I never claimed to be the most macho guy around, but I do at least claim to be a manly man, complete with man card, a member in good standing of the Order of Men, as it were. Never shall Meggings grace my legs. My hair color is whatever the good Lord gives me, not Clairol. I’ve never had a mani-pedi. I shave my face, not my legs. I’ve got John Wayne posters on the wall, not Justin Bieber. When filling out forms that ask “Sex:_______?” I always answer “lots!”
So I’m a little ashamed to admit one of my prized possessions is…. a purse.
Every soldier, of course, has a helmet. From the old soup plate of World War I, to the classic steel pot of WWII, Korea and Vietnam*, to the Kevlar of my days, up through todays ACH, there’s a helmet for every noggin’. But quite a few soldiers have a second helmet. Aviators, of course, have their flight helmets. And the crews of armored vehicles have helmets that combine intercom/radio earphones and microphones with padding against the bumps and bruises of cross country travel as well as ballistic protection against the hazards of war. This Combat Vehicle Crewman’s Helmet is universally known as the CVC.
Unlike most uniform and equipment items, the helmets aren’t generally issued to individuals, but rather exist as part of each vehicles equipment. And to protect the helmet when it’s not being used, the Army issues a padded helmet bag to hold it, again, as part of the vehicles equipment list. This same bag is issued to aviators to hold their helmets.**
Now, in addition to issuing these bags with the vehicles. the Army also makes them available for purchase by individuals at Army Clothing Sales Stores. And just about every troop in a mech or armored unit eventually buys one. Because, as it turns out, while it does a decent job of holding a helmet, the helmet bag does an outstanding job of holding all the odd bits of stuff and junk you end up carrying with you to the field. Rather than having to climb outside the vehicle and dig through your rucksack to grab an extra pair of socks, pack of smokes, or shaving kit, spare batteries for your Walkman***, your poncho liner or sleep shirt or your paperback book****, you could just dip into your helmet bag by your side and there it was! Oddly, virtually no one used the bags that were issued by the vehicle. In my unit, we actually stored them in the unit Conex box so they wouldn’t “walk off.” The helmets were either on someone’s head, or tossed onto the floor of the vehicle. But pretty much everyone, crew and dismount alike, took a helmet bag with them, either to the field, or just about anywhere they went on Army business. Since there were seven or eight bags on each Bradley, most guys personalized their bag at least a little.
Lazy guys just wrote their name on the bag with a permanent marker. The slightly more industrious had a name tape sewed onto theirs. Others made a bit more of a vanity statement, with a name tape, rank badge, and unit patch sewn on, or even more stuff. I was usually more toward the vain end of the spectrum. Sadly, just about the time I was getting out of the Army, some bastard broke into my car and stole, among other things, my vanity helmet bag. My “vanilla” spare bag, I still have. And use constantly.
As an added bonus, the same bag design has been in use for many, many years. And so I also have the personalized bag my father used when he was still flying for the Navy. I’m not going to let that one get ripped off.
*Actually, I spent pretty much my first year in the Army wearing a steel pot. It looks funny seeing pics of them now.
**Apache pilots, like our friend Outlaw 13, wear specialized helmets, and so have a specialized bag.
***kids, back in the day, our phones played music too, they just didn’t make phone calls.
****Our Kindles also came in an eco-friendly, organic, recyclable format that didn’t even need batteries!