The Desire to Wear Jungle Boots in the Army

Some years back, I was in the Army, and back then, the uniform consisted of a battle dress uniform (camouflage) and black boots. For those who have had to wear them in the past (and those who are wearing them right now), it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that those boots were uncomfortable. But like with most things, you got used to them. Eventually, you might even go on long walks with them (like 40 miles with a full rucksack) or go on runs with them (five miles sprints in very uncomfortable weather). But you got used to them.

One day, I was walking across post and I saw a non-commissioned officer walking across the quad in uniform, except he didn’t have the usual combat boots on. No, he was wearing what I came to learn were called jungle boots.

Now, these weren’t extremely different from the boots I was wearing. But they were black with green segments of canvas that were designed to air out the boots, creating a cooler, breathing type of atmosphere for one’s feet. And to be honest, they looked really, really cool.

So I inquired about whether or not I could get a pair for myself and discovered that unless I was a graduate of the Army’s Jungle School (a non-vacation that consisted of some training and then being dumped into the jungle to fend for yourself), jungle boots weren’t authorized to be worn. While this somewhat depressed me at the time, some months later I was to receive orders to go through jungle training in Panama (believe it may have been reconstituted and taught in Hawaii these days, which would have been so much nicer). After that, I was given a Jungle Expert tab and knew I would now be able to wear jungle boots.

So, I bought my first pair of jungle boots and started wearing them proudly. The next month, for reasons I never knew (although I suspected it was probably because someone was jealous of people like me), an announcement was made that anyone could now wear jungle boots. And they started appearing everywhere.

My privilege became commonplace. Now, everyone was wearing them.

But for that short period of time, it was an achievement I was damn proud of. And they were very comfortable shoes.

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.

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