I don’t know how to explain how hot Iraq is. There is just no equivalent that I’ve ever experienced in the United States. I’ve lived in Arizona and El Paso, Texas, so the desert is nothing new for me.
The temperature skyrockets from 90 to 125 every morning around 9 A.M. We spend the rest of the day avoiding sunlight and un-conditioned air. Riding around in humvees, walking, breathing and thinking are all undesirable activities in the Iraqi heat. The temperature will dip at night into the high 80s if we’re lucky.
Leaving any place air conditioned is a hard decision. Do I really have to go to the bathroom? The port-a-potties are stinky saunas. Nothing like doing one’s business in a cloud of poop steam and melting plastic walls.
The Iraqis deal with the heat in a truly Iraqi fashion. They do nothing. As if they ever need an excuse to do nothing. The heat hits and they just sit around in the shade, talking amongst them selves. They never sweat, which weirds me out. You’d figure that after thousands of years living next door to hell people would emigrate to cooler lands. The only people working during the day are Americans. We just can’t sit around for hours on end while there’s perfectly good brain boiling daylight!
Sandstorms are the only natural relief from the heat. A blanket of sand blocks out much of the sunlight, and keeps temperatures low. It is unusual to walk outside and the world has a Tatooine-like tan tinge to it. The downside is that the dust will clog air conditioners and cover everything with a fine layer or dirt.
Bad climate is the real reason countries establish empires. Ever been to England? Cold wet and miserable. It’s the ‘Blighted Isle’ for a reason. So what to the English people do? They run around, settle North America, conquer every tropical island and costal vacation spot they can. Going native in India sure beats sitting in freezing fog and eating Sheppard’s Pie.
We drink a lot of water. One of the best treats a Soldier can have is a frozen water bottle. Take out a liter of bottled ice and carry it around. After awhile, it’ll turn to slush, which is just what the doctor ordered when the sun is three inches from your face. The hard part is keeping the Iraqi workers away from the cold drinks. Iraqis will never bring their own water to anything. So, the workers do an hour or so of work when they first show up, spend the next six hours guzzling Gatorade, then work for another hour in the early evening. Ever wonder why this war costs 12 billion USD a month? Gatorade for the Iraqis.
Constantly oozing sweat is takes a toll on clothing. We don’t have ready access to washers and dryers, so we try to get as much wear out of a uniform as we can before sending it off to the cleaners. If a uniform has salt deposits from evaporated sweat, then it is time for that uniform to get washed.
If you want to replicate the Soldier’s experience in an Iraqi summer, I suggest you:
Turn a hair dryer up to eleven and hold it about three inches from your face…24/7.
Strap 60 pounds of metal to your body and do jumping jacks in a sauna for ten minutes. Rest for 2 minutes. Repeat.
Throw a blanket in the oven until it’s nice and scalding, then wrap that around your body.