ARLINGTON, VA—Summer is here and temperatures in the National Capital region will reach the mid-90’s for the week.
The humidity makes the temperature feel like it is over 100 degrees.
Tomb Sentinels and memorial affairs escorts assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) don’t get the luxury of cooler clothing to beat the heat.
The members of The Old Guard maintain strict ceremonial composure in wool jackets and pants.
“They act like it doesn’t effect them at all,” said Nicole Smith, a visitor to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) from Lenoir, North Carolina. “It’s very humbling.”
Sgt. David W. Schutt, assigned to Hotel Company, 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. at Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall has been in The Old Guard for three years.
“You have to ensure you hydrate at all times,” said Schutt. “Especially for the long hours that we put in.”
Sgt. Seth B. Callaway, a relief commander at the TUS, echoed that advice for sentinels.
“Drink water,” Callaway said. “You drink water, you won’t pass out.”
The most difficult part isn’t necessarily the scorching temperatures and zero shade, but keeping the uniforms looking sharp.
Members of The Old Guard have the honor of performing up to 25 full honor ceremonies in a given week, said Schutt.
“You sweat through your uniform,” said Schutt. “The wrinkles stay in there more.”
Glue holding together the medal racks pinned to the soldier’s chests melts under the hot temperatures, said Schutt.
The shoe polish on the sentinel’s feet also melts in the sun, said Callaway.
TUS sentinels wear special dress shoes with steel plates attached to their heel and toes.
The shoe polish on the “steels” liquefies and the leather absorbs it, giving the shoes a greyish appearance, said Callaway.
Soldiers conducting memorial affairs wear chloroframs on their feet.
These black, high gloss dress shoes heat up in the direct sunlight, Schutt said. At times it can feel like your toes are burning, said Schutt.
Chloroframs have wooden soles that are unforgiving during marches to burial sites Soldiers perform as part of memorial affairs missions.
Blisters are common occurrences during these marches due to the inevitably sweaty feet. Most marches are well over a mile, said Schutt.
Callaway said the training that Soldiers go through prepares them for hot days.
Soldiers do a two hour “be on the look out” before ever walking the mat at the tomb, said Callaway.
“When you first come into The Old Guard, you are tested on standing proficiency,” said Schutt. “It gets you use to standing at attention, and gets you acclimated to the heat. Especially in a 100% wool uniform.”
The progression allows them to endure any kind of weather and maintain their composure, said Callaway.
“It’s a different kind of hot here,” said Smith.
“Its pretty tough,” said Schutt. “I realize I’m doing it for the families, and just suck it up, and know that I’m doing it for a fallen brother or sister in arms.”
Callaway said the best strategy for dealing with grueling temperatures is mental toughness.
“It’s a mind game,” said Callaway. “If you don’t let yourself think it’s hot, it won’t be hot.”