Civil Air Patrol Adventures in Cheap Boots

Brig. Gen. Myrick and C/TSgt Abby Wittekind

Brig. Gen. Myrick and C/TSgt Abby Wittekind

At this weekend’s Civil Air Patrol Indiana Wing/Great Lakes Region Conference, I learned the most valuable lesson of my CAP career.  Cheap boots and my feet are a terrible match for one another!

When my daughter first joined the Civil Air Patrol back in 2014, we needed to find an inexpensive minimum uniform so she could complete her first achievement.  Fortunately, her squadron, the 184th Shelbyville Composite Squadron, had BDUs and other uniform items that had been donated for the cadets’ use.  This meant we didn’t have to spend much money on clothing, but we did need to acquire a set of boots to get her started.

Our neighbor who’s been involved in CAP for a long time recommended an inexpensive pair of black Rothco jungle boots on Amazon.  He warned us that they weren’t the best boots out there, but they’d work for meetings and the minimum uniform requirement.

The boots cost about $30 at the time, and I was happy with the purchase.  When they arrived though, it turned out that the boots were entirely too big for my daughter.  Rather than returning them, I decided to keep them for myself, and I ordered another pair of boots for Abby that were a smaller size.

Before Abby attended the 2015 Indiana Wing Summer Encampment at Camp Atterbury, we tried to make her boots more comfortable by adding insoles.  I was so worried that she’d end up with painful feet; there’s nothing worse than all that hard work when you have blisters on your feet!

Fortunately for Abby, the insoles helped enough to keep her feet healthy, but it was at that point that we discovered something.  Insoles wouldn’t work in the pair of boots that I intended to wear because my feet are too thick.  See, you can’t take the insoles out of the Rothco boots, so if you want to make the boots more comfortable, you have to add insoles to the top of the boots’ factory insoles.

pair of polished black jungle bootsFast forward to last week.  Abby did an amazing job polishing her boots for the wing conference.  Even though she planned to wear her class A dress blues, she couldn’t wear her pumps because they’d been destroyed the previous weekend by a drill test that she had to take in the gravel.  I didn’t see it as a huge deal though; I was thinking she’d be more comfortable in her boots anyway.  In fact, I’d made the same decision for myself.  I figured that my boots would be more comfortable during the conference despite the lack of quality insoles, so I left my pumps at home.

After making that decision, I can’t help but think about those wise words that my father always used to say to me.  “Cheap ain’t always good, but it’s cheap!” Yes, the boots were inexpensive.  Yes, they seem to hold up relatively well over time.  And yes, they can be polished well enough so that you can see your reflection in them.

Over the long haul though, those boots WILL NOT work for me.  I can wear them for a three or four hours a week at squadron meetings, but I can’t get any serious work done in those boots.  The soles of my feet are blistered, and my feet, knees, and back still ache from inadequate support in the insoles.

I predicted trouble on Friday night.  At the social, I tried convincing my daughter that I should ask the National Commander about adding Crocs to the uniform manual.  She was horrified, but after further discussion with other senior members, I thought it was a winning idea.  Because I care about my daughter’s cadet CAP career though, I decided to skip the question this weekend, but I told her that I couldn’t promise that I wouldn’t bring it up in the future.

So now I’m on a mission! I need to find boots that are durable, serviceable, and comfortable.  If I intend to go on missions, volunteer at encampments, and train with my fellow CAP members, I can’t be crippled by the kind of pain I experienced during the conference.  I felt like such a wimp!

I’m glad that I learned that lesson this weekend though.  It gives me time to solve the boot dilemma when it’s less crucial to my job performance.  And if all else fails, maybe someone will invent some Crocs that are 39-1 compliant.  A girl can hope, right?

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