I will never complain about air conditioning again.

We tested in 100 degree plus heat for three days, along with a very sweaty battalion of Marines who were in full uniform, and wore camelbacks full of water just to stay hydrated. It was so hot at AP Hill that we weren’t even bothered by ticks. The ticks must have gone to wherever that place is that ticks go when they try to stay cool.

It was so hot the roads were shimmering. We spent a lot of time in an open ground area, an airfield with very bumpy dirt tracks and huge gouges in the ground where tanks used to play. We’d have to radio each other (there were about twelve cars in our entourage) whenever tanks or armored personnel carriers used the road – because we’d have to pull over and let them pass. They’re huge things, and the frightening thing is how fast that much metal can travel, and how much the ground vibrates when they are close. Helicopters whizzed overhead, up and down the airfield. We could feel the WHUP WHUP WHUP of the rotor blades right through our cars.

The heat started in the morning. By 10 am it was 95, and by noon it was over 100 degrees. Our building was air conditioned. Never did cool air feel so good. Never did a simple couch (a couch! In an army base!) look so decadently soft. We had a real refrigerator this time. You would open the door, and all you would see is bottles of water and Gatorade. Of course, that was only when we were in the buildings, which was rarely. We were in cars most of the day, or in the backs of the vans, fixing things on computers, resetting things, attaching cables to antennas, talking on radios, making plans out in the field, real time, improvising. You go here. Avoid this hole here. When you get down in this gully, watch the radio strength and use satcom to radio back what you‘ve found. Don’t go near those orange flags, the guys testing for IEDs are using those spots. Keep going – keep going – keep going – one more test – we can still hear you, we need you to keep going beyond radio line of sight…

The chalk talks at night, when we’d all come in hot and sweaty from a day’s worth of testing, and regroup, get water, sit down in real chairs and hear what we all learned, and how we can do things better…

The lavatories were functional. No walls between the flushable sit-down toilets – they were stacked end to end, with little places where toilet paper rolls hung down. Men would piss in a long white marble pissing tray. One flush would irrigate the whole tray. Since there was only one bathroom, our one woman of the group would flip the sign that hung on the bathroom door from the MEN side to the WOMEN.

The other teams would leave around nine pm. We’d stay until 11, trying to squeeze as much time on the test range as we could. Getting back to the motel room at midnight, stripping off the clothes and just standing in the cold shower for twenty or thirty minutes, letting the cool clear water wash you clean and cool you down.

And now I’m back after two hours on I-95, sitting in 95 degree heat. I am hot and sweaty, the cars are full of dust, and the equipment’s been all unloaded and back in the labs. I am soaking with sweat from the modest amount of effort expended outside doing the unloading. It will be so nice to sleep tonight in a quiet and cool place.

So, how was your week?

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