On Priggishness

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Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was a private. Most, if not all, of my leaders were Vietnam veterans. I remember seeing a picture of my platoon sergeant when he was an advisor to the ARVN. In the photo he had just been awarded a Silver Star for gallantry. He had a big smile on his face, the medal hanging from the pocket flap of his uniform and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He also wore a pistol belt with a .45 caliber pistol in a leather holster slung low around his hips.

I asked if that style of wear, the lone pistol belt without the shoulder straps and other accoutrements that made a set of load bearing equipment (or LBE), was authorized. He laughed and said, “Hell no, but that was Vietnam.” The implication was that we were serving, this was 1983, in a peacetime army and the rules were considerably different. They always are in a peacetime army.

Yesterday, the Army issued an edict that seems awfully like a peacetime army rule.  The Army has outlawed the wear of minimalist running shoes like these. Why? Because they “detract from a professional military image.” Really?

The military blogosphere has been humming and chuckling and shaking its metaphorical head over the fact that someone in the Army has decided ban the wear of these shoes because they don’t like the way they look. The edict says nothing about their effectiveness or any medical concern. Nope, it’s the look.

Uniform issues of this sort are what old-timers call sergeants’ business. Since the Army has just gotten a new Sergeant Major of the Army, the senior sergeant in the service, I would have to believe he is the guilty party. Especially since he fired for effect on the black beret after only a month or so in position. Most troops seemed to say good riddance to the beret and there were valid reasons for their complaints. So away it went. But banning the wear of specific types of running shoes because of the way they look? It’s too bad General Oates took down his stupid rules blog.

All this said, I should note that one of my bosses when I was a cavalry lieutenant was a real prig about chin straps and always having the unit SOP in the correct pocket of your BDUs and other such nonsense details of military discipline and bearing. He’s now commanding a division while I am retired and freelancing in Washington.