The U.S. Army has said it wants to expand its reach into the Pacific and soldiers hope that includes a new boot designed for tropical environments versus the arid and mountainous climates soldiers faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Service leaders are testing equipment designed for these jungle conditions to possibly update the gear issued to soldiers. Chief among these programs is the Army boot.
Soldiers like Sergeant 1st Class Desmond Politini, who completed jungle training in Malaysia this past year, said Friday at a Pentagon meeting with reporters that the service-issued boots failed to perform well in the jungle climate.
The Army started a program last April to test commercially available jungle boot designs under PEO Soldier's Soldier Enhancement Program where soldiers suggest equipment that would help them in the field.
PEO Soldier officials have tested commercially available jungle boot designs along with military models to include the Army's Vietnam-era Jungle Boot. Service officials said the testing will be completed Feb. 25 and the results will be reviewed March 11-13.
Army will then provide the data analysis to the Maneuver Center of Excellence and decide whether the service wants to develop requirements for a hot weather tropical boot. Army officials will have a number of options it could pursue to include a service-wide issued jungle boot, a boot issued to units deploying to tropical climates, or even no new jungle boot at all.
"The ongoing Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) Jungle boot initiative will reveal through data collection and soldier feedback the best salient characteristics for a future hot weather tropical boot," PEO Soldier said in a statement.
Soldiers wore Vietnam War-style jungle boots up until a decade ago when the service transitioned to the current, desert-style combat boots that include hot and temperate climate designs.
PEO Soldier said it has tested the jungle boot designs to stand up to a range of tropical scenarios. For example, Col. Robert F. Mortlock, project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said last March that the Army would like its jungle boot to dry quickly after being submerged in water.
The boot also needs to be lightweight and breathable to keep feet comfortable in hot and humid conditions. Traction is another key characteristic to offer soldiers solid footing in muddy terrain.
The Army has yet to reveal what commercially available jungle boots it has tested as part of the program. It also has not said how many boots have been tested.
-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at Mike.Hoffman@military.com