23. September 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

I haven’t done one of these irreverent blogs in a while. This is an accumulation of about 6 months of frustration with automatic flushing toilets when I’m in uniform.

So here is the new Air Force “Airman Battle Uniform”. We call them “ABUs” for short.

In fact, let’s get up close and personal with that new fabric.

I’ve a lot of concerns about this new uniform…from not being able to wear Army support combat patches (well, any unit patches for that matter), to the heavy weight of the fabric that made it quite uncomfortable in the Middle East contingency zones. Many of those issues are being addressed, but one of the ones that isn’t is a pretty fundamental issue.

The Near IR capability of these uniforms cause problems with automatic-flushing toilets.

Defined by Propper, Inc., the official ABU manufacturer: “Near Infrared (NIR) Signature Management Technology is used by the U.S. Department of Defense to prevent detection by NIR Image Converters. These photocathode devices do not detect temperatures, but rather infrared radiation variances. NIR-compliant uniforms use a special fabric that allows soldiers to appear at the same radiation level as the surrounding terrain, thus making them more difficult to detect. NIR technology also make uniforms less visible in low-light environments by reducing the reflection of light.”

I won’t argue with the value of this feature, especially at night when enemy forces might be trying to look for Airmen and the protection that NIR capability might be life-saving. I understand that.

I don’t have to wear my uniform often, but when I was in Florida for some training last December, the classroom building I was in was outfitted with the automatic flushers. So every time I had to use the ladies’ room, in the middle of going, the toilet was flushing. I was annoyed, but it wasn’t a hideous mess (I’ll get to that later) so I just tolerated it for a bit. I tried to sit extra still, but that wasn’t the issue. I guess over time the fabric would fade the heat difference of my sitting in front of the sensor.

The solution? Take off my ABU blouse before using the facilities there.

This didn’t come up again for a while — no automatic flushing toilets in the combat zone. Then I started this new job here at Offutt. The bathrooms in that building also have the IR detector so it happened again last week while I was in uniform. Again, I know now to remove my blouse and again, it wasn’t a messy experience when the flush happened — just loud and water-wasting.

But YESTERDAY. I went over to the Offutt BX after running some work-related errands in uniform and it happened again. Sorry, I don’t usually take the time to check, “Hey, is this an IR automatic toilet flusher?” before using it. Like most Americans, I’m not concentrating that much on the actions required to go to the restroom. But this time — it was a very, um, spirited flush in the middle of doing my business. I got SOAKED…and it was doubtful that was totally clean water that sprayed up all over my backside and the back of my shirt. I was so incredibly grossed out, I cut short the rest of my time at the BX (I had planned to browse for some kids clothes) and came straight home.

I have to admit, for me, having to use the restroom, whether public or private, is usually as second-nature to me as breathing. As more restrooms are equipped with the automatic flushers, and as I’m reporting to work in a new location on a new base, I guess I have to take a moment to check for the flushers.