Several runners took advantage of the opportunity to use the AICS to include, 2nd Lt. Chase Pottebaum and 2nd Lt. Jaleesa Mackey (Photo Credit: Mary Reardon)

The Arm Immersion Cooling Station Challenge

By Mary Reardon, Fort Jackson Safety Office

With the weather starting to top out in the triple digits and humidity souring it has become increasingly necessary to keep cool, or in some cases to properly cool down.

One hundred eighty-six attendees ran in Fort Jackson’s 105th Birthday 5K Run/Walk on June 11 at Twin Lakes where they were offered cooling towels, water bottles, and the opportunity to cool off in an Arm Immersion Cooling Station (AICS) after they finished.  Several runners took advantage of the opportunity to use the AICS including 2nd Lt.  Chase Pottebaum and 2nd Lt. Jaleesa Mackey.

The lieutenants, currently Adjutant General Basic Officer Leaders Course students, last used the AICS while attending Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet advanced camp in 2021.

They said they recalled briefly plunging their forearms in chilled water for 15 seconds. They both said they were surprised to learn the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine developed standards for the AICS and opted to try it out.

The USARIEM AICS standard calls for submerging bare hands and forearms (past elbows) in cool water for a certain amount of time in accordance with the water temperature.

The lowest safe water temperature is 35 F; any lower, and the body reacts poorly due to the potential of chilblains. The lowest two ranges provide the quickest relief safely (35-44 F for 3-5 minutes; 45-54 F for 5-8 minutes).

Pottebaum kept his arms submerged for the full five minutes at 42F. He said his forearms were cold initially, but he looked forward to the relief and went the full five minutes. At about the 90 second mark, he reported the center of his chest felt cool. This reflected the cool blood returning to his heart, cooling the organ. At about the three-minute mark, he said his back started to cool. This reflected the cool blood affecting his lungs. The cooling sensation spread down his legs as the cooled blood circulated throughout his body in the remaining time. Raising his arms out of the water and standing tall, he said he felt refreshed and reenergized.

When contacted on Monday, Pottebaum said he felt the positive effect for a couple hours after submerging his arms.

Most military personnel are familiar with the AICS.

Introduced to training environments in 2011, it’s been adopted as part of the heat mitigation protocol in Basic Combat Training units. The original AICS took several years to be mass produced.  In 2013, the Fort Jackson Training Support Center built a modest version consisting of a wooden stand and one half of a 50-gallon plastic drum, which serves as a basin. Ten to 15 gallons of water and a capful of bleach are added to the basin. The water temperature is measured as ice is added until the desired temperature is met.

Innovative cadre also use large, insulated coolers to serve as AICSs. These are very handy as the cooler’s lid holds the water in place and slows the ice melt. The AICS-coolers can be transported in government vehicles and off-loaded at foot march rest halts or positioned on training exercise lanes. BCT cadre have noted its enhanced benefit, particularly during the first three weeks of training, known as the acclimation period, and during field training exercises, when everyone’s exposed to heat for prolonged periods.

Cadre provide at least one AICS for each platoon.

Most units use all resources available during the summer months due to higher temperatures and higher fill numbers.

The first three weeks of BCT are essential to train and use the AICS to standard. Many units incorporate the AICS into the flow of training.

One unit on rifle Range 20 directed their trainees to use the AICS, positioned in the shade of pine trees, after they were cleared from the firing line, before transitioning to concurrent training. One unit in 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment even adopted a policy of setting up an AICS for their cadre next to the ammunition point at the Omaha (Buddy Team Live Fire) Range where cadre routinely used the system to cool off throughout the day.

AICS is a tool to Heat Illness Prevention, which is key to prevention and preserving our most critical resource – people.