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Marines cool off with new use for old socks

27 Jul 2004 | Sgt. Jose L. Garcia

Marines from 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion use socks for other reasons than just their feet. 

Patrolling the western border of Iraq can take a toll on the Marines and the water is a must for Marines to drink in the hot temperature that reach well over a hundred degrees every day in the summer. 

Marines 1st LAR discovered the "sock method" to beat the heat and cool off the water.  The story might sound a little ripe - if not the socks.  Still, those who use it, would bet their boot, err .. socks, on it.

The first trick is to make sure there's an extra sock in the pack.  Socks straight off the feet, even to Marines in the field for days and weeks at time, is just too funky.

Step two, wet the sock, seal up a plastic water bottle inside and set it in the shade for about ten minute.  The end result is cool and refreshing, at least to a grunt slogging through temperatures topping a hundred degrees.

"It is a quicker way to cool down when you don't have any ice available to you," said Staff Sgt. Vince Peralta, a 30-year-old platoon sergeant for Weapons Company from Los Angeles.  "Using the sock is better than just drinking hot water and there is a huge difference.  That's why we always use it."

Marines unfamiliar with the sock method were hesitant at first but once the word got out as the thermometer climbed, everyone's daypack included a spare sock.

"I didn't believe it at first cause it didn't sound like it was real," said Cpl Robert D. Brooks, a 22-year-old from Ypsilanti, Mich.  "Then I tried it and it convinced me.  It actually works.

If it sounds, well, stinky, Brooks said think about the alternative when the water's been heating under the desert sun.

"Drinking hot water makes you sick to your stomach," he said.

The method itself is nothing new.  Desert bags were popular for Marines during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War.  The square canvas bags would be filled and soaked on the outside.  The idea is the moisture on the outside wicks away the heat as it evaporates.  As long as the cloth covering - in this case, the old socks - stays wet, the drink stay cool.

"The key thing to all this is once you pour water on the sock you have to keep it in the shade or else it will take longer to cool down," Peralta said. "But on any given hot day you will catch me using the sock method just so that I can have cold water to drink."

The socks might sounds like a crude method, but it's perfectly palatable to the Marines who use it.

"I love it, cause I don't like hot water at all, even when I take shower I don't like to use hot water," said Lance Cpl. Joshua D. Crawford, 22, from Salem, Ore.  "I like to use the sock method after making tea.  I let it sit and cool off."

According to Crawford, everyone in LAR pretty much uses the sock method to cool down the water. 

"I guess it's an LAR thing," Crawford said. "It helps Marines stay hydrated and they enjoy drinking the cool water.  It helps beat the heat."

Some platoons carry ice, but the Marines say the ice melts and the water just gets hot.

"Ice don't last long in this heat," Brooks said. "So our alternative is the sock method.  Once people try the sock method, they stick to it."