Infantry: The New, Improved Brown Boot Army

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August 3, 2012: By the end of the year British combat troops will be issued new boots. Replacing black temperate climate boots and tan desert boots, the replacements come in five types, all of which are brown. For troops in temperate and wet climates there is one boot optimized for foot troops (like infantry). There is another type for troops who operate in vehicles. There is a similar pair optimized for hot (over 40 C/104 F) climates. There is another pair, in one version, for cold (under -20 C/-4 F) and wet climate. The older black boots will be retained for ceremonial duties while the old desert boots will, as much as possible, be forgotten.

Several thousand British troops tested these boots for months in a wide variety of climates. Some tweaks were made and mass production commenced. British procurement bureaucrats held their breath. In the last decade the British Ministry of Defense has been greatly embarrassed by the failure of combat boots, especially in Afghanistan. Old timers remembered that British troops also suffered "boot failure" in the 1982 Falklands campaign. It seems that peacetime training never quite equals the punishment boots receive in combat.

What humiliated the Ministry of Defense most of all were the large number of news stories of British troops buying, with their own money, more rugged and comfortable boots made for civilian hunters, campers, mountain climbers and the like. The new brown boots are meant to match what the troops had been buying from commercial firms. Other Western forces, particularly the Americans, have had similar problems. What irked British troops was that the American Department of Defense moved faster to introduce new and improved boots. Some of these new American boots were not always new and improved enough, so British troops are withholding judgment on their own new boots until there has been time to put them through the battlefield test.

 


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