When you raise your right hand, take the oath of enlistment and ship off to basic training you eventually wind up at a CIF where you will receive everything you need. The Army will give you a ruck sack, boots, helmet, uniform, APFUs and other essential items…but not sneakers?
No, the Army will instead give you an allowance to go to the PX and purchase those. However, this may change in the near future as the Department of Defense has issued a formal request to have American manufacturers make an athletic sneaker for service members of all branches.
For the longest time, the Department of Defense has “resisted” the 2002 Berry Amendment (which mandates that all clothing for Soldiers must be made in the USA) and has allowed Soldiers to make their own choice with regards to athletic footwear. They based this decision on safety and their belief that it should be up to the Soldiers to decide what shoes provide the most comfort and will reduce their potential for injury, especially during Basic Training.
Let’s face it, each Soldier has unique needs and individual issues associated with running and other physical activity, so that makes sense right? The rational was that narrowing a Soldiers choices to just a few sneaker brands might result in more and/or increasing injuries.
So what has changed? Well in the vast lobbying political landscape, there has been increased pressure on the Department of Defense to “comply” with the Berry Amendment and begin executing contracts with US shoe makers to ensure that the Department of Defense is buying American made shoes. The position of lobbyists and others in Congress is that the voucher does not ensure that Soldiers are purchasing shoes that are being made in the US (which the Berry Amendment was established to do…ensure that all clothing for Soldiers is US made).
If you ask a lobbyist, the Department of Defense is “stalling” as it simply has only asked for US manufactures to come forward to conduct “market research”. However, there is confidence at many levels that in the near future the Department of Defense will strike contracts with US manufacturers like New Balance and Saucony to begin issuing US made sneakers to Soldiers. What do you think? Are Army issued PT Shoes a good or bad idea?
Let me provide a couple perspectives on the issue (keep in mind that these are just positions that people may take, not my own personal views on the issue):
-This issue is no different than boots. I mean, the Army will issue you boots during basic training that you must wear during training. These boots are American made and under contract with the DOD to manufacture. However, once you graduate basic training and ship off to your first duty station, you can take your massive paycheck to a store and purchase your very own, high speed sneaker style boots. Same thing with PT shoes. Wear what the Army says you have to during basic training and then when you leave, go buy the shoes that you want.
-American shoe manufacturers must be under contract as the Berry Amendment dictates. US Manufacturers like New Balance and Saucony make excellent sneakers that will provide Soldiers with many choices that will ensure proper support for Soldiers undergoing physical training. Vouchers do not ensure that only US made sneakers are being purchased by Soldiers.
-Boots are one thing, but PT shoes are completely different. I have worn New Balance, Brooks and other US brands and they do not provide me with the support I need. I prefer Nike (which is not a US brand). Why should I be forced to wear sneakers that make it more difficult to run during PT? Why should I be forced to wear sneakers that make my shin splints worse than they already are? PT shoes are as specific to the Soldier and their needs as anything else.
-This is just another attempt for lobbyist to protect the financial interests of their clients and they are playing a technicality game with the Amendment. This isn’t about the Soldiers and their welfare, but the dollars “lost” by big businesses who stand to lose when they do not have a secured, guaranteed contract with DOD.
What are your thoughts? Should the DOD be forced to issue Soldiers PT shoes? Are there other ways that they could satisfy the Berry Amendment without forcing shoes on Soldiers? Leave your comments!