The Marine Corps is taking steps to better prevent heat-related injuries and deaths after a North Carolina-based corporal died during a 6-mile hike last summer.
Cpl. Alexis Aaron Alcaraz, a 22-year-old field radio operator assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, fell out of a unit hump just before sunrise Aug. 13 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Officials concluded that he died of heat stroke, according to the investigation into his death, which was obtained by Marine Corps Times via a Freedom of Information Act request.
The investigating officer determined Alcaraz might have been more susceptible to heat illness because: he didn’t have a full night’s sleep, he went on the hike on an empty stomach, his normal routine had been disrupted while on temporary assignment duty in the days leading up to his death, or that he had consumed alcohol while on that trip.
Knowing temperatures would rise throughout the day, Alcaraz’s leaders scheduled the Aug. 13 hike for the 1/8 Marines to kick off at 4:40 a.m., about two hours before the sun was scheduled to come up that day. While the temperature stayed below 73 degrees throughout the duration of the hike, the early start meant the Marines participating couldn’t hit the chow hall, which opened at 6 a.m.
While an operational risk management worksheet for the hike states that “section leadership will ensure each Marine consumes chow prior to departing for the event,” the investigating officer found that no arrangements were made to provide the members of 1/8 with food prior to the hump.
“The early step time meant that individual Marines had to acquire food for themselves the evening prior to the hike at their own expense,” the investigation states.
The investigating officer recommended that in the future, the division “mandate that all units conducting extended duration physical training outside of mess hall hours … provide some form of nourishment prior to execution.”
Specifically, “1st Battalion, 8th Marines should have provided Meals, Ready to Eat or field rations for the hike participants,” the investigation states.
Alcaraz’s death prompted the commanding general of 2nd Marine Division to direct a unit-wide safety stand down, said 1st Lt. Joe Caldwell, a spokesman for II Marine Expeditionary Force. Topics covered during the stand down included hot- and cold-weather injuries, safety procedures and operational risk management, he added. Division staff also developed new training materials for commanders.
“These products stressed the importance of nutrition as it pertains to preventing heat injuries and also required commanders to develop nutritional plans as part of their operational risk management process for combat conditioning,” Caldwell said.
Read more at Military Times
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