Where do I even start with this one? If you know, you know. If you don’t, you might not believe me by the end. The United States Armed Forces is considered by many to be one of the most powerful military organizations in world history. Our weapons and technology are second to none, our entire fighting force is made up of volunteers, and our budget is unmatched by any other country. With weapon systems that can be deployed anywhere on the planet, bases located all over the globe, and our newfound expansion into space operations, there is nowhere on Earth that is technically considered to be untouchable. Tanks, ships, missiles, planes, satellites, worldwide communication networks, and the most advanced weapon systems known to man. I am not saying that we can go anywhere we please. I am saying that we have the capability to operate just about anywhere if the situation calls for it.
Sounds impressive right? Elite, even. Too cool for school maybe? I am here to tell you that, even with all this “cool stuff,” even the military has moments where its inner dork makes an appearance. Military intelligence is not as much of an oxymoron as most people think, however, there is plenty of evidence that most definitely supports the sentiment. Enter the reflective belt. If you ever had the urge to strangle someone with something yellow and shiny, chances are you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. Imagine working at a job that requires you to wear a camouflage outfit. It is the uniform you must wear for day-to-day operations and there is no overlooking the strategic or tactical significance of camouflage. If you are in a dangerous place, you probably don’t want the bad people to see you right. This is usually the case, though there are strategic exceptions.
Billions of dollars a year are spent on making the armed forces invisible but one of the first things you are issued when entering the military, and this is along with the camouflage uniforms, is a bright yellow reflective belt. This horrendous strap is the beginning of the downfall of many service members. The intentions behind it, while good, don’t negate the idiotic fact that its existence and continued use cancel out the entire purpose of the uniform. I understand that the military wants to “protect” its members (prevent unnecessary paperwork or explanations and cover their own behinds), but, it has only ever served as another excuse for higher ranking members to berate lower ranking members.
They are a continuous joke for those that serve, and I have never encountered an incident where one would have changed the outcome of anything. We were only required to wear them at night, which makes it more ridiculous. Another one of the standards was that armed personnel were not required to wear them in the performance of their duties. There was a long and strict list of guidelines and rules to explain the proper procedures for the rules of use and application of the reflective belt. It is treated as a vital part of the uniform and I have witnessed intense verbal attacks on members either not properly wearing the belt, or not wearing it at all. You read correctly. I watched people in deployed environments get chewed out because of reflective belts. I am referring to places considered to be active war zones or hot spots where Americans are not considered to be the most popular, or welcome.
The most important lesson to take away here is knowing and understanding the work environment. It is not enough to know your job. You need to learn about what is important in the specific places you find yourself. When I was deployed to Iraq, reflective belts were a big deal, but enforcement was not as intense. There were bigger worries. Incoming mortars, the threat of an immediate insurgent attack, unexploded ordinance, improvised explosive devices, etc. When there are real threats or problems, people are focused on those and the little infractions aren’t as important. Take away all the items I just listed, and you add a lot of free time. With free time comes boredom and restlessness. Add ambitious individuals that are hungry for advancement but starved for things to do to fuel that advancement and you have people who are actively looking for trouble. What could be easier to spot than a person with a reflective belt? Or lacking one? It is an easy reprimand, and it makes them feel productive.