In Cline’s case, two officers were punished—unfairly, they say—while Cline’s mother, Shirley, is still trying to control her anger. “They know it’s going to get hot; they know it,” she says. “So when they know it, what are they doing about it?”
The US military has deployed and stationed 500.000 troops in Kuwait, where summer temperatures can rise above 50 degrees Celsius. Are these soldiers really ready for serious battle?
US Military / ABC Flash Point Battle News 2019.