Leaning into the Belt of Obedience, or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Reflective Belt

Author’s note: At the current moment, the world is in a state of fraying tempers, dangerous actors, and uncertain agreements. Suffice to say, the news can be stressful. With that in mind, this week’s post is ludicrously silly. 

It’s well known that we have a serious problem in the military: how to quit our addiction to the Belt of Obedience, or, as it is commonly called, the reflective belt. However, the last few years have been full of promise. The different services softened their reliance on the thing. Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey even went for a run without one and didn’t die – true story, it’s documented in pictures.

Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey conducts PT  – sans belt – with soldiers at Redstone Arsenal in May. (Army Times)

That said, I just recently returned from a stint at a Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) post and I’m sad to say that the evil seems to be sneaking back into our ranks. Trainees still carry the belt religiously, bearing it like a talisman. It would appear that TRADOC continues to enforce the wear of the belt of obedience, ensuring that new generations of Soldiers are indoctrinated and radicalized by the PT belt.

At this point, those of us who’ve been fighting the phenomenon of the shiny belt of terror for years are beginning to flag and fade. It’s been a good run, y’all, but it’s time to just give up and accept our reflective overlords with quiescence. If you can’t beat them – as the adage goes – join them.

So instead of trying to find ways of getting rid of reflective belts, let’s just lean into this thing. How crazy can we go?

Challenge accepted:

1. LED Belts

This one isn’t even a stretch, because these are already out there. Scary, right? Imagine whole divisions, color coded by lights, perfect for division runs – oh, the joy! They could even signal out the division mottoes in Morse code. Of course, the people tasked with setting that up would be specialists, and of course they’d program them to signal out obscenities. Or at least just “SOS.”

2. Belts with pockets


Also not a stretch, since I spotted one of these on my run yesterday. But let’s think outside the box here; why not take this to a whole new level? PT belts that run over the shoulder with little pockets built in – like a reflective load bearing rifleman’s kit! That would keep people safe from wandering off into the woods during exercises and would enhance command and control. We’ll call it the Mission Command Belt and make a ton of money off it.

3. Belts that call cadences

For all those motivated sergeants major out there. Now you no longer have to listen to those demotivated sergeants belt – pun fully intended – out cadence through their hangovers. The belt will do it all.

4. Alcohol detecting belts that shrink when you’re getting drunk

Now taking the idea of safety to a new level are belts that will detect your blood alcohol level and begin to slowly contract when it goes above the safe limit defined by the commander. Sure, keep slamming back those beers, you’ll lose the ability to breathe after a while – which will render you incredibly safe. Safety always!

5.  Belts that project your entire ERB/ORB

It’s not enough to have a PT belt with your unit crest and rank on it. No, this is for the Soldiers who can’t handle others not knowing what they’ve done. This new reflective belt is actually a projector that throws your enlisted/officer record brief on nearby surfaces for everyone to see. That will ensure that one everyone will know what a big deal you are and treat you with the commensurate respect that you deserve. Pairs perfectly with that ribbon rack bumper sticker you have. Whoa, you got the National Defense Service Medal? You must be very, very impressive.

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About the Author: Angry Staff Officer is an Army engineer officer who is adrift in a sea of doctrine and staff operations and uses writing as a means to retain his sanity. He also collaborates on a podcast with Adin Dobkin entitled War Stories, which examines key moments in the history of warfare.

Cover Photo: With reflective belts aglow in the early morning, riggers from the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion sprint down the streets of Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 23, 2013. (Stars and Stripes)

9 Replies to “Leaning into the Belt of Obedience, or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Reflective Belt”

  1. Whilst deployed on a USAF base, I shunned the Belt of Obedience, as my parents spent a great deal of time and effort teaching me how to cross the road at the age of 6 by myself without dying, and so far it’s worked. Wearing a child’s reflective belt was therefore considered to be a bit much. I found the best way to deal with the MPs who attempted to get me to wear the belt of doom was to give them a quizzical look, simply remark “No thanks, I’m a British Officer” and purposefully walk off. Carrying an umbrella at all times probably helped too, as they thought I was mad, and decided not to press the issue further.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I was kind of hoping you were going to say you waved your swagger stick at them, but an umbrella is pretty British too.


        1. He led a bayonet charge in a bowler hat, disabled a panzer by poking the driver in the eye with his umbrella, which he carried for self identification because “only a bloody fool of an Englishman would carry an umbrella into battle”. He trained his troops in Napoleonic bugle calls prior to Op MARKET GARDEN because a DZ is chaos, and he had zero faith that the radios would work. (They didn’t)! He also invented the concept of the Safari. Very interesting chap….!


  2. I was too early for the reflective belt, even during field training (boot for ROTC cadets, it combines lots of running and marching with the laughter of non-coms, since they know we’ll never be in charge of them, during a time when they weren’t terribly sure what to do with Women yet). Though I learned a lot about being a road guard and trying to make a 30-inch pace with short legs that way, and learned some excellent jodies, some of which weren’t even obscene, and one that contained many slurs about the fine cadets at VMI.

    But I digress. The safest jogger I ever saw, though, was the guy who used the old hand signals when he planned to turn. And the least safe are the people who cross a badly-lit street on a winter night wearing black. *Those* are the people who should wear reflective belts

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I remember being in basic training 25 years ago, and taking my duties as Road Guard way too seriously. Had I not been standing there in an orange traffic vest, waving a coned flashlight, those on-post POV drivers might have barreled into our battalion formation at a whopping 10 miles per hour. Now, with modern technology unheard of back in the ’90s, each soldier can be his own Road Guard, safely stopping traffic and being safe.

    Unrelated anecdote #1: We had a SSG in Iraq who routinely forgot to take off his safety belt when going on missions. Ol’ boy just stood out there in the dark, wearing nods & IBA with a glow belt on.

    Unrelated anecdote #2: Thanks for making the header photo Parachute Riggers. My first MOS, and the one that taught me there’s few things more fun than throwing shit out of airplanes with a parachute.


  4. Tie the belt around your head, scream ‘bonzai!’ a lot, preferably after drinking too much of your favorite Japanese alcohol.


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