Today’s Army is much different than 25 plus years ago.
For starters, Basic Training has been extended from eight weeks to ten weeks for Field Training Exercises (FTX) (bivouc) to spend one week in the field on a Forward Operating Base (FOB) to simulate living and working conditions in a combat zone.
A second week has been added for Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) Program and Equal Opportunity (EO) Training. Soldiers are not allowed certain marching cadences or display swim suit calendars, pin-ups, or other offensive material in the barracks, workplace, or motorpool.
This is degrading to some Soldiers and all Soldiers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Drill Sergeants are no longer allowed to hit or curse/swear at Soldiers. For a brief period of time, Soldiers were issued “Stress Cards” in Basic Training.
These were chemically treated cards that would turn blue by the Soldier’s thumb if the Soldier was feeling stress by the Drill Sergeant. If a Soldier was feeling stress by the Drill Sergeant, he/she would hold up the stress card and the Drill Sergeant had to stop yelling at the Soldier and get out of his/her face and personal space. Soldiers no longer wear “Dog Tags” but “Identification Tags” because dog tags are degrading to Soldiers.
As far as Army clothing, polishing boots; polishing low quarters; starching and pressing a Combat Uniform (Fatigues) were things one was taught in Basic Training which became part of everyday Army life. These things instilled a sense of pride with sharp uniform creases in order to look good for uniform inspections to earn a pass to go into town wearing a uniform.
Well none of these things are done anymore. There are still uniform inspections. Boots are no longer leather but suede and only need to be brushed off from time to time. Low Quarters are no longer leather but plastic tuxedo shoes which only need to be wiped off with a damp cloth. Combat Uniforms are wash and wear and do not need ironing when removed from the dryer. As a matter of fact, starch damages the fabric which helps with the camouflage.
Rank insignia and patches are no longer sewn on the Combat Uniform but are Hook and Loop with what we call Velcro. This is done to save Soldiers money on taking patches to Alterations.
The Army Green AG 44 Dress Uniform and Overseas Cap were replaced with the Blue Army Service Uniform (ASU) what was once called “Dress Blues” and a Black Wool Beret. By 2023, the Army Service Uniform will be replaced with the World War II Brown Shoe Army “Pink and Green” Uniform with jacket belt and Eisenhower Jacket.
Brasso or Blitz Cloth is no longer used to polish brass because Stay-Brite Brass as the name implies never needs polish! Rank insignia, service stripes, and bars still have to be sewn on the Army Service Uniform. The Overseas Patch/Combat Patch which was worn on the right sleeve of the Army Green Class A Uniform is no longer a patch but a pin worn over the right front pocket of the Army Service Uniform.
Army food has improved greatly. C-Rations (C-RATS) which needed a P-38 (can opener) were replaced with Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) bags which contain 2,000 calories for a daily diet. MREs come with a heater in a bag by adding water from your camelback. Canteens are also being phased out of use.
These MREs have become popular with civilian backpackers, fishermen, and hunters and now available in gourmet varieties. Today’s Soldiers do not know what is a P-38 unless their parents or grandparents used the word. Today’s Soldiers hear P-38 and think airplane. Mess halls have been replaced by Dining Facilities (D-FAC) because mess comes from a dog. Civilians are mostly employed in the dining facilities stateside and overseas.
The M1 Garand Rifle which gave Soldiers M-1 Thumb if not used correctly fired a .30-06 round was used during World War II and Korea. It is sometimes used it ceremonies and parades. The M-14 Semi-Automatic Rifle fired a 7.62 mm round was used in Vietnam.
The M-16 Semi-Automatic Rifle fired a 5.56 mm was designed by the Mattel Toy Company and was made of light weight material with holes to drain the water while wading through the swamps of Vietnam and was used during Desert Storm. A hard rubber version “Rubber Duck” of the M-16 Rifle is used in ceremonies and parades.
Today’s soldier uses a M-4 Semi-Automatic Rifle which is similar to the M-16 but with a shorter barrel and collapsible stock for urban warfare around tight corners. Military Police and Commissioned Officers used a .45 caliber pistol and now use a 9 mm pistol. Civilian Security Guards carrying 9 mm pistols are mostly employed at the Post Gate stateside and overseas.
The Willys Jeep was replaced with the Humvee which is being replaced by the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle . Soldiers are no longer in Gun Turrets which exposes them to enemy fire. On the newer vehicles, the turret is inside the vehicle which provides greater safer for the soldiers.
The Two and a Half Ton (Duce and a Half) Vehicle has been replaced by the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) and the Five Ton Vehicle has been replaced by the Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV). These vehicles have air conditioning and automatic transmissions because Soldiers do not know how to drive Standard Transmissions.
Now for entertainment. There are no more Officers Clubs, Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) Clubs, or Enlisted Clubs. There are only “All Ranks Clubs”. As the name implies, everyone is under one roof to save the cost of running three clubs. United Service Organizations (USO) Dances are a thing of the past.
The phrase “Smoke if you got them” is no longer used when Soldiers fall out of formation or on a rest stop during a hike. Smokers must go to a designated smoking area. No gambling is allowed on Post or in the barracks. Violators are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Punishment.
This is done to prevent Soldiers from losing their paychecks. Other than Poker Chip only Texas Hold’em Games, the only card games that are allowed are Five Hundred Rummy, Go Fish, Old Maid, Bull S- — etc. That Off Post Pass that one earned from the uniform inspection to go into town wearing the uniform; is also a thing of the past. Soldiers are not allowed to wear their uniform to go off Post.
All Soldiers are required to bring at least one set of civilian clothes to wear off Post. Soldiers are also not allowed to consume alcohol on or off Post while in uniform. This is done for the safety of Soldiers from getting into bar fights and for being identified as targets in this Post 9-11 World.
These changes may seem unusual to Soldiers from long ago. It is not about political correctness. However, today’s Army is an All-Volunteer Army and changes reflect improvements in technology for safety, well-being, and improving the quality of life for Soldiers.
Paul M. Blitz writes about veterans issues and politics for various publications.