The Army's Cadet Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is reviewing Reserve Officer Training Command cadet participation in a sexual assault awareness 5K walk/run event in which cadets at Temple University in Philadelphia wore high-heeled shoes with their uniforms.
The command announced the investigation following criticism of the cadets' participation by those who saw photos of the events on Twitter and Facebook, with some demanding unit commanders should be fired.
While ROTC command acknowledged that units were told to take part in the "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it "did not direct how the units would participate," command spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick said in a statement.
"We are currently gathering facts in order to review how local ROTC units implemented their participation in these events designed to raise awareness on the issue of sexual assault," he said.
Cadets with Arizona State University's ROTC unit also took part in the walk/run there, many donning heels but not their uniforms.
The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event was one of the major observances for the 2015 Sexual Assault Awareness Month, with cities and towns across the U.S. and Canada hosting the walk/run.
But the sight of uniformed cadets accessorizing their uniforms with high heels – many of them red – proved too much for some.
"As a retired CSM [Command Sergeant Major] I feel the command should be re-assigned. Violation of the uniform dress code," one man posted to a photo depicting Temple cadets wearing BDUs and red high-heels. "And it just makes me sick. After 33 years this is how we train our future OFFICERS."
"If this was my son or daughter I would pull them from this Mickey Mouse ROTC. What kind of man or woman would even consider this," a retired Army warrant officer wrote.
But one woman noted that her son "did the same thing for [the] college football team a few years ago, but they wore pink heels to raise awareness of breast cancer.
"So let me ask you ... male or female, have you ever been sexually assaulted or had someone close to you who was," she continued. "You are missing the point and the entire symbolism of the red heels ... Grow up and educate yourselves."
The Temple ROTC cadets were not the only people to wear heels with their uniforms for a Walk a Mile event. Social media sites also show firefighters and police in unifiorm – and heels – making the run/walk.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org