The culture and practices of military women relating to hygiene in the field environment
Military women must manage toileting, bathing and menses in a variety of deployed and field environments. The act of providing hygiene in austere environments presents problems which can impair the health of the service member and compromise the function of the military organization. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the practices of military women managing hygiene issues in field environments and to also explore the culture of the military surrounding these practices. A two phase ethnographic study was conducted in June 2006. The researcher conducted participant observation data collection during a 14 day field exercise. This process was followed by telephone interviews of selected participants. Spradley's Developmental Research Sequence was followed throughout data collection and analysis. Cultural themes identified were (1) Women rely on each other to manage hygiene activities, (2) A degree of risk is involved in hygiene activities in the field and (3) Women will sacrifice their own needs and safety to maintain the integrity and cohesion of the military unit. Based on the findings, recommendations to develop and implement education regarding management of hygiene in deployed settings for men and women. In addition, recommendations for development and utilization of equipment, uniforms and protective gear which will enable women to manage hygiene without compromising privacy and safety were made.