1/31: Cold puts chill on training

Sentinel Staff Writer

For three weeks while Florida National Guard troops here drilled, ate, slept, marched and more or less lived outdoors. The weather was miserable, with record cold.

There were days when water in the roadside ditches froze, nights when the wind chill was in the single digits, mornings when they had to shake the frost off their sleeping bags. Water in canteens froze, and so many of the soldiers were sick that officers made runs to town to buy cold medicine.

Then on Wednesday, the day after the Guard’s 2nd Battalion headquartered in Orlando finished its scheduled training in the field, the sun was bright and temperatures climbed into the high 60s, the nicest day since the troops arrived here on Jan. 5.

“It figures,” said First Sgt. Carey Baker of the battalion’s Alpha Co. “As soon as we come in from the field, the weather turns beautiful.”

Baker, a state representative from Eustis, was taking advantage of the nice weather to give his M-16 a thorough cleaning.

While the unusually cold Georgia weather hasn’t won any fans among the soldiers, it has made them appreciate their Army sleeping gear.

The gear includes two sleeping bags that can be used together, one inside the other, for cold weather, along with a Gore-Tex shell that keeps out water and wind. There is also a thin pad the soldiers can use under the bag, but many just put their bags on the ground. Almost all slept outside with no tents.

While the bags don’t seem thickly insulated, the soldiers said they were warm while sleeping. The worst part was crawling out of the warm bag before dawn.

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