Soldiers help scouts with heat injuries

By Sgt. Frank N. Pellegrini (Army News Service

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (Army News Service, July 28, 2005) — By the time Jamboree Chairman Francis Olmstead took the arena stage July 27 and told the more than 42,000 scouts, leaders and service members who’d come to hear President George W. Bush speak that the show had to be cancelled due to weather conditions, about 300 Scouts needed medical attention for heat-related injuries.

For the Scout leaders, local first responders and service members of Joint Task Force NSJ, the heat came as no surprise as they had prepared for it. Boy Scout officials were already calling this summer’s Jamboree the hottest in memory, with temperatures consistently topping 90 degrees and some oppressive central-Virginia humidity pushing “wet bulb” measurements past 100 degrees. Warnings about the usual preventative measures–drink water, lay off the soda, take regular shade breaks and oh, drink more water—had been ubiquitous all week.

The event field itself was awash in water: three truckloads of bottled water,pre-positioned ‘water buffaloes’ parked on the grass, and U.S. Army fire trucks dispatched to spray the crowd.

A firetruck at Fort A.P. Hill cools down a
crowd of boy scouts and leaders gathered
in the arena.
Staff Sgt. Scott Turner

“That was just what we needed, a brilliant idea on somebody’s part,” said the Boy Scouts’ Mike L’Abee. “You can think of it as fooling around with a fire truck, or as really the kind of preventative thinking we should all be about.”

But Wednesday was to put all those plans to a test — a test that had been practiced during the planning of the jamboree.

Security for the much-anticipated visit from President Bush necessitated that Scouts begin filing onto the field hours before his arrival.

By the time Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had arrived and given a brief address, the weather had caused enough concern that the event was cut short to prevent any further heat-related injuries.

Three days before, after a mass casualty triage-and-evacuation training exercise staged on the very same field, to train for just such an event, Army Lt. Col. George Roarke, the Joint Task Force staff medical officer, had talked about the “Golden Hour”: the critical span of time inwhich casualties of any kind must be evacuated and put into the medical system.

Wednesday, Roarke and the rest of the Joint Task Force personnel on scene had a Golden Hour of their own. The exercise had been very worthwhile, and lessons, Roarke said, had been learned.

Flawless air support from Air Force helicopter teams; expert triage from local first responders; cool-headed crowd control from MPs responsible for keeping exiting crowds off roads needed by rescue vehicles was the norm.

To the untrained eyes of the majority of attendees, the event had perhaps been a bit of a disappointment, because of the cancellation of both President Bush’s visit and the post-show entertainment (thunderstorms indeed arrived, right after the Scouts had been led to shelter).

To Roarke, it was nothing less than trouble averted.

“There were heroes out there. Heroes and heroes and heroes, and I didn’t know all their names,” said a weary Roarke afterward, shaking his shaven head ringed in a red ‘Soldier’s sunburn’ left by his patrol cap. “All I know is a lot of them were wearing fatigues.”

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