On April 1, about 15 cadets from Temple University participated in a school-sponsored Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, during which men stumble through a pre-set route while sporting high heels as a way to raise awareness for sexual assault victims. Several cadets walked while wearing Army Combat Uniforms, as did the school's professor of military science, Lt. Col. Greg Nardi, who runs Temple's Red Diamond Brigade.
Military blogs like This Ain't Hell reported on the cadets weeks later. Around that time, another high-heel walk, this one sponsored by the ROTC brigade at Arizona State University, drew attention when a screen shot of a message allegedly from an ASU cadet complaining about his school's event landed on Reddit's Army channel, the Facebook page of U.S Army W.T.F! Moments, and other sites.
Photos from the Temple event became associated with the April 20 ASU event, although a photographer covering the ASU walk said no participants there wore heels with their ACUs. Some commenters, believing Temple ROTC had organized the April 1 event or that cadets had been cajoled into participating, called for brigade leadership to be fired.
Wearing civilian footwear along with the Army Combat Uniform, regardless of the intent of the display, violates regulations, an Army spokesman confirmed.
Photo Credit: Temple University ROTC via Facebook
Army Cadet Command refused to answer questions regarding the ASU event or the alleged complaints posted online, nor would officials make the school's professor of military science, Maj. Michelle Bravo, available for an interview. ACC spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick instead provided the following statement:
USACC units were directed to participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month events to help support campus discussions and programs to help stomp [sic] out sexual assault on the campuses where we have a presence. The events included "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" or "JROTC /ROTC 5K Run/Walk" or other combined events with the schools to raise awareness on the issue of sexual assault. The command did not direct how the units would participate.
We are currently reviewing how local ROTC units implemented their participation in these events designed to raise awareness on the issue of sexual assault.
Against the rules
Another Army spokesman confirmed what many commenters pointed out: Regardless of intent, wearing civilian shoes with the ACU is a violation of Army Regulation 670-1, which states, in part, that "[w]earing a combination of civilian and military clothing is prohibited, unless prescribed in this regulation or directed by the Secretary of the Army." Similar language is included in Cadet Command Regulation 670-1, which offers ROTC-specific uniform guidelines.
Despite this, Temple cadets are far from the first ACU-wearers to participate in Walk a Mile events, including some sanctioned by military bases or Army support groups:
- Photos of soldiers in ACUs and heels accompany an April 2013 news release from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, detailing a walk co-sponsored by the installation.
- Soldiers in heels marched in 2011 as part of a walk organized by Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Army Community Service's Family Advocacy Program.
- The Defense Department in 2011 posted video on its official blog of soldiers in heels walking in an unidentified event.
ROTC cadets at other colleges also have joined in on campus-sponsored walks, including at Temple last year, Flach said.
"We didn't require our kids to be in uniform" at the event, he said. "We OK'd that they do it in uniform, and of course the PMS did it in uniform, because that was the uniform of the day. ... I didn't see it would be a problem because I've seen it done on so many other posts."
The event was not mandatory for Temple cadets, Flach said. He said no command pressure had been applied to convince members to participate; if it was, 105 of the brigade's 120 members ignored it.
Other services also have participated in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes awareness effort. Here, service members at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., don heels for an April 2014 event.
Photo Credit: MC3 Andrew Schneider/Navy
ASU questions remain
Bravo, the ASU major, told student-run media that the cadets had chosen to put on the event as a way to mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The event appears on the brigade calendar, which seeks 15 cadets to help with setup and notes that "all other cadets will participate."
Video shot by Devin Conley of The State Press shows some ACU-wearing cadets making the walk, but all appear to be wearing traditional boots. Conley told Army Times that no uniform-wearing cadets made the walk in heels.
Questions about whether male cadets were forced to purchase high heels or wear them while in civilian clothes, about the complaints made in the screen shot allegedly from an ASU cadet, and about reports that the ROTC commander had reached out to at least one blog to determine the source of the complaint were among those not answered by ACC.
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.