U.S. soldiers go gaga for women's and baby products
Sunday, June 1, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- What do U.S. soldiers use to cope with the grit and heat of Iraq? Why, cottony women's underthings, diaper ointments, pantyhose, and moist wipes with the aroma of baby powder.
Drugstore products usually reserved for women and babies are all the rage among U.S. troops in Iraq.
"In the middle of the desert, somebody would've traded you his sister for a pack of baby wipes," said U.S. Army Military Police Sgt. James Karm, 29, who patrols west Baghdad in a Humvee. "You could've got anything you wanted."
And baby wipes, according to Spc. Rebecca Burt, "are the only thing that takes camouflage makeup off."
Women's panty liners -- an absorbent patch with an adhesive back -- are perfect for mopping a sweat-basted brow that bakes under a helmet.
"They'll put them in the front of their hats and helmets as a sweat band," Burt said while driving a Humvee with a blue plastic box of Softs baby wipes next to her seat. Otherwise, the hat band gets sweaty and dirty. Next thing you know, there's a stripe of pimples across your forehead.
For those long marches, pantyhose are just the thing to replace the chaffing of socks and boots with the swish of nylon. You don't wear the whole thing, just the part below the knees, Karm said.
"Some people swear it keeps you from getting blisters," said Karm, of Bryan, Texas.
Soldiers' packages from home are loaded with such gear. A 64-pack of Kotex Lightdays panty liners and a package of Huggies baby wipes sits in a box next to the coffee maker at the headquarters of the U.S. Army's 709th Military Police Battalion.
Burt senses a business opportunity. She figures she'll market camouflage-packaged baby wipes and panty liners, laden with macho-guy cologne instead of flowery women's perfume.
"Some of your toughest men in the Army wear pantyhose," Burt said.
Baby powder is another big item, she said. "It helps keep sweat and smells down. If you sweat a lot, you get heat rash."
Another common sight in Baghdad is the grime-covered Humvee gunner pausing to paint his sun-dried lips with lip balm. Burt said the waxy balm also lubricates the zippers on canvas Humvee doors that get clogged with dust.
Karm swears by his diaper-rash ointment for "when you get rubbed raw from the heat and the sweat and the rubbing."
"It's the best thing for it."