Army Wants Every Soldier in Bug-Proof ACUs

 I posted a story on Military.com this morning about the Army’s plans to outfit the ranks with permethrin-treated Army Combat Uniforms. I’m still on the fence about this one.

On one hand, I think it’s great that uniform officials claim that factory-treating ACUs with permethrin will solve past problems of under-treating or over-treating uniforms when using the Individual Dynamic Absorption Kits to apply permethrin.

In some cases, these individual treatment kits result in the permethrin being too concentrated on random sections of the uniforms. This led to contact dermatitis and other skin rashes, according to PEO Soldier officials. Treating uniforms with permethin at the factory level provides consistent coverage that’s strong enough to kill crawling insects but safe for everyday wear, PEO Soldier officials said, adding that the Army’s Surgeon General approved the treatment method in 2008.

Soldiers deploying to the warzone have been wearing flame-resistant ACUs that have been factory treated with permethrin for the past two years.

I have never worn permethrin-treated uniforms of any type. But even though 25 years have passed, I can still remember plucking blood-bloated ticks from the darkest regions of my body after spending a week in the bug-friendly hinterlands of Fort Bragg. Back then, I’m pretty sure I would have been happy to wear something like the Army’s new ACU-P.

What I am not so sure about is the Army’s plan to eventually replace standard ACUs with the permethrin-treated version. I understand that every soldier should be protected, but if you are in a job that requires no field time — do you really need them?

Uniform officials say the new ACU-Ps are totally safe and will cost no more than standard ACUs. I don’t know. Has anyone out there worn the FR ACUs that have been factory-treated with permethrin? Let us know what you think.

About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox has been a defense reporter since 1998 and is an associate editor for Military.com. He traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq numerous times from 2002 to 2008, covering infantry units in combat. Matthew was an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.

20 Comments on "Army Wants Every Soldier in Bug-Proof ACUs"

  1. Permethrin rocks. I treated my woodland BDUs before a MOUT exercise at Ft. Drum and did not see a single mosquito for the 36 hours. I got 3 total bug-bites: all on my wrist between my glove and my watch. I have since treated all my camo uniforms with permethrin and will continue to do so. If you are not going outside the wire, sure, you may not need it- but for a field uniform it is a definite enhancement.

  2. My unit was among the first fielded the permethrin treated multicams. Very few had problems with skin irritation, and the uniforms did a decent job stopping insect bites. That being said, permethrin is one of the confirmed causes of gulf war syndrome, though that was cases of over applied insecticides and inadequate hygiene in theatre. Only time will tell if this saves lives and health, or causes more problems.

  3. I have had treated FR ACUs (both UCP and OCP), and I treated by own BDU's about 10 years ago. Other that the ease of it already being done it's hard to tell a difference. The FR ACU's are already slightly heavier and don't breathe as well, so there's not much of a difference.

    It just seem like the Army is wasting money on all this, we need to go back to having "garrison" uniforms and "field" uniforms like we did back in the BDU's. Let me wear whatever in garrison, and then let me wear the FR and treated OCP Combat shirt and Combat pants when I'm in the field, whether training or deployed!

  4. Can't the soldiers treat them? on there own time of course. And how about the health effects of permethrin, if any?

  5. What do the environmentalists have to say about this? Wouldn't treating these uniforms essentially eliminate the majority of the food available to the local wildlife? Removing the bottom of the food-chain would cause an ecological collapse!

  6. Permethrin is a great product to prevent pesky insects from attacking soldiers out in the field but there is one small problem with their entire plan. This is no different than the old Navy Dungarees that we got issued and were told they were Fire Retardent. What they didn't mention is that after about a dozen or so times going through the wash they were no longer effective in that manner. Now, they sell bottles of permethrin at most outdoor store(Bass Pro Shops, ***** Sporting Goods, and even Walmart) so the everyday outdoor enthusiast can treat their own clothes. Guess what, after about 6 or 7 times going through the wash those clothes need to be retreated. So IMO, issuing a uniform that has been treated at the factory is a complete waste and will only need to be retreat the same way they currently treat them after going through the wash a few times.

  7. What I really think the Army needs to do is figure out what the **** we are gonna wear for the foreseeable future, which I thought was suppposed to happen soon, I just hope they don't put it off or just completely ignore the issue.

  8. FormerSFMedic | August 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm |

    I, personally don't like the idea. First of all, from a medical standlpoint, there are going to be at least a few soldiers in every platoon that can't tolerate permethrin on their skin. As a medic, this is something I have concearns about. It only takes one soldier to have a rash or skin irratation to slow down the whole team.

    Second, permethrin is only mildly effective. Does it work? Yes. Does it repel every insect in all conditions? No. With that said, soldiers would be much better off applying a deterrent topically where they need it. My thoughts are, if it doesn't work that great, then it doesn't need to be on every uniform.

    Thirdly, anyone that has spent anytime in the Army knows how the Army likes to downplay the side effects of medicines and chemicals. They said the Anthrax shots were safe. That was until a few of the soldiers ended up ******** (literally). I never even got my shots for Anthrax (that's the perk of being in charge of the medical side of the house) because of this. They said the malaria meds were safe. That was until soldiers started sleep walking and having nighttares. I had one guy chambering rounds in his sleep! We nipped that in the bud quick! My point is that the Army uses soldiers as guinea pigs. I for one would not want to be wearing these uniforms because of that!

  9. FormerSFMedic | August 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm |

    You have got to be kidding me! You can't say ********! That's not anywhere near a profane word. David explained to me why the language rules are the way they are and I understood it completely. But this is ridiculous. As far as I'm concerned, that's unnecessary censorship. I'm going to have to rethink commenting on this site as well as reading the write ups. This blog is becoming too much "big business" mentality for me. It seems that kitup is affiliated with a company that is too big and feels that they have a "sensitive" audience that they don't want to offend. Well, those people shouldn't be here anyway, especially if they support censorship like this. I speak my mind respectfully and without profane language. As long as I do that, I shouldn't be censored for the sake of keeping the "easily offended" reader around. The authors can use witty commentary that obviously refers to sexual acts without " triggering" the alarm, but I can't use words that are part of everyday respectful dialogue.

  10. There is two issues with the FRacus.

    One they do not breath like normal ACUs. They are the same weight as the old winter BDU's. Granted this may be great in colder weather most of the places soldiers go are not so cold for the better time of the year.

    Two: Garrison Wear.
    ACUs themselves are hideous let alone the FRacus, which are tinted a yellowish tint making them look dirty even brand new. There needs to be a set combat/field uniform and one for daily garrison.

  11. In the mid 80's we found some cans of bug spray left over from Nam that was used to treat uniforms. Incredibly effective. I watched skeeters just hit my uniform and die. Turned out there was DDT or something in those cans. Go figure.

  12. I think you took the words out of every medics mouths…I never used bug spray, never soaked my uniform in that crap, never got my anthrax shots, never got my smallpox poke, never took my malaria pills…any halfway decent medic knows most of that **** is BS. I gave out countless placebos to my guys…and told them if it didn't "fix" (coughs, colds, aches) it in a day or 2 come back. "fixed" most stuff.

  13. Im pretty certain that the Marines have been using this treatment on all of their MARPAT uniforms. Supposed to last for 25 washings or something.

  14. I'll wait and see, like with most stuff army comes out – 30 years later when your ******* turns inside out and starts talking to you the army will say – yeah that wasn't such good idea to coat them uniforms – sorry guys. I've tried it on my uniorm, it works. Other than some mosquito bites on my face, neck and hands I had no other problems. But we coated and wore the uniform for a week, personally I would not wear everyday. We have enough chemicals in our skin and blood system due to the regulations that everything has to have flame retardent chemicals in it. At the end you have to think about that if it's design to kill a bug whats the long term effect on you?

  15. I’ll wait and see, like with most stuff army comes out – 30 years later when your ******* turns inside out and starts talking to you the army will say – yeah that wasn’t such good idea to coat them uniforms – sorry guys. I’ve tried it on my uniorm, it works. Other than some mosquito bites on my face, neck and hands I had no other problems. But we coated and wore the uniform for a week, personally I would not wear everyday. We have enough chemicals in our skin and blood system due to the regulations that everything has to have flame retardent chemicals in it. At the end you have to think about that if it’s design to kill a bug whats the long term effect on you?

  16. Hey guys,

    The soldiers are not being used as guinea pigs here. High end outdoor clothing companies like ExOficio have been using Permethrin for years and those clothing items have been selling like hot-cakes to the tree-hugger outdoor crowd.
    Permethrin is made from a flower (Marigolds I think). Mosquitos kill more people in the world than every other animal in the world combined (Not sure if humans are included in that statistic). While having ANY concentrated chemical compound next to the skin or on broken skin for an extended period time can be bad I think Permethrin is pretty benign for the most part. It will likely cause more good than harm. Just my 2 Cents.

  17. Great. After deploying with the FR-ACU, I discovered I was allergic to the chemical treatment of the uniform. I had to have my plain ol' regular ACUs shipped to me in theater and use a topical steroid ointment and Prednisone (an oral tablet steroid) to get rid of the rash (it took 3 weeks of non-exposure and treatment). We take anti-malarial medication and I use DEET with no problem, so long as it's a low concentration and I can wash it off after a few hours. Daily use of a pre-treated uniform is not going to bode well for folks like me. Plus, all the uniform changes are going to hit Soldiers' wallets pretty hard. Can we just pick something and stick with it?

  18. Delta Mike | August 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm |

    Back in the days of BDU's (Tree-Suit, as my Nam era Plt Sgt refered to them) we use to take OFF and spray coat the inside of pants and shirt. Reason we used off; the stuff the army issued was WORTHLESS. Having a mis-spent youth trapsin out in the boonies of Bragg and Campbell, and the wise advice of an old timer Plt Sgt was worth its weight in gold.

  19. Don't wear these uniforms. I had a severe reaction to this chemical over the past two months. I have been through two series of powerful steroid treatment. The Docs say that they see a lot of it to varying degrees. DoD concern is the preservation of combat power, not the individual.

  20. Patriot on a String | July 18, 2014 at 6:10 pm |

    Old news… Old school Vietnam Vets leaving the Service when I came in taught us to wash our BDUs in good old Seargents Flea and Tick Shampoo.. 1/4 Cup to full load of laundry.. Why is tech or knowledge from Vietnam just now getting attention.. Oh yeah… Young blood reinventing the wheel.. Also, eating one match head unstruck per day to sweat out the sulfur to ward off molds/fungus and add further insect repellant…. The same as sulfa-drugs…

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