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Shepperd: Heat can make gear 'miserable'

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd
Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd

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(CNN) Coalition forces will face hotter than normal weather as they push through the desert toward Baghdad, CNN meteorologists said Wednesday.

Average temperature readings in Iraq for this time of year are between 85 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit, but a desert heat wave might push thermometers over 100 degrees from Baghdad to Basra, and all the way to Kuwait City by the week's end.

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, a CNN military analyst, discussed the weather's possible effects on troop movement.

SHEPPERD: There has been very little fighting as the Marines move up toward Baghdad north of the Tigris River. The Baghdad infantry division reportedly has been destroyed and the Medina division reduced. Karbala has also been encircled in a three-hour battle that was supposed to have been very severe.

Up in the north, it appears the Iraqi forces are withdrawing in the Mosul area. In Kirkuk mainly air activity has been going on. Forces are advancing on Baghdad from the east, the south and perhaps soon the west, but the weather remains important.

Some of the troops are carrying up to 120, even as much as 150 pounds, but they shed that when they go into a fight. They shed all the heavy stuff and carry with them the things they need: ammunition, communications, water, food, and chemical gear.

The chemical protection suits are called MOPP gear. The acronym stands for Mission Oriented Protective Posture, with levels of zero through four. Zero means all your chemical gear is readily available. Four means you've got it all on, including the gloves, and it is miserable to wear.

You can stay in the gear for two or three hours. The problem is the gear is impervious, so you're sweating inside of it. You must stay hydrated, and staying in the gear longer than two or three hours really brings heat problems.

In the heat, you have to stay hydrated, no matter whether you are a soldier or a civilian, and the key is clean water. The forces have bottled water, but the population depends upon electricity. If electricity has been affected by the military action and can't be restored to pump water, the civilians are in trouble.

The sandstorms, of course, cause more problems. They affect the air and the ability to provide close air support, and they provide cover for forces that want to get along your supply lines and shoot at you close. Sandstorms become real problems. Coalition forces have things that will work day and night through all kinds of weather, but the storms can be a pain in the neck.

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd was in the U.S. Air Force for almost 40 years and flew 247 fighter combat missions in Vietnam. He served at the Pentagon as the Air National Guard commander and was directly involved in planning the use of Air National Guard forces during the Persian Gulf War. Shepperd runs a defense consulting firm called The Shepperd Group. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange. Their briefings will appear daily on CNN.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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