Sunday, August 21, 2005

Boot Polishing and the Army Culture

I was preparing a pair of leather shoes and my suite for possible events that would require formal dress code. I seldom wear that pair of leather shoes, so I air it for a day or two and “kiwi” it this afternoon to keep the leather supple. Took me about 15 min to “kiwi” and brush shine it. Well, it looked presentable to me – dirt-free, shining slightly. What matter to me is that the leather was a little hard and dry before the “kiwi-ing” and now it’s in a better condition.

I started to wonder if the pair of shoes will be of “acceptable” standard in the eyes of CSMs?

It’s been two years since I last polish a pair of shoes – in NS days, even if you don’t do your area cleaning daily, almost everyone will spend some time kiwi-ing their shoes for roll-call every morning. If you ask a soldier why he was issued two pairs of boots, he would tell you one pair is for you to wear for two years, and the other pair will be used only in parades.

I remember during ATEC our CO told us to bring extra pair of boots as spare, out of goodwill, because we have swamp walks and it’s more hygienic to change into a new pair after the mission. For most of us, the 2nd pair of boots is our most “gilat” parade boots – our pride of two years of NS – who would bear to wear it outfield for “hygiene”?

Kiwi-ing parade boots is symbolic of the Army culture – perhaps someone should do a survey of how much time a soldier spends on kiwiing his boots, over the 30+ years of NS. One should see a decline over the years and be relieved that the Army is cutting down on meaningless activities.

I know many of the senior batch people have nightmares polishing their boots. We heard instructors boasted about their standard last time – requiring them to melt the Kiwi to form a uniform later, or use kiwi + water + Kiwi + water + kiwi + water (repeat N times) for a few days until the leather boot gave a metallic shine.

I am glad that we don’t have such strict requirements for our parade boots and parade 4 in BMT. We were told to Kiwi our boots (brush shine will do) and iron our number 4 for parade – which I think is fair enough. Just as I thought SAF has evolved into a more efficient organization, I was disappointed when I was posted to School of Signals.

During my 6-week course there, there were 3 muster parades, and we had to book in early every time for uniform and boots inspection. Our instructors told us about the water + kiwi + water + kiwi method, and said that it’s been a tradition there to have high standard boots – he showed us his METALLIC shine boots with pride. (Damn it, I am really amazed how he did it – the pair of boots just looked METALLIC).

So, LL, suck thumb, I spent a few hours on Saturday at home polishing my boots using the water + kiwi + water + kiwi method. As it was a new pair of boots, it’s harder to get the shine coz it seems to take many layers of kiwi + water + kiwi + water to see the effect.

On the actual parade, the WSM (wing sergeant major) didn’t really catch anyone’s boots, nor did the chief instructor bother to. And I wonder if my sergeant was exaggerating when he told us about the strict requirement for parade boots. May be it was really strict during his times. I don’t know.

(On a side note, School of Signals was renamed Signal Institute for attaining some ISO standard… I sincerely hope it’s not for the standard of parade boots)

--

If you guys read the NS35 years book (a picture book commemorating 35 years of NS), there’s an interesting story long time ago where (then) PM LKY inspected one battalion and asked the soldier why there was a can of Kiwi in the field-pack – “why you all still need to polish your boots in war time?”. No one seemed to know why or dared to answer, until one young lieutenant told PM Lee it’s to keep the leather supple and water-proof.

Satisfied with the answer, LKY moved on and inspect the tonners. He asked the men why they kiwi the wheels.

For a while, no one answered.

Then that same lieutenant said, “that’s just for your show, sir!” LKY laughed.




17 comments:

crackhead said...

didn't that young lieutenant become a senior officer?

kureshii said...

Kiwi has better purposes than that...on the practical side, it's used to darken anything that's too light in colour - dirty rifle slings, sandbags, whatever.

It is also a frequent item used in stripping sessions, due to its notoriety in sticking to the floor and ohthr surfaces and resisting the effect of most cleaning solutions available - thank god for SAF repellent and toothpaste.

Wind Feynman said...

yeah, some head of logistics or something like that.

Kev said...

ACGS Logs?Col Philip eh?

Peter said...

want some metallic shine shoes?? go beach road.. there got a service to make ur shoe shine.. they apply wax to the front of the shoe.. is a chemical solution. u can find it in beach road..

onceasoldier said...

Rmb last time during NCC, we got to polish shine our boots.

If get caught for boots dirty, either get pumped or take off boots for drill lessons.

If ground damn hot, ur feet will feel hot!

Come to tink of it, army not so strict. :)

kureshii said...

Ditto the boots nowadays. I've got other things to wear - safety boots (with coveralls), or No. 3 shoes, thank god my vocation allows me to wear any of the abovementioned without eyebrows being raised.

Shiny boots are practically useless to me - as a logistician, shiny boots means you've got too much time on your hands and are really expendable (hence subject to arrowing). They also get scuffed easily in cars; just rub it against the front seat when getting in and hours of hard work gone down the drain.

At parades you don't want a pair of boots shinier than your boss' shoes (again, makes you the subject of more time-consuming tasks).

兩鈖錢 said...

sch of signal (signal institute)

back in 2001.. every first monday of the month was the most dreadful.
Lots of extra and confinement for parade due to uniform and boots.
Lucky for me, flag bearer was the way to skip all this dreadful parade unharm, unscatch =)

Now that i'm back to Signal institute for just a week, it just give me a fresh feeling..

onceasoldier said...

Just wondering...

Why do signallers need to wear shiny boots for?

Arent they supposed to chiong sua too?

kureshii said...

Well, signallers have parades too...

Kev said...

Man..I totally agree with the concept that clean and shiny boots are a threat to a logistician's sense of safety from targeting systems ;)

zeenie said...

i recall the hilarity of hearing this when returning arms to armskote: "Don't forget to kiwi your butt (of the rifle)!!!"

Anthony said...

Good lords,

As an armourer I can tell you that the LAST thing I want are kiwied rifle butts. I don't know which idiot dreamt that up.

Kev said...

Haha, another fellow armourer who feels the same.

onceasoldier said...

Now i guess only NCC cadets polish their boots only.

Amry pple where got time?

Alex said...

Kiwi+Water+Kiwi+Water....

Molten Kiwi...

Area Cleaning...

Damn, British Army bullshit dies hard. After all, without shiny boots we'd have lost the battle of Singapore...whoops...

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