Working in the Cold

Cold weather will cause certain body parts to work more slowly than usual so…I would advise that you keep this in mind when you try to go to speed as you would on a balmy sunny day when in fact, it’s really 27 degrees and overcast.

Indiana training was in December and it was cooold…at least for me. The flight attendant’s (in the old days these were stewardesses and they weren’t 80 plus years) had to pull me off the plane as I was kicking and shouting, “I’m not going…I’m not going!” Kind of like an outtake from the scene in Apocalypse Now. The interesting thing is that in order to survive in even colder weather, there is no running about on the range in shorts, a tank top and Tiva sandals. Nope. If you want to get to your gun you’ll have to work through gloves, layers of clothes and whatever else it may be that shields you from the weather. This not altogether an insignificant fact and it should never go unnoticed. Attempting to go to the same speed in cold weather that you can pull off time and again in warm weather, may not prove to be as effective as you thought it might be. Trigger presses may take longer and the simple manipulative actions one takes for granted may be fumbled when frozen fingers do not respond well to mental commands. Just be aware of this.

Many years ago I was afforded the opportunity to train with Blue team of SEAL Team 6 (Now Dev Group) in Kentucky. Now only two of us (Greg Horton and myself) went back there for three weeks in the field with these guys. It was something else, believe me. Their idea of fun – is far different than my idea of fun – so here’s one of the many ‘fun’ evolutions that we gleefully participated in.

It was in November in Kentucky mind you and since frogs do all things at night this evolution was to be no exception to this unwritten frog rule. We were to conduct an ambush deep in the woods after having been inserted by Blackhawks shortly after nightfall. We moved in and set down without a sound and of course we went to ground right in the middle of a slow running stream about two inches deep and began waiting. In about twenty minutes I couldn’t feel most of my body parts so I just concentrated on the fact that soon, this would be over. In about two hours, my lips felt like they were injected full of Novocain and my eyeballs were actually shivering. In about fours hours I had no real concentrated thoughts at all and the only relief that ever came was when you had to relieve yourself without moving and of course that particular warmth only lasts about five to ten seconds at most but at least you knew that your insides were still warm. It was somewhere around dawn that we finally launched the ambush and then had to move like hell for several miles to extraction. In the first five minutes of movement nothing on me seemed to work. Not my legs, my feet, my arms, my hands…nothing. Everything was stiff from the running water and the cold of the night and the complete absence of any physical motion. We looked like flailing apes tanked up on torpedo juice for the first few hundred meters. I learned one thing that night and that – was that these guys…are real hard core, they operate in a totally different world, and that their sense of fun is much different than mine.

I used to surf in New England in the winter but back then I had a wetsuit and my time in the Atlantic Ocean was limited to about 45 minutes or so. This was a lot different as you were loaded down with gear and nothing…nothing was on you that wasn’t soaking wet, freezing cold and clinging to you precisely where you didn’t need it to cling to you when you were moving. If there had been a malfunction of the weapons or such, it would have taken a lot longer to clear as my fingers just wouldn’t respond to commands – at least not in the manner that I would have liked them to have responded. My legs could barely move and my feet didn’t feel a thing so from the waist down I was basically detached until I finally warmed up after about a mile or so of moving fast. So…I learned one valuable lesson that night and that was that extreme cold and wet can be counted on for one thing and that is that things will not work like you think they will work…so be aware.

Frogs are great guys and the one thing that I have always admired about them is their ‘can-do’ attitude. Freezing-no problem, tired-no problem, freezing, tired and with no fingers working – no problem, all of the above with much more thrown in…never, has been, and never will be, well you know – no problem! You’re not dead, you can feel pain and sometime you’ll be warm again and sometime you’ll be dry again and sometime you’ll get lucky again so – what’s the worry? Now that’s…a great philosophy!

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