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David's Top JCOC Experiences, No. 4: A Trip Inside a Military-Grade Climate Simulator

By Motley Fool Staff – Updated Oct 3, 2016 at 11:20AM

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Sure, the contractor says this gear will work in 135-degree desert heat. But the Air Force scientists are going to put it to the test.

The Joint Civilian Orientation Conference is designed to give non-military members a deeper understanding of what the U.S. Armed Forces do and what they are -- their capabilities, culture, history, and more. It's a fascinating program, and David Gardner wants to share with his listeners a few things he learned from it. In this segment of the Rule Breaker Investing podcast, David discusses the remarkable McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where the military can recreate (and exceed) the most extreme weather environments on Earth to test the capabilities of equipment designed to handle them.

A transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Aug. 24, 2016.

David Gardner: 

No. 4: And now for something completely different. [We were] at Eglin Air Force Base just outside Pensacola, Florida (right along the Florida Panhandle about as far west as you can be and still be in Florida). In fact, I didn't even realize that in Florida there is a one-hour time change. I thought, "That happens?" All week long we flew from one airbase to another. I just didn't expect that as we flew west in Florida we would lose an hour.

But right there were we at Eglin Air Force Base, and among many amazing sights (I mentioned earlier the F-35, and I tweeted out a photo of me holding an albino python), I also had the opportunity to go in the McKinley Climatic Laboratory.

Now, this is a unique space, and I'm going to tell you right now: If you ever have a chance to go and visit it -- and I'm saying this honestly, not even knowing if casual tourists like you and me can do that -- I would highly recommend it. From the 90-degree day that seemed to be true of every single day of the week that we spent -- JCOC 86, August 2016 -- every day seemingly 90-plus degrees.

Just one step inside a fully controlled climate for training purposes and testing purposes. That day, in the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, it was 20 degrees below zero. Snow and ice conditions all around. Again, just 10 feet on the other side, 90 degrees, and it was an amazing experience. The laboratory was designed in order to test under real-world conditions. I believe I heard from the leader of the laboratory that they can crank it up as high as 165 degrees Fahrenheit of heat. And there's no known lowest level. I think they've taken it down to minus 85 degrees before. This was obviously developed in order to test real equipment under these conditions. It's one thing if the designer or manufacturer tells you it works at 20 degrees below zero. It's an entirely other thing to actually make sure that it does work at 20 degrees below zero.

That day it had been rented out to Goodyear. Goodyear was testing rubber tires under those conditions. Just a really cool place and an example of one of those sights I would never otherwise have had and I feel obligated to share with you this week because it was very memorable.

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