The Effect Of Desert On Personnel
SUBJECT AREA General
THE EFFECT OF DESERT ON PERSONNEL
The desert has been described as a well protected
castle for the one who knows it and a grave for the one who
doesn't know it. To reach this environment the soldier
should be well prepared so he can work in full capacity.
Keeping the high morale of personnel in the desert is of a
special importance because of hard nature and also for one
who never been in this climate. In the desert there are no
good sights to see that can distract attention. Also inside
the vehicles are only heard the engines and smells the
burning of gas. Therefore, the dust storms and the way of
living results in affecting the morale of the personnel.
This will lead to increased effort in their training and an
increase in casualties. As a result the process of increasing
the morale of personnel should be of the most importance.
Adaptation. There must be an available period of adaptation
to the desert condition to avoid casualties. The soldier
which is fit is able and prepared to accept the changes in
the weather and the conditions in the desert better than the
less fit soldier. The nature of adaptation available is by
a special exercise for the hot areas and takes about four
weeks but still they can have a high degree of adaptation
within 10-12 days. Conditions might not permit along enough
adaptation period and the troops have to do large assignments
when they reach the operation area. Under these conditions
all the work should be done during the night or during the
less hot periods of the day and the troops should take
enough rest. Medical consultation is very important for
adaptation in the desert.
Heat Casualty. Water plays an important part in keeping the
temperature of the body and the body loses its efficiency when
it loses liquids. Heat casualty can be in three types:
1. Heat exhaustion. This type happens when not enough
water is taken. Loss of water through sweat and in the same
time not taking enough water to compensate for it, causes
drowsiness and feeling weak.
2. Loss of salt. This is similar to heat exhaustion
for the personnel that are not adapted. The loss of salt in
the body which happens after sweating will cause gradual
exhaustion, vomiting, headache and stiffening of the muscles
of the hand, legs and belly. This can be treated by drinking
water with salt added to it according to a doctor's pre-
3. Sun stroke. This is one of the most dangerous
cases. This happens when the system which adjusts the body
temperature stops and the body looses its ability to control
its temperature by sweating. The body temperature will
increase and when the patient is not treated immediately
will lose his life.
This can happen to soldiers with adaptation and one with
heavy weight and the immediate treatment is to decrease the
body temperature by putting the patient in the shake and
taking his clothes off so it will give him a chance to cool
Water. In the desert water wells are very few and most of
them are not drinkable because of the high percentage of
salt in them. Therefore water must be checked before drink-
ing. During operations water for personnel must be brought
from outside the desert or from deep wells dug by engineers.
The human need for water varies according to the amount of
exercise he does the type of food he takes and the local
temperature. Though it is preferable to take a small amount
of water all the time. During less heat time soldiers should
take a large amount of water once a day. Soldiers should
stick to strick system of water usage. Any man can not
adapt to low quantities of water permanently. The adapted
soldier needs an equal quantity of water or may need more
than the less adapted one, and in case there is not enough
water they must decrease the rate of activity and increase
it during the coolest times of the day. If water becomes
limited for some times the efficiency of personnel will
decrease highly even if they are in a relaxed state because
he will be needing half a liter when the temperature is very
high. An appropriate amount of salt must be taken to keep
the body balanced, salt should be distributed with food
and they should distribute additional quantities during the
adaptation and heavy work time. Medical consultation should
be taken about the amount of salt taken.
Health. With the heat illness soldiers are susceptible to
get other desert diseases. A high degree of health training,
personal cleanliness, shaving, washing and sticking to the
principles of health precautions is of special importance.
Soldiers become more susceptible to intestinal diseases so
they must be careful during food distribution cleans food
containers, and also cooking containers and to dispose waste
Clothes. They must wear the appropriate clothing during
desert operations. It must be light so it will allow air
to come through and they must use small cotton towels for the
protection of the face and neck from the sun and dust.
They must wear also colored glasses to protect the eyes from
the dust and sun heat. Clothing during operations becomes
dirty so they must take care of their clothes and clean it.
During the night the soldier needs woolen clothes and it is
important to have sleeping bags.
Rest. Being an operation for a long time the soldier will
become tired and exhausted and this will lead to a decrease
of his efficiency quickly. So enough time for rest and
sleep should be provided if he is to continue in the opera-
tion. Soldiers should take a rest after 3 to 4 continuous
days of operation. The need to rest in most operation is
a necessity but in case of the desert operation it is a must.
Desert geography. The desert geographical characteristics
1. The nature of the desert areas
a. The flat areas. Large wide flat areas with
hard surfaces and covered with a small percentage of sand.
This type of area is good for transportation.
b. Large sand hills. Wind and storms cause the
(formation) presence of the large sand hills. Its height
reaches hundreds of feet. Transportation through these
hills are very limited and depend on the degree of its slope
and the skill of the drivers.
c. Small sand hills. The wind covers some times
a large areas with a few inches of sand and transportation
through these areas is very difficult and to open the roads
there sand hills must be removed.
d. Volcanic area. A wide area full of volcanic
stones. Transportation through these areas is very limited
because of the damages to the vehicles.
e. Muddy areas. These kinds of areas are found
in several parts of the deserts and transportation through
these areas when it is wet is very difficult but when it
is dry transportation is very easy.
f. Roads and channels. This is very rare to
exist in the desert and it is usually connecting between
villages and oasis. All vehicles can move in all directions
in most of the desert without sticking to the roads.
2. The weather.
a. Heat. The deserts are characterized by a hot
day and a cold night and a very hot summer and very cold
winter reaching about 50oC during the summer and 0oC during
the winter. This change in the temperature affects to a
high degree all military.
b. Wind. The direction of the wind is changable,
can delete and when it increases it carries with it sand
forming the large and small sand hills.
c. Rain. The percentage of rain in the desert
is less than 10 inches yearly and the rain storms come
without any warning where within a few minutes all the dry
valleys will be full with water.
3. Water. The water wells in the desert are very
rare and only if there is an oasis. And even then the
water should be distilled before used. So the problem of
water is one of the main problems in the desert wars.
4. Plants. Very rare to find in the desert only
in the oasis where grass and palm trees exist and spiny small
trees in some other areas.
5. Mimicry. One of the main problems for personnel
is finding ways of cover. This needs a lot of intelligence
and an imaginative mind to overcome it. The lack of the
available cover in the desert, wide vision and the light
color of the land in the desert are all factors which force
a special importance in the following points:
a. Good concentration
b. Well spread
c. Well prepared for the imaginative prepara-
tion so it can achieve the purpose of surprise.
6. Residency in the desert. In the desert there
are no populated areas except some groups of bedouins near
the oasis and valleys.
Training on desert operation. Operating in desert is very
difficult task to achieve. But, when there is an available
chance to train in the desert this will be the best prepa-
ration for operating in this climate. Besides the ability
to train, still, before arriving at the operation area there
should be careful study of the tactics of training and a
plan of single and group training. Soldiers must be well
prepared both physically and mentally, so it will be
easier for him to get used to the desert climate quickly.
Fitness for all the soldiers is very important and any
soldiers not well prepared is very dangerous not for himself
only but for all his group. In spite of being fit soldier
still need at least 10 to 12 days to get used to the
desert climate so he can be ready to carry on the operation
well. With the body and the brain getting used to the heat
the dust and the hard condition of the desert also the body
needs to become immune to intestinal irritation, sun stroke
and other desert diseases that he might become infected
with. In these events a medical consultation is needed
when the habitulation period is extended, but, when the
period of training is short the amount of physical activities
must be restricted so they can avoid casualties caused by
the hot weather. The desert is a new climate for most of
the soldiers, who never lived in it, but if they can live in
it, their confidence in themselves and their morale will
increase tremendously. Even though this training is done
in the camp it is better if this training is combined with
other kinds of training in the desert.
The main points that should be included in the training:
1. Self discipline and the responsibility for young
officers to make sure of sticking to the simple protection
2. The effect of heat, wind, light and changing con-
ditions during day and night.
3. Control water usage, and the awareness of how to
distill the water and to get underground water.
4. The problems needed to be overcome during the daily
routine to stay fit and prevent disease wear clean clothes
and stay clean.
5. First aid.
6. Treatment of cases caused by heat.
Navigation. Each unit needs a number of well trained navi-
gators able to use the special equipment to know the way
and positions in the desert. Military personnel should be
trained to navigate so they can be able to find their way
to their unit when they lose their way.
Arms. Training to use arms in the desert conditions is
very important especially to be able to predict the distances
which is difficult, and also to correct the firing and the
fall of the bullets because any fault in the firing will
expose the position for the enemy. The open land character-
istic of the desert permits the long distance attach.
Night operation. The abilities of mimicry provided by the
darkness, allows a lot of night operations. The availability
of equipment for the night vision with both sides has an
effect on tactics, so soldiers must have full confidence in
his ability to work at night.
Air defence. The nature of the desert being exposed and
the difficulty in hiding exposes all the groups to an air
attack. Also it is easy to expose the moving vehicles by
planes though these must be an air defence and good training
of quick attack and self defence against the air attack.
1. The presence of water is one of the most important items
that exists, where life in desert will not continue without
it. So it is important to know the places where water exists
and also how to distill it.
2. Maneuvering in the desert requires the knowledge of
3. To insure the survival, the soldiers should carry water,
his own weapon, navigation equipment, protective clothes and
head and face masks.
4. The difficulties of maneuvering in the desert and its
effect on the operations require the awareness of all
personnel to concentrate on their movement, how to use the
land and to know navigation.
5. It is important for driving in the desert to know the
different ways to be able to face up to problems and also
have some knowledge of mimicry and how to maintain their cars.
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