With much of the Australian Army’s training and operations taking part in the tropics, effective insect repellent is essential for the health of its soldiers. Many debilitating diseases are spread by insects including malaria and yellow fever and in the past as many troops died in the tropics from these as did from combat. Reducing the risk is simple today with the use of modern insect repellents which discourage the insects from landing and biting a man. Over the years the Australian Army has issued a number of different insect repellents in a variety of packaging, but these days green squeezy tubes are most common:
The front of the tube has the Army’s /|\ property mark printed on it and details that this is ‘Army Insect Repellent Personal’:
The rear has details on how to use the repellent:
Despite being so useful in reducing disease in the tropics, an academic survey of Australian Army personnel in 2003 showed only 84% of soldiers used the repellent and only 19% used it daily. It was also more common to use commercial brands rather than that issued by the army:
Most soldiers (84%) used a repellent, but only 190/0 used a repellent daily (Table II). Of those who did not always use a repellent, 45% stated that they felt no need to use it [i.e., there were no
mosquitoes) and another 28% did not respond. The remainder (27%) felt that repellents did not work or they did not like the feel or smell of repellents on the skin. In addition, some individuals felt repellents were not good for their health. Soldiers who used repellents did so because mosquitoes were either a problem (42%) or they were concerned about being infected with mosquito-borne diseases (43%). A small proportion of soldiers (11%) used repellents because they were instructed to do so.
Several repellent formulations were used, and many respondents used more than one formulation while in East Timor. Only 10.4% (99 of 955) of soldiers reported using the ADF issue repellent. The most popular repellent formulations used were the commercial brands RID, Aeroguard, Skintastic,
and Bushmans. The ADF repellent was not used because the soldiers felt that it did not work as well as others (453 responses), did not feel as good as others (349 responses), and it melts plastic (432 responses). When asked which type of repellent formulation and method of application was preferred, many soldiers(44%) recommended an aerosol formulation. A smaller number of respondents identified roll-ons (16%), liquids (17%), and lotions (18%) as their preferred option. Only 26 soldiers indicated they would use gel formulations.