SEOUL – Just days after the 2nd Infantry Division said in a Facebook post that its troops in South Korea wouldn’t have to wear reflective physical training belts — a subject of ridicule by some soldiers — the 8th Army is saying the belts are still required attire.
Some see the belts as an example of military overkill — especially when they must be worn during PT on roads closed to traffic and in broad daylight.
There are even Facebook pages dedicated to the issue. One, titled “The Reflective PT Belt” calls itself a “military humor page, and a support group for wearers of the reflective PT belt.”
Another, “I Hate Reflective Belts,” says it is open to “members of the U.S. Armed Forces who see the continued use of reflective belts becoming ridiculous.”
In a Facebook notice posted Monday, 2ID said “guidance” from the division command sergeant majors of 8th Army and 2ID “is that the PT belt will no longer be part” of the improved physical fitness uniform that consists of a gray Army T-shirt, black trunks and, in winter, black sweatpants with black-and-gray running jacket.
The reflective belt mania has become the poster child for risk aversion in the Army.Worse, this risk aversion, as exemplified by this inability for 8th Army and 2nd Infantry Division to get their stories straight, shows an unwillingness to allow subordinates to lead. If a division commander and his Command Sergeant Major can’t have the authority to decide whether or not the damn PT belt needs to be worn, maybe we shouldn’t trust them with weighty issues such as training for combat.
I’m sure somewhere, sometime, some soldier was run over by a vehicle on a dark post overseas, and the reflective belt would probably have prevented it.
But in years and years of running PT on various installations, not once did I ever come close to being hit by a vehicle. As the article notes, virtually every post in the Army closes major roads so troop units can use them for running during the morning. And the picture also tells a tail. Senior leadership is requiring soldiers to wear the reflective belt even when the Improved Physical Fitness Uniform has reflective panels on it, specifically so the soldier wouldn’t have to wear a reflective belt.
It is a military truism to never give an order you know won’t or can’t be obeyed, as it diminishes your authority. A corollary would be to never institute a policy that sees you mocked mercilessly for little or no gain. The contempt soldiers have for the reflective belt is reflected, if you will, with contempt for supine leadership that will not take the almost infinitesimal risk associated with paring back the fetish for the near useless policy regarding the belts.
Were I the Chief of Staff of the Army, my first order would be to ban the things.