The Man Purse

I never claimed to be the most macho guy around, but I do at least claim to be a manly man, complete with man card, a member in good standing of the Order of Men, as it were.  Never shall Meggings grace my legs.  My hair color is whatever the good Lord gives me, not Clairol.  I’ve never had a mani-pedi. I shave my face, not my legs.  I’ve got John Wayne posters on the wall, not Justin Bieber. When filling out forms that ask “Sex:_______?” I always answer “lots!”

So I’m a little ashamed to admit one of my prized possessions is…. a purse.


Every soldier, of course, has a helmet. From the old soup plate of World War I, to the classic steel pot of WWII, Korea and Vietnam*, to the Kevlar of my days, up through todays ACH, there’s  a helmet for every noggin’. But quite a few soldiers have a second helmet. Aviators, of course, have their flight helmets. And the crews of armored vehicles have helmets that combine intercom/radio earphones and microphones with padding against the bumps and bruises of cross country travel as well as ballistic protection against the hazards of war.  This Combat Vehicle Crewman’s Helmet is universally known as the CVC.

Unlike most uniform and equipment items, the helmets aren’t generally issued to individuals, but rather exist as part of each vehicles equipment. And to protect the helmet when it’s not being used, the Army issues a padded helmet bag to hold it, again, as part of the vehicles equipment list. This same bag is issued to aviators to hold their helmets.**

Now, in addition to issuing these bags with the vehicles. the Army also makes them available for purchase by individuals at Army Clothing Sales Stores. And just about every troop in a mech or armored unit eventually buys one.  Because, as it turns out, while it does a decent job of holding a helmet, the helmet bag does an outstanding job of holding all the odd bits of stuff and junk you end up carrying with you to the field. Rather than having to climb outside the vehicle and dig through your rucksack to grab an extra pair of socks, pack of smokes, or shaving kit, spare batteries for your Walkman***, your poncho liner or sleep shirt or your paperback book****,   you could just dip into your helmet bag by your side and there it was! Oddly, virtually no one used the bags that were issued by the vehicle. In my unit, we actually stored them in the unit Conex box so they wouldn’t “walk off.” The helmets were either on someone’s head, or tossed onto the floor of the vehicle.  But pretty much everyone, crew and dismount alike, took a helmet bag with them, either to the field, or just about anywhere they went on Army business. Since there were seven or eight bags on each Bradley, most guys personalized their bag at least a little.

Lazy guys just wrote their name on the bag with a permanent marker. The slightly more industrious had a name tape sewed onto theirs. Others made a bit more of a vanity statement, with a name tape, rank badge, and unit patch sewn on, or even more stuff. I was usually more toward the vain end of the spectrum.  Sadly, just about the time I was getting out of the Army, some bastard broke into my car and stole, among other things, my vanity helmet bag. My “vanilla” spare bag, I still have. And use constantly.

As an added bonus, the same bag design has been in use for many, many years. And so I also have the personalized bag my father used when he was still flying for the Navy.  I’m not going to let that one get ripped off.

*Actually, I spent pretty much my first year in the Army wearing a steel pot. It looks funny seeing pics of them now.

**Apache pilots, like our friend Outlaw 13, wear specialized helmets, and so have a specialized bag.

***kids, back in the day, our phones played music too, they just didn’t make phone calls.

****Our Kindles also came in an eco-friendly, organic, recyclable format that didn’t even need batteries!

20 thoughts on “The Man Purse”

  1. Those “Kindles” could also be used for field-necessitated hygenic maintenance of one’s posterior in extremis, though I could not recommend such with the current Kindles.

    1. You mean, the two sheets of 1.5″ square gossamer-thin toilet paper from the C-Rats/MREs isn’t quite enough?

  2. The universal term for needing to scrounge a bit was “I’m down to my socks!” But that got little sympathy unless you’d been in the field at least two weeks.

  3. In our units it was customary to have you CVC bag adorned with the patches of the units you had been assigned to.

    I got a new one when I became a Scoutmaster and did the same with various Scout patches.

    Works just as well!

  4. Yup. We mech infantry guys had a helmet bag for our CVC helmets, too. As an officer (Top said I wasn’t NCO material, so I was sent to OCS) I also had a “fag bag”/map case. The Army-issue case really wasn’t very good, so I managed to get an Israeli Army-issue map case (real Israeli, not the Red Chinese copies you see these days). Still have all three. The Israeli case holds all my maps inside my F-150. The helmet bag’s been handy at teacher in-service classes to hold my coffee thermos and the fag bag with it’s assorted geewizz patches is proudly displayed in my office/library/man bunker.

    What happened to your “fag bag”?

    1. I had a GI mapcase, personalized, that I used to tote stuff around in. It was my book bag in college. Pretty much the only thing it never carried was maps. Most of the time, I only had to deal with one map sheet at a time, and it was waterproofed, so it ended up in a cargo pocket. I did have a small commercially made case from US Cav or one of those places, but that was mostly to carry spare protractors, pens and pencils and a spare compass, and of course, a copy of the Ranger Handbook.

  5. I just cleaned my CVC, repainted the shell, and threw it, my goggles, balaclava and some other odds and ends back in the CVC bag and then into the turret. Not a patch sewn on my bag. Never has been. Seems out of favor these days, so maybe I will go get it done. Guys in the unit think that I am an anachronism, though unusually sage since I am practically the only guy that knows how to fight a heavy fight and that’s what we are training for these days. I did show my OSUT training picture (in steel pot) in a meeting the other day, taking it all the way back to 1986!

    1. Nice. I like the double meaning here, where you appear to be cracking on my age (knowing you went in a year before me), but are actually referencing TOG. I do have a tomb guard in B Co and the XO’s driver is also former TOG, though you would never guess it to look at him. I actually had to ask him some hard questions to verify his story.

  6. I got my CVC back as a new 2ndLt at Ft. Sill to carry all of our heavy books, binders, and sliderule thingies around. Started adding patches to it on my first float; first was the name tape and “U.S. MARINES” sewn above the two outer pockets. Then came the various unit patches, ships I’ve served on and places I’ve been stationed. Just added a few more to the front side from this last deployment, so I’m almost out of room. However, I’m saving a few places for when my transition to the Navy is complete.

    It’s pretty cool now, although the zipper is wearing out and tends to pop open even when zipped. I’ve definitely invested more money in having stuff sewn onto it than the bag cost in the first place. Maybe I’ll post some photos of it on the Lex page over at FaceBook.

  7. Women have devices for carrying around the things that they believe they might need, these are called purses. Men also have devices for carrying around those things that they feel they might need, these things are called pickups.

    1. I would have to say that these two pieces of gear are nice, but run 2nd and 3rd to the M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams which I’ve come to appreciate not only as the way to move my CVC bag and poncho liner around in style, but as the world’s most perfect killing machine in its own right.

  8. The Aviator’s helmet bag is not a man purse. Men do not carry purses, unless they are Ghey. I used a Ruck while I was a 19E and was quite happy. I never bought the helmet bag and had to turn mine in when I went ETS. The ruck wore out and the only memorabilia is now carried in my rememberer.

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