Tanker boots are military boots closely associated with soldiers who serve on tanks and tracked vehicles in general. It is said the idea was borrowed from the French crewmen encountered during World War I when then-Captain George S. Patton, Jr. established the United States Tank Corps. Whereas regular combat boots are laced through metal eyelets in the leather upper, the tanker boots are fastened with leather straps which wrap around the upper and buckle near the top. This benefits the wearer in several ways:
- The single biggest advantage is that tanker boots use leather straps, rather than laces, to fasten to the wearer's feet. The problem with laces is that they can become undone easily and then entangled in the many exposed, moving parts of a tank, for instance the turret ring, and drag the wearer or part of his body into the machinery.
- Many boots have nylon or canvas panels in their uppers and also nylon laces which will melt if exposed to fire. Melting boots and laces will serve to further injure a crewman and make his evacuation of the vehicle more difficult.
- Tracked crewmen typically find themselves working in very muddy environments. Another advantage of tanker boots is that they are much easier to loosen than a regular laced boot when caked in mud.
- Also, today's modern tankers are exposed to many harmful chemicals - Flame-Resistant Hydraulic Fluid (FRH), turboshaft engine oil, grease, oils and various fuels. The all-leather construction of tanker boots prevents absorption of these chemicals into the boots and coming into close and prolonged contact with the wearer's skin.
- Tanker boots also allow for improved circulation to crewmember's feet, as they may be sitting or immobile for long periods of time. Tank crewman during the Gulf War reported remaining seated at their gunners', drivers', and commanders' stations for periods up to the entire 100 hours of ground combat.
- Tanker boots, unlike most traditional combat boots, have the tongue sewn into the boot up to about 1 to 1.5 inches (25 to 38 mm) shy of the top of the boot, to make the boot more readily waterproofed (up to 14 in (360 mm) of water depth can be stood in without ingress of water when sealed/waxed properly, depending on the height of the boot design); the tongue is made with excess leather left and right that doesn't require it to separate to remove the foot. However, the new desert tanker boots are not water proof at all.
- Tanker boots are normally equipped with steel toe guards, steel or plastic shank/heel guards, and in at least modern variants, steel or other protective metal inserts in portions of the sole as well, as befit a boot intended for an operating environment filled with metal hazards that can be accidentally kicked/dropped/stepped upon/et cetera (as opposed to the traditional combat boot designed for a sandy or muddy battlefield environment). When the desert tanker boots came out, it was not authorized to have steel toe inserts for fear that the crewman may have his toe cut off if too much weight was put on the boot.
Tanker boots have a significant disadvantage over traditional lace up combat boots in that they provide comparatively little ankle support; however for troops that fight sitting in an armoured vehicle, this is relatively unimportant.
- An unauthorized variant of the tanker boot is the cavalry boot, or 'cav boot', which is higher above the ankle (in imitation of riding boots worn by the old horse cavalry) and might be worn by soldiers assigned to armored cavalry squadrons and scout units. The cav boots are more commonly seen being worn by officers in armored cavalry units.
Tanker boots are said to have originated somewhat by accident. The story claims that there was once a tank crew member whose boot's laces were burnt by an ejected casing. Another member of the crew took off his belt and wrapped it around the damaged boot as a sort of temporary fix, making it the first tanker boot.
Another story mentions that when soldiers had to get out of the tank, their boots became wet with snow and after the fight they froze, causing the laces to break. One of the generals (General Patton, from the original story) gave the lowest ranking soldier the straps off of his cavalier pistol holster to strap his boots. From that point on, many soldiers started to use this.
The story goes on to mention that it became a tanker tradition, that you had to shoot a gunnery to earn them. However, tankers uphold this tradition today in the USA by earning their tanker boots only after they "qualify" (qualify first round with 700 out of 1000 PTS with 7 out of 10 engagements qualified on Tank Table VI) at gunnery, meaning their performance earns them the required number of points, or by serving on a tank during a deployment to a combat zone, i.e. Iraq or Afghanistan.
This is flawed, as a soldier is considered a "tanker" upon graduating from "OSUT"(One Station Unit Training) at Ft. Knox,KY and receiving the MOS of 19K, or M1/M1A1/A2 Armor Crewman. Also, as many new recruits fresh to a unit after the completion of MOS training are drivers or loaders, they never 'qualify' themselves, (i.e. sit in the gunners or commanders position) during a Tank Table VI. They often "hotbed" on several crews due to shortages in the unit, and will qualify with various scores, not all of them a first time qualifying score.
Furthermore, the M1 is not used in the current operations in Iraq as frequently as it was at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and used even less during Operation Enduring Freedom, as the terrain and climate in Afghanistan is ill-suited for tank operations. These theaters rely mostly on the Stryker and MRAP family of vehicles for operations, making the 'earned tanker boots' very unlikely to occur for a recruit to obtain.
The most likely origin for this misconception is the tradition of the spurs in the Cavalry. Spurs are earned during a "Spur ride", or in participating in a deployment to a combat zone with a Cavalry unit. It would require that an armor crewman participate in something far more difficult than a gunnery to achieve his boots, as a spur ride is an arduous two day event, whereas a Tank Table VI is often less than 24 hours in length.
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| This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Tanker boot, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.