So the Chairborne Rangers have done it again. With 13 years of constant operational experience to look back on, the best lesson learned they can come up with is “too many people are wearing non-regulation boots.”
Yes, that’s right; the Fun Police are on the warpath and they’ll be looking at your feet soon. Are those go-faster boots you’re wearing authorized under AR 670-1? They better be or you’ll be sent home to change them for something more regulation-friendly. Are your boots made of synthetic fabric instead of regulation cattle hide? Change them! Does the sole extend up over the toe and heel? Banned! Not between 8 and 10 inches tall? Brace yourself for trouble!
So what exactly is happening and what does it mean for you? Basically a PowerPoint presentation (see slide to the right…) is doing the rounds, showing nearly a dozen examples of boots that aren’t authorized for wear. There are some popular models on it from top suppliers, including Nike, Under Armour, Bates, and Danner. The presentation also notes that these are just examples… that any boot not meeting the AR 670-1 criteria is not authorized for wear.
Assorted dire warnings about the price of disobedience are thick in the air. If you wear non-approved boots, no matter how well they work for you, you’re in the firing line. (Wondering what boots you can wear? Here’s our up to date list: http://uspatriottactical.com/authorized-army-boots).
Contrary to what folks are saying, these are not changes or additions to AR 670-1. These regulations have existed for years – it’s just that they are now choosing to enforce the standards. As a retailer, we’ll do what the Army says and offer what they allow soldiers to wear. However, the question I would pose is: “If it’s been all right to let soldiers wear these boots during a time of two wars, why isn’t it all right for them to wear now?”
It’s pretty staggering that this is happening, especially now. Boots are one of the most vital pieces of gear for any soldier, especially those operating dismounted. They’re also one of the hardest things to get right with a one size fits all approach, because one size – or model – really doesn’t fit all. Every soldier’s feet are different. Different sizes, different shapes, different distributions of muscle. If your boots don’t fit perfectly and give support where you need it, you’re going to have problems, and with the weight the infantry carries now you just can’t afford that. This is why so many soldiers choose to buy their own boots – they can try out various styles and models until they find something that suits their feet perfectly.
Most of the commercial boots are technologically more advanced and offer some significant benefits over the issued boot. Overall, are they better than the issued boot? That is a point that could be argued. What these new boots have offered are advancements in particular areas that soldiers want – however at the expense of certain tradeoffs like support and durability. We feel that it’s up to the soldier to make the decision on the tradeoffs. You want something really light and comfortable, you may not get 2 years out of a boot. You may not get the support you’ll need to hike up and down rocky terrain. What the new models have given service members are more mission and terrain specific choices. I for one don’t have anything against issued boots – I still have my pairs from Basic over 20 years ago. Worked for me then, works for me now, and has lasted half my life. But if I were going down range, I’d want a pair of ultra-lightweight boots so I can move real fast, or if I were going up and down mountains, I’d get a pair of Lowas or S2Vs so I’d have the support I’d need.
There are plenty of choices, too, and the options are expanding all the time as technology evolves. New materials and construction methods are driving boot design forward at an incredible rate. Not much changed between the 1940s and the 1990s, but that certainly isn’t true now. Better soles, synthetic materials that create lighter but tougher boots, insulation, waterproofing, wicking liners to combat sweat in hot climates – you can get it all. Of course issue boots are advancing as well, but the Army’s approval process is slow and inefficient, and it builds in an automatic delay of a year or more before anything goes on the list of approved boots. Technology can go a long way in a year.
After the long campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re heading back to being a garrison army for the immediate future. It doesn’t matter how pointless, counterproductive or even stupid those regulations are; that law has letters and you’re going to get stuck to them.
What do you think?