NATICK, Mass. (Nov. 25, 2014) – In its effort to combat body odor and skin irritation affecting Soldiers in the field, the Army has developed antimicrobial treatments for such items as T-shirts, socks and sleeping bag liners, but little is known about the extent of such personal hygiene issues or their effects on warfighters.
“That information doesn’t really exist right now,” said Wendy Johnson of the Consumer Research Team, or CRT, at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. “Right now, we’re trying to get to the baseline of what the problem is.”
The CRT will gather data straight from the sources. Team members have developed an online questionnaire for Soldiers throughout the Army who have deployed or taken part in field exercises, and they hope that thousands will respond.
The questionnaire, in development since last fall, can be found at https://surveys2.natick.army.mil/Surveys/antimic.nsf (CAC required), or at https://surveys.natick.army.mil/Surveys/antimic.nsf.
According to Johnson, the CRT will collect data for at least two weeks.
“Currently, the military doesn’t have any requirements for (antimicrobial treatments),” Johnson said. “And so the question is, should the military have requirements? What should they be? How do we know that this stuff is good enough, is doing what it’s supposed to do?”
To identify problems in the field, the CRT will ask questions about such afflictions as foot or body odor, athlete’s foot, jock itch and skin rash. Soldiers will also be queried about what antimicrobial products — those that kill organisms and inhibit their growth — and how they use them.
“What do they expect from them?” said Johnson of the products. “Do they expect to be cleaner? Do they expect to be more healthy? Do they expect that it will control foot and body odor. When they use them, do they use them in the field? Do they use them while they’re camping or hunting?”
It might be down and dirty work for the CRT, but it’s necessary to find out how these hygiene issues affect Soldiers’ performance and their ability to sleep in the field.
“We think that some of these things are going to get very low incidence rates, so we want thousands of Soldiers to answer this questionnaire for us,” Johnson said. “We would want everyone, pretty much, who has been in the Army, who has been deployed or has at least been in field training under situations where this has been a concern.”