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Army tests jungle boots for Pacific deployments

Apr. 7, 2014 - 07:34PM   |  
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As the Army makes its Pacific pivot, it could be on the heel of a new jungle boot.

The Army’s office for soldier equipment wants to test an updated jungle boot — its first major overhaul to the footwear since the Vietnam War — with the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division. The 25th ID, which announced plans last year to resurrect the Army’s jungle warfare school, would field-test offerings from boot manufacturers and help decide on specs of the final product.

“We’re leaning forward for the Pacific shift here,” said Col. Robert Mortlock, the program manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment. “Right now, we have done a lot of done a lot of good work optimizing the soldier kit for the mountains and rugged terrain for Afghanistan. What we’re doing now is trying to predict the next capability gap and [how we] can get ahead of it.”

For the purposes of collecting soldier feedback, the program office is looking at the S2V Jungle boot made by Rocky Brands, of Nelsonville, Ohio, and a Bates Recondo jungle boot from Wolverine World Wide, of Rockford, Mich. Officials stressed that the two boots are being examined for research purposes and the acquisition process must determine whether the Army selects one or neither.

Officials already know the boot they develop and purchase will have to:

■ Be lightweight.

■ Be able enough to cycle from wet to dry many times without falling apart.

■ Shed water while soldiers walk and dry quickly.

■ Shed mud easily from the soles, yet have soles tacky enough to grip the ground while walking in water, on mossy rocks or other slippery surfaces.

The Rocky boot is made from a lighter weight cordura than other others in the manufacturer’s S2V family, has no insulation, and its instep has more ventilation holes, said Mark Dean, Rocky’s director of government and military sales.

Since rain forests, almost by definition, are wet and muddy, mud buildup on the soles of boots has always been a problem in that environment. The Rocky boot’s unique looking tread design is meant to allow it to more easily shed mud.

David Costello, a spokesman for Wolverine, said the Recondo was developed for and is being evaluated by an Army Special Forces unit he was not at liberty to name. The boot, which features a quick-drying, breathable leather and was made to shed water and sweat, launches as a commercial product this summer.

The soldier feedback, to be collected in late 2014, along with input from the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., would help define the formal jungle boot requirements, Mortlock said.

At present, soldiers wear “hot weather” Army combat boots in jungle environments, which were phased in to replace Vietnam-era jungle boots. Officials believe that hot-weather boots breathe better than other Army boots but do not dry or drain as quickly as they require.

Mortlock said the Army has time to take a “disciplined approach” but declined to provide a specific goal for a fielding date.

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