Bates-made versions of the RAT boot are being recalled. (Rob Curtis / Staff)
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The Marine Corps is recalling more than 8,000 of its new rugged all terrain boots — many of them being worn by troops in Afghanistan — after reports they are falling apart in the field, Marine Corps Times has learned.
Problems with the hot-weather RAT boots include separation of stitching and glue at the seams, said Lt. Col. Kevin Reilly, the program manager for infantry combat equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. Eyelets that allow the boots to breathe and drain water also are falling off.
"These failures are not due to the RAT boot's design, but its manufacturing process and improper materials used in the manufacturing of the boot," Reilly said. "That's what caused a durability issue."
The RAT boot is set to become the Marine Corps' new standard, with plans to add it to the sea bag in 2012. It will replace the Infantry Combat Boots that Marines have worn since 2002.
About 8,000 of the recalled boots, manufactured by Michigan-based Bates, have been issued to the "operating force," although it was not immediately clear how many of the boots are being worn by Marines in Afghanistan.
"We are presently trying to determine that information," Reilly said. "We know of one battalion that has them. The purpose of the recall will be to ensure that no more of the Bates hot-weather RAT boots get to Afghanistan."
Hot-weather RAT boots are also produced by Danner, but to date the Marine Corps has purchased only Bates' version. The contract for Bates' boots includes 105,000 pairs. About 67,000 were delivered before these defects were discovered and delivery was halted.
Representatives from Bates were not immediately available for comment.
Marines with defective boots should not dispose of them, Marine officials said. They can continue to wear them if the boots show no obvious defects but should alert their command nonetheless. A forthcoming message will detail how the boots will be collected and returned to the manufacturer.
Defects with the boot first surfaced in February after members of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, began reporting durability issues during pre-deployment training at Twentynine Palms, Calif. The battalion is now operating in the Sangin district of Afghanistan's Helmand province.
The Marine Corps stopped delivery of more hot-weather RAT boots produced by Bates and has begun working with the company to correct the problem, officials said.
Temperate-weather versions of the boot, produced by Danner and Welco, are also excluded from the recall.