ROTC BDU uniforms and civilian backpacks

I’m currently attending college at a university with an Army ROTC program.

On certain days there are lot of Cadets walking across campus to their classroom. They’re dressed in BDU’s and wearing a backpack.

Do the Army regulations allow for Cadets to wear a civilian backpack?

Just wondering if these Cadets are being Nasty Cadets.

I attended the University of San Diego, which had a Navy/Marine Corps ROTC.

On the days that they wore their uniforms to class, I noticed that they all carried their backpacks by the top strap, or if they used a briefcase type bag, they carried it by the handle, rather than strapping it over their shoulder.

I’m not sure if it was a written reg, but I know that they were encouraged NOT to wear a backpack as designed when they were in uniforms.

[my college flame was in the ROTC unit, so heard about the other rules & regs they had to follow, so while I don’t know from personal experience, I’m hoping you’ll take my answer with a little more weight than just some schmo off the street ;)]

Can’t say for sure about the army, but the airforce allowed you to wear a civilian backpack in uniform as long as it was blue or black, and worn over the left shoulder only. I imagine the army has a similar regulation.

I was in Air Force ROTC for a year. EVERYTHING is in the manual when it comes to attire on uniform day. We had to carry our (civilian) backpack by the top handle in the left hand so we could salute superiors with the right.

I imagine that the army considers the army backpack as part of the BDU so it is required when wearing it.

I should have been more precise with my OP.

The backpacks I see the Cadets wearing over both shoulders are normal everyday civilian student backpacks. Red, blue, green, white, silver, shiny… all different colors.

shagnasty , that’s how we were taught when I went through Marine Corps Officer Candidate School last summer. Just wondering if the Army is different with this aspect of the uniform.

I have a friend in the Army ROTC program at college right now. She said it’s supposed to be black and worn over one shoulder only, but it isn’t very strictly enforced.

catdog, University of Illinois, by chance?

nope, Northern Illinois University.

That’s what I figured Garfield, about the not strictly enforced part.

I sincerely hope that the officers running the school don’t lower their standards to other parts of their military training. :rolleyes:

But, question answered, thank you Straight Dope!

I’m an E-5 Sergeant in the US Army. IAW AR 670-1, Chapter 1-10, page 8 Sect. e (2) (July 2002):

“Soldiers may carry civilian gym bags, civilian rucksacks, or other similar civilian bags while in uniform. Soldiers may carry these bags by hand, or on one shoulder using a shoulder strap. The bag must be carried on the same side of the body as the shoulder strap; therefore, soldiers may not carry the bag slung across the body with the strap over the opposite shoulder. If soldiers choose to carry a shoulder bag while in uniform, the bag must be black with no other colors and and may not have any logos. …”

A few other details, paraphrased for brevity; it can only be carried on both shoulders while riding a bicycle or motorcycle. Upon dismount, it must be put back on one shoulder. Contents will not be visible (no clear or mesh bags)

I am in Naval ROTC, and regulations require us to carry civilian bags by the top handle, not over the shoulder. And here, they do enforce the rule, and I haven’t seen any of my unit members violating this rule.

While I was in Air Force ROTC, the same general rules applied:

  1. blue or black only, black “encouraged” with BDUs
  2. carry by top handle, or with one strap on the shoulder
  3. left hand / shoulder only, leaving right hand free to salute

I am currently at an Army medical training facility. The policy here allows us to carry backpacks around on both shoulders and it can be either black or green. It has to be a solid color and no logos. But even that part is not strictly enforced.

I don’t get the whole “left shoulder only so you can salute” thing. I mean, I’ve heard it a million times. But, I don’t get it. I’ve saluted dozens of times while wearing a backpack on both shoulders. It doesn’t get in the way, or interfere with anything.

Gets you used to blindly obey any senseless order you’re given.

I believe those are separate requirements. The pack should not be worn over both shoulders because that’s wearing it, not carrying it. Carrying the pack lets you drop it in a hurry, wearing it doesn’t.

Given that you’re carrying the pack to one side, it must be the left side so that you can salute, but saluting’s not the reason for carrying it to one side.

Not true. Rendering a salute with anything on the right arm or in the right hand is considered disrespectful by most officers.

Also, lower ranking personnel do not have the ability to determine whether an order is senseless or not. Legal, yes. Senseless, no. Lower ranking personnel are expected to disobey illegal orders, but just because someone orders you to do something which seems senseless at the time, doesn’t mean it is. Lower ranking personnel are often not provided the “big picture” in which case a senseless order could actual be a critical part of a bigger operation. One could argue that being told to storm a heavily-defended beach at Normandy was senseless.

I understand that. I wouldn’t salute with something in my hand, something on my arm, or something in my mouth… But while wearing a backpack, the strap is over my shoulder and out of the way.
Not trying to argue that it’s technically correct to do so, just saying I don’t get it.

Gosh, I had no idea there was a reg for this.

I seem to have retrired just in time.