The SMH had a story this week about "shoddy army uniforms" tearing in the crutch area during operations in Afghanistan. In the paper edition, the story was accompanied by a photo of a digger with a hole the size of a dinner plate in the front of his pants.
As far as I am concerned, this story is about 25 years too late. Same thing happened to me on an exercise when we were still running around in jungle greens - in the days just before the camo uniforms came out. I used to drop lots of weight during an exercise. The pants had some adjustable loops on each side where you could take them in or out a few inches, but that was never enough given how much my waist contracted over two weeks. I'd usually have to resort to tying a loop of string around the belt buckles to bring them in by more than the designed minimum.
On one assault, the string broke, my pants slipped down a bit and as I leapt over a log and the crotch ripped from end to end. You don't let something silly like that slow you down - we finished the assault, and then regrouped and took stock. I was a bit uncomfortable, as I was lying on my guts and I wasn't wearing any undies. My tackle was one with nature, so to speak.
It's at times like those that you develop a sudden paranoia about ants. Big ants.
But it was all OK - we got back to our position without nature gnawing on my nuts.
The trouble began after we came in through the wire.
A female officer decided to attend our de-brief. Normally, you sit or squat down in a semi-circle around the patrol commander for this sort of thing, but I thought it wiser to stand up and try and keep the flaps of my pants reasonably close together.
The officer didn't like that idea. She wanted me sitting down like a good little boy. My section commander knew the score, and tried to reason with her quietly, but she was the type that preferred to be officious rather than sensible.
So I sat down.
At the front.
With my legs crossed.
My platoon commander had wandered up behind the female officer to listen in. He quickly noticed I had gone commando and was letting it all hang out. He nudged the platoon sergeant next to him and they both disappeared behind a tree quietly cacking themselves laughing. My section was sitting around me grinning like idiots, their teeth gleaming through the cam cream. I just sat there like a serene Buddha, waiting for the whole thing to be over and wondering whether I'd be better off wearing the filthy spare pair of pants currently mouldering away in my pack or sticking with what I had on.
Finally, she noticed.
The de-brief ended in mid-sentence.
She started to bawl me out for flashing my tackle at her, then realised that she'd ordered me to sit down there against the better judgement of my section commander. It was then a case of "exit, stage left" for her, and we didn't see her out bush for the remainder of the exercise. Hanging around with half naked savages was not to her liking.
Infantry life is bloody hard on clothing - you're better off just having a good system for quickly replacing the gear that's been shredded and torn by normal operations.