Lying naked on the floor of a military helicopter flanked by two medics in full uniform while en route to the nearest hospital was not the end result Cody Dillman, of Middleburg, had in mind when volunteering to do a special assignment in the Mojave Desert.
“It was the last time I was in a military helicopter — but the only time I did it completely naked. Then there were these two guys in flight suits over me looking like something out of Call of Duty, and I’m there trying to cover up with a garbage bag,” he said. “It was a crazy scenario.”
The scene played out after Dillman and his unit were wrapping a full month of training in the Mojave Desert.
“We were out in the desert the full month — we didn’t come back to shower or anything. One of the last days before we left, they offered a voluntary mountain climb to the highest point near Fort Irwin,” Dillman said. “It was three miles up and three miles back in the heat, and they only gave us three quarts of water. I ultimately volunteered to do it.”
However, the night before the hike, he became sick and told his squad leader he wasn’t sure he could do the hike.
“He told me I made a commitment to do it, and I couldn’t back out even if sick,” Dillman remembered.
The next day, Dillman made it to the peak, but on the way back, he was overwhelmed by the 100-plus degree heat.
“Everything got kind of white. From what I remembered from medic training, I knew I was going through either heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” he said.
Dillman fell back from his unit and laid down in the shade of a big rock for a short period of time, “It was like 20 seconds, but then again, maybe it was 20 minutes. It seemed to go quickly,” he recalled.
People from another company that left for the hike after his squad ultimately caught up with Dillman. A medic assessed him, discovered his internal temperature was 104 degrees, started an IV and called in the helicopter.
“I was pretty dehydrated — the hospital gave me two bags of IV and I stayed the night, but made a full recovery,” Dillman said. “The next night, I was able to go with the guys to Las Vegas.”