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Is it time for the Army Combat Uniform sun (boonie) hat to go? I have been issued the boonie hat for five different operations and have not been permitted to wear it during any of those deployments due to someone declaring it “unauthorized.”

The boonie hat is a rapid fielding initiative item that is issued to all soldiers deploying to the combat zone. As of Sept. 27, 2007, the Army had issued its 1 millionth RFI kit since 2001. Assuming it received at least a 50 percent bulk-order discount, to date the Army has spent in excess of $17 million on this one item.

The boonie hat is well-ventilated and provides far more UV and eye/sun-glare protection than the soft cap. Compared to the overall annual Army budget, $17 million may not seem like much. Nevertheless, this is money that could have been spent on other mission-essential gear (such as newer individual weapons, so that no soldier deploys with an unserviceable pistol).

American taxpayers have funded the boonie hat. It’s very practical and safe for use. It’s actually issued to deploying soldiers for use. Obviously, most soldiers actually utilize it, right? On the contrary, most deployed soldiers are forbidden to wear it on or off the forward operating base by their chain of command although it may have been listed on an approved predeployment packing list.

If the Army continues to spend a portion of its budget on the boonie hat, it’s an RFI-issued item, and it’s often found on the deployment packing list of most units, many deployed soldiers have but one question: When and where is the soldier permitted to utilize this Army Regulation 670-1 approved headgear if not on the FOB?

Although many soldiers prefer to wear the boonie cap over their patrol cap, they will follow the lawful orders of their chain of command. Likewise, good soldiers will also sound off when they notice policy initiatives that may undermine individual uniform practicality and waste tax dollars.

Moreover, it is up to leaders at all levels to ensure that soldiers are using the proper safety gear for their particular operational environment. While on a forward operating base in the Middle East, the boonie hat may be the ideal safety headgear for soldiers; if only they were permitted to wear it.

If it’s not practical and soldiers are not permitted to wear it, then perhaps it’s time for the Army to stop spending all that money. In the interim, I’ve decided to continue to use my boonie hat to temporarily hold the empty husks of my sunflower seeds on my desk.

Maj. Todd Longanacre

Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq

Service by gays most improper

The Sept. 4 article “Romance ends sailor’s promising career” includes this sentence: “But when the wife of an enlisted sailor complained to the command that her husband was having an affair with a female officer, Hendershot and the ensign were swept up in an investigation into improper romances aboard the Sampson.”

“Improper romances”? Is the U.S. military kidding? Officials allow openly gay people into the ranks and they’re punishing “improper romances”? Is the military trying to be moral now?

William W. Patterson

Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan

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