Operation Iraqi Fredom

Marcie Birk, a Health Educator  with the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine reported on recreational and  occupational exposure to the sun. Occupational sun exposure increases a persons risk of skin cancer  by 43-77%.  Many soldiers are usually exposed to harmful rays all the time,  by default of their occupation. Soldiers can be exposed to many hours of UV radiation during unit and individual training. They are encouraged to take the proper sun safety precautions as the general public; to use a sunblock with an SPF 30+ and reapply every two hours, and to wear a wide-brimmed hat.

Some people still will let their pride and stubbornness get in the way of healthy sun protection habits. Here is a list of excuses that are commonly heard…

Excuse: “Sunblocks smell flowery and feminine.”

Answer: By unscented formulations. They are just as effective without the scent.

Excuse: “The oily base makes my skin feel greasy. ‘

Answer: Try out other brands to find what feels right to you.

Excuse: “They make my hands slippery.”

Answer: Try a sport sunscreen. They are designed to absorb quickly.

Excuse: “When I sweat, the stuff runs into my eyes and stings.”

Answer: Use a stick sunscreen on your forehead and around your eyes. Never put sunscreen directly on your eyes.

But, what happens if they do get burned?

J. Solis (U.S. Navy) said, “For us, we don’t get sunscreen provided by the command. We have to get it ourselves. I used to get in trouble all the time for sunburns when I was stationed in Hawaii. Now a days people don’t really get in trouble for sunburns while being in uniform.”

These instances occur in the United States as well as other countries.  The Canadian Military has a statute for dealing with severe sunburn. One Canadian soldier recalled being a student on officer training during the summer of 1990. At the end of the formal training and before the graduation the training center put on a huge sports day called Exercise Spartan Warrior. The competition uniform for the day was  combat boots, trousers, and t-shirts. The Canadian soldier says he slathered himself in the military issue sunscreen (SPF 8) and competed out in the sun all day until the end of the competition. He admits the day after he was so burned on his arms and the back of his neck that he had to report to the Medical Inspection Room where he was diagnosed with 2nd degree burns. He was then told by the duty medic that because the burns got to 2nd degree he would have to be investigated for a summary charge of “Self-Inflicted Wound”. Luckily, for the soldier it was proven that he had “indeed used the supplied sunscreen and had not inflicted himself with the wound and was not negligent in protecting himself.”

How can soldiers protect themselves?

  • Use a sunblock with an SPF 30+ and reapply every two hours
  • Try to stay covered if out in the sun for more than 30 minutes at a time; wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and pants.

How can the military can help?

  • Provide a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+
  • Make it mandatory /provide UV protective clothing

What can YOU do to help?

  • Collect sun protection products by asking people to donate in support of our troops! 

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