Nevada Guard soldiers endure record heat in the Middle East

A group of soldiers walk along the road at sunset in Taji, Iraq earlier this year. With summer...
A group of soldiers walk along the road at sunset in Taji, Iraq earlier this year. With summer temperatures reaching over 120 degrees in Iraq and surrounding countries during its 2016 deployment, the sun and heat have posed a challenge for Soldiers with the 17th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), who, nevertheless, are completing heir<br />sustainment operations throughout Southwest Asia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Joecks)(KOLO)
Published: Aug. 7, 2016 at 1:04 PM PDT
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Chief Warrant Officer 2 Gregory Backus described the recent record-breaking heat wave in Kuwait — including an eastern hemisphere high temperature record — with a sweltering analogy.

“Imagine the hottest day in Las Vegas out on the hot pavement ... that's about our average daily high temp,” Backus, a Nevada Army National Guard soldier and Sparks resident, said in an electronic message from deployment in Kuwait. “Then add a bunch of random humidity. It's like getting slapped in the face with one of those hot, steamy, rags they give you on a long flight.”

Backus is one of more than 250 Nevada Army National Guard soldiers of the 17th Sustainment Brigade deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The brigade provides logistical support throughout U.S. Central Command. The brigade, headquartered in Las Vegas, includes soldiers from around Nevada.

But while high temperatures have consistently hit the 110s in Las Vegas this summer, the recent Kuwait heat beats it by at least 10 degrees — and it's not always a dry heat.

According to Dr. Jeff Masters and historian Christopher Burt of Weather Underground, the temperature in Mitribah, Kuwait on July 21 topped out at 129.2 degrees. If verified, it would be the Earth's hottest official temperature recording outside of Death Valley, Calif., and the hottest in the eastern hemisphere, according to Weather Underground.

This United Kingdom Meteorological Office radar snapshot shows the exact moment when temperatures peaked above 128 degrees last July in the Kuwait region. The areas in green show where temperatures pushed hotter than 128 degrees.

The Death Valley record stands at 134.1 degrees. Tirat Tsvi, Israel, also recorded a high of 129.2 degrees on June 22, 1942. The average high temperature in Kuwait this time of year is 115 degrees, according to Weather Underground.

However, following the Kuwait temperature reading, the Washington Post reported that many dispute the Death Valley reading, recorded in 1913, and suggested the Kuwait reading matched “the highest readings ever reliably measured anywhere in the world.”

The temperature spike was a result of a massive ridge of high pressure parked over the region, the weather service said.

“Being from Vegas, I'm familiar with heat, but this is hot on a whole new level,” 17th SB Command Sgt. Maj. James Richardson said. “I didn't know humidity could come and go throughout the day, it's really weird. When the wind blows from the desert it's not too bad, but when it blows off of the coast, it's unbelievable.”

So, how are the Nevada soldiers beating the heat?

“Basically, we make a bee line from tent to tent to make our encounters with the sauna as short as possible,” Backus said.

Richardson added: “There really is no way to beat it other than staying hydrated.”

The 17th SB's 10-month deployment is set to end this autumn when temperatures will hopefully be more bearable for returning soldiers.