Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Wars are fought and ultimately won by the troops who slog through grime and uneven ground to take the hill. One of the most important and easily overlooked pieces of equipment for that service member is the combat boot.
Injuries caused to frontline troops due to poor footwear has been recorded as far back as the 1700s, notes a Department of Defense report on cold-weather footwear. During World War I, the brutal cold coupled with the issued boot’s poor insulation led to countless bouts of trenchfoot among American soldiers and Marines.
In some cases, injuries resulting from inadequate footwear were so debilitating that some World War I veterans continued to seek treatment for their feet, more than 30 years after the war ended in 1918. The damages caused by inferior footwear continued during the second World War II with foot-related injuries reported from every theater.
Since then, the footwear of America’s warfighters has undergone numerous transformations, though today’s combat boots could still use a little work. Until manufactures find a way to make a self-cleaning boot that kills athlete's foot and miraculously prevents rolled ankles there’ll continue to be complaints.
That being said, modern footwear is bounds beyond where it used to be.
Task & Purpose spoke with Maj. Kevin Hutcheson Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier about modern military footwear. As the assistant product manager for extreme weather clothing and individual equipment, Hutcheson explained how far combat boots have come and where they are now.
“My definition of combat boots are boots that are tailored specifically for the environmental conditions that are present,” explained Hutcheson.
Finding footwear that can go where American troops operate and endure the rugged terrain is easier said than done. In Vietnam, jungle boots decayed so quickly in the harsh environment that troops heading out on patrol would often carry spares.
While the temperate and hot weather combat boots “are good all-around boots,” they don’t hold up as well in the mountains or jungle, Hutcheson said.
“It does the job it’s intended to do for being an all around boot,” explained Hutcheson who spent seven years as an enlisted infantryman before being commissioned as an infantry officer. “But we do have other boots to answer the needs for other environments and other situations.”
The Army alone lists 10 different types of combat boots in its 2014 Program Executive Office Soldier equipment index. There are variations of modern combat boots made for certain jobs or tasks, from boots made with flame resistant material to others that have reinforced soles and toes for troops working around heavy equipment or in hazardous areas. Modern combat boots have shock-resistant rubber soles and are comprised from materials like Gore-Tex, a lightweight, waterproof fabric that offers increased comfort and durability.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Chester Sherman, a motorman from Petersburg, Va., and assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, reties his boots after changing out of his wet utility uniform following an overnight rainstorm in Shurakay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2013.Once troops get orders downrange, there are other boots they may be issued based off of where they’re located. For those headed to Afghanistan, they receive:
- Temperate and hot weather mountain combat boots, which are tough and durable hiking boots designed to provide support and ankle stability for troops moving across rugged terrain. The hot weather variant provides increased breathability compared to the temperate version.
Alternatively, for soldiers operating in frigid environments like Alaska, they are issued footwear designed for the harsh conditions.
- The extreme cold weather boot provides protection against the cold down to -60 degrees fahrenheit. These white “Mickey Mouse” boots are insulated and have three layers of polyester foam that’s hermetically sealed within an outer and inner layer of rubber. The boot even has a pressure-release valve to adjust internal air pressure during high-altitude operations. That’s a far cry from the days of troops triple-bagging their feet in wool socks.
- The intermediate cold wet boot is a tan, moisture resistant boot, roughly 10 inches high and works best in wet and damp environments between 14 and 32 degrees fahrenheit. The boot is waterproof and comes with removable insulated booties.
The modern combat boot builds heavily on its predecessors; however, the sheer number of variations mean that today's troops have access to high-quality footwear tailored for their job in whatever theatre they might operate in.
As the US sends 1,000 more troops to Middle East, the Pentagon is a rudderless ship caught in a storm
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.
At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.
Investigation shows Lt. Col. in charge of Corps' 1st Recon was fired for alleged 'misconduct' but has not been charged
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
A Marine Raider convicted in a North Carolina court of misdemeanor assault for punching his girlfriend won't spend any time in jail unless he violates the terms of his probation, a court official told Task & Purpose.
On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.
Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.