US Army tests new boots for jungle environment in Hawaii 80803171

Defense & Security News - US Army
 
US Army tests new boots for jungle environment in Hawaii
The standard issue combat boot most Soldiers wear today, the one most commonly worn in Iraq and Afghanistan, is great for sandy dunes, hot dry weather, and asphalt. But it's proven not so good in hot and wet environments. So the US Army has developed a new jungle boot that some Soldiers will see this year.
     
The standard issue combat boot most Soldiers wear today, the one most commonly worn in Iraq and Afghanistan, is great for sandy dunes, hot dry weather, and asphalt. But it's proven not so good in hot and wet environments. So the US Army has developed a new jungle boot that some Soldiers will see this year.
US Army Jungle Combat Boots (Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez)
     
In September, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley directed the Army to come up with a plan to outfit two full brigade combat teams in Hawaii, part of the 25th Infantry Division there, with a jungle boot. The Army had already been testing commercial jungle boots at the time -- with mixed results -- but didn't have a specialized jungle boot, so Program Executive Officer Soldier, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, had to get a plan together to make it happen

By October, the Army had made a request to industry to find out what was possible and, by December, contracts were awarded to two boot manufacturers in the United States to build more than 36,700 jungle-ready combat boots, enough to outfit both full IBCTs in Hawaii.

Right now, the new jungle boot the Army developed will be for Soldiers with the 25th ID in Hawaii -- primarily because there are actually jungles in Hawaii that Soldiers there must contend with. The new boots look remarkably similar to the current boots Soldiers wear. They are the same color, for instance. And the boots, which Bryan said are called the "Army Jungle Combat Boot" or "JCB" for short, sport a variety of features drawn from both the legacy M1966 Vietnam-era jungle boot and modern technology.

The M1966 Jungle Boot, which featured a green cotton fabric upper with a black leather toe that could be polished, had a solid rubber sole that Soldiers reportedly said had no shock-absorbing capability. The new boot uses a similar tread, or "outsole," as the M1966 "Panama style" -- to shed mud and provide great traction, but the added midsole makes it more comfortable and shock absorbing, according to Albert Adams, who works at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The outsole of the new boot is connected to the leather upper via "direct attach," Adams said. That's a process where a kind of liquid foam is poured between the rubber outsole and leather boot upper. "[It's] a lot like an injection molding process," he said.

The foam layer between the rubber sole and the upper portion of the boot not only provides greater shock absorbing capability, but it also keeps out microbes in hot, wet environments that in the past have been shown to eat away at the glues that held older boots together. So the new boots won't separate at the soles, he said. "It provides a high level of durability, and it also adds cushioning."

     
The standard issue combat boot most Soldiers wear today, the one most commonly worn in Iraq and Afghanistan, is great for sandy dunes, hot dry weather, and asphalt. But it's proven not so good in hot and wet environments. So the US Army has developed a new jungle boot that some Soldiers will see this year.
The US Army JCB (Photo Credit: David Kamm)
     
Also part of the new boot is a textile layer that prevents foreign items from puncturing the sole of the boot and hurting a Soldier's foot, Adams said. The M1966 boot accomplished that with a steel plate. The new boot has a ballistic fabric-like layer instead.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Morse, an instructor at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii, said the puncture resistance is welcome. He said punji sticks, familiar to Vietnam War veterans, are still a problem for Soldiers. The new JCB also features a heel with a lower height than the M1966 model to prevent snags on things like vines in a jungle environment. That prevents tripping and twisted ankles.

The boot also has additional drainage holes to let water out if it becomes completely soaked, speed laces so that Soldiers can don and doff the boots more quickly, a redesigned upper to make the boots less tight when they are new, an insert that helps improve water drainage, and a lining that provides for better ventilation and faster drying than the old boot.

The Army didn't design the new JCB in a vacuum. Instead, it worked with Soldiers like Morse to get the requirements and design just right to meet the needs of Soldiers, said Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, the assistant product manager for Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment.

In March, the Army will begin fielding the current iteration of the JCB to Soldiers in the first of two brigade combat teams in Hawaii. During that fielding, the boots will be available in sizes 7 to 12. In June, the Army will begin fielding the JCB to the second BCT, this time with a wider array of sizes available: sizes 3 to 16, in narrow, regular, wide and extra wide. They will also go back and take care of those Soldiers from the initial fielding who didn't get boots due to their size not being available. A third fielding in September will ensure that all Soldiers from the second fielding have boots. Each Soldier will get two pairs of JCBs.

In all, more than 36,700 JCBs will be manufactured for this initial fielding -- which is meant to meet the requirement laid out in September by the Army's chief of staff. By December, the Army will return to Hawaii to ask Soldiers how those new boots are working out for them.

Fernald said that sometime between April and June of 2018, a final purchase description for the JCB will be developed based on feedback from Soldiers who wore it. He expects that in fiscal year 2019, an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract will be signed with multiple vendors to produce the final version of the JCB for the Army.

While the JCB will be authorized for wear by any Solider, Bryan made it clear that only some Soldiers in some units will have the JCB issued to them. And right now, those decisions have not been made. Soldiers who are not issued the JCB will need to find it and purchase it on their own if they want to wear it.
 

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