HIDDEN ENEMIES - Ten ways to end up at the clinic while deployed

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scotty J. Johns
  • Air Education and Training Command Ground Safety superintendent
When deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, many Airmen feel threatened by enemy snipers, improvised explosive devices or even driving mishaps in a foreign land. But there are some hidden enemies that can threaten life and limb as well.

1. Sports: Sprained ankles, broken noses and fingers are the fastest way to a medical evacuation. Don't let competitiveness get out of control.

2. Critters: There's nothing worse than putting your foot into a shoe with an angry insect or arachnid at the bottom. Seal-off your boots at night with your blousing straps, and keep them off the floor. Keep your area clean and uncluttered, and inspect it thoroughly for uninvited "guests."

3. Fire: "Fire! Fire! Fire!" is the last thing you need to hear at o'dark-thirty in the desert. Tents can burn in a matter of seconds, and hard billets aren't far behind. Find out where your closest fire extinguisher is located, and know emergency evacuation procedures so you can escape if flames do break out.

4. Electricity: Electricity is at a premium when deployed. Don't "piggy-back" power strips, and know the load limitation on your transformers. They can get hot quick and start a fire.

5. Walking: That's right -- walking. Numerous injuries are reported from stepping on uneven grounds and into potholes in poorly lighted environments, as well as icy or wet floors. Inattention in unfamiliar areas also is a contributor.

6. Lack of personal protective equipment: While PPE isn't a substitute for engineering controls, it can save fingers, toes, eyes and noggins. If you don't have the gear you need, tell someone and get it fast.

7. Lifting: Pro gear feels like it weighs a ton. It's not uncommon to carry bags, water cases and gear great distances. Don't overextend yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

8. Heat: Don't be a hero until you're acclimated. Summer temps can get 130-plus in Iraq for days on end. Stay hydrated, find shade if possible, and conserve energy.

9. Fatigue: Fatigue affects everybody differently. When you arrive, more often than not, you'll be tired and ready for 
a shower and a cot. Try to get in sync with your new time zone, as degradation in performance and situational awareness can be a dangerous combination.

10. Complacency: Once you have been in the area awhile, you will find even the most stressful environments can 
become somewhat routine. But don't let your guard down. Constantly remind yourself to stay focused and task oriented. Complacency is a killer.