Do soldiers need or just want a knife ?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by R.c.s, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. Presumed_Lost


    Oct 27, 2003
    I'm not qualified to respond to the "soldier" part of the question specifically, not having been one. In general I want those who know what they really need to have it.. but this is really a much, much broader question.

    "Need". There are many ways it gets defined casually, and some of them are IMHO silly. There are some traps that always come up in discussing "need", and a few have come up here.

    Trap 1: Let's take it out of the realm of what some people want to take away from us (at least so far), and talk about my flashlight. I carry one all day every day, and use it several times a day. It makes my life tremendously easier, EVERY task is much easier if you can see clearly, but before I tried carrying one I didn't miss it at all. I just took it for granted that I had to work with available light and fumble and struggle for however long it took, or rely on being able to just cross a room and "flip a switch". Even though it's something I use CONSTANTLY now, and greatly rely on, if you had asked me five years before I started carrying one whether I "needed" to carry a flashlight I might have argued that I did not. The fact is, I did, I just didn't know it. On this principle you can even ask a bunch of people in the field what they "need" and get wrong answers, they might not know what they're missing.

    Trap 2: Not too long ago, in another venue, I had a guy actually argue against my practice of tossing a sleeping bag, parka and boots in the back of the SUV in winter, just in case I get stranded in the vehicle in the cold. His argument was that it was SOOO unlikely that I'd need these things that it wasn't even worth the trivial effort of putting them in the vehicle. I consider his analysis to be faulty. Any danger has two components, the chances of something bad happening, and the cost/damage if it does, They get labeled different ways in different fields, I usually call these "risk" and "exposure". This is a classic tiny-risk large-exposure situation, there's very little chance I will actually need these things, but there's really no limit to my exposure, if I do end up needing them and don't have them I may die, others with me may die. Someone who has NEVER had the infrastructure fail them or been thrown on their own resources in bad conditions in their entire lives may see that as silly. These days, a lot of those people survive just fine and pass on the knowledge that come from their "experience" to their kids, so we've got entire generations who view being prepared for ANYTHING as silly, they don't even dress for cold or rain and they buy cars without spare tires.. and these people all seem to feel entitled to pass judgement on what I really "need".

    Trap 3: I carry a little "emergency" kit daily, and a different kind in the vehicle. On the rare times I pull it out I sometimes get questioned as to how often I "need" it, how often there's a "real emergency". The question is fallacious on the face of it, the kit prevents situations from becoming emergencies, it turns them into mere inconveniences instead. That is has done often, and thus I have fewer emergencies than others. Arguing that I don't really "need" it because "emergencies" are so rare when i have it is circular reasoning.

    Trap 4: The knife has been probably the most fundamental tool invented by our species. It is literally the most basic of tools, and as a near-helpless species without either claws or fangs, a species that must rely on tools for even the most basic functions, it is the first and most fundamental step in enabling ourselves, stepping up from total helplessness. The more primitive things get, the clearer the necessity is. You won't "need" one until/unless you do, and then it's too late. These days it's not hard to live an entire life without ever NEEDING one, but when things do, however rarely, get that basic, for whatever reason... well, the people who really NEEDED a knife and didn't have one, maybe they didn't ever recognize that need, maybe they wouldn't have known what to do with one anyway... they aren't around to chime in, are they?

    We've become an entire culture based around learned helplessness, around dependence, and that culture seldom misses a chance to criticize or ridicule any attempt at self-enablement or independence, right down, in the cites, to wearing a hat in the rain. The problem is that with cultures, as with individuals, that works until it doesn't.

    Otzi the "ice man" carried a knife as a key part of his kit 9,000 years ago, as did most of our grandparents or great-grandparents and EVERY generation prior. It's no accident. We, the ones that can usually get by being this helpless, are the historical anomaly, not them.

    IMHO, IF (and it's a big "if") there are still humans in human bodies on this planet a thousand years from now, I think it almost certain that they will be carrying knives. It is far less certain that they will be descended from a culture that did not.
  2. Fred S2

    Fred S2

    Sep 5, 2008
    I was a 63T (vehicle mechanic), and carried one of the original leatherman PST's always. Generally had a TL29 as well. They issued the M9 bayonet when we went to Iraq, and nobody carried them much,because they weigh something like 2lbs. Everybody left that thing in a vehicle or in a ruck somewhere. Only time I used the bayonet was to stab a big hole in a folding metal chair for latrine use. Never needed the big knife for anything, used the leatherman daily.
  3. UffDa

    UffDa Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 11, 1999
    I remember an interview with Carlos Hathcock. He was asked why he carried a sheath knife. He said that he used it to chop roots when he was digging and to spread
    peanut butter on his crackers. (Hopefully not at the same time) It was an important tool.
  4. precisionshootist


    Mar 1, 2010
    Well if you need it and don't have it, you sing a different tune. Ask Burt.
    I have another question. Do astronauts need a knife?
  5. tueller

    tueller Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 16, 2012
    Do soldiers need or just want a knife?

    Well since I believe an accountant needs a knife, yes I think a soldier needs a knife :)
  6. johnwitwer


    Feb 7, 2014
    I think most (if not all) soldiers will carry a knife. I'd say the knife itself depends on the soldier and their job. For example, an army ranger is going to carry a different knife than an infantryman. Some will be just fine carrying cheap SOG or gerber, some will want something a bit nicer, along the lines of a benchmade or spyderco. But as far as if they need a knife the answer is a defiant eyes.
  7. johnwitwer


    Feb 7, 2014
  8. jkulysses


    Dec 8, 2010
    I was in the Army 1/41 Inf from 99'-02' & I never once carried a knife. I had a Gerber multi tool on me every single day though.
  9. Bob Ohlemann

    Bob Ohlemann

    Dec 5, 2013
    I was an 11B from 1988 to 2008. I attended several schools that taught knife fighting as part of the POI. I served two tours in Iraq and deployed all around the world for various actions or training. I used everything from a machette to a Swiss Army Knife. I carried a small folder of some sort pretty much every day. What I carried in the field varied depending on mission, load, and terrain. I survived two near ambushes and engaged in more firefights than I can possibly recall. I never once felt like I might need to use my knife to defend my life. That said, I would not be in harms way without a knife that I could use as a last resort weapon and survival tool.

    As an Infantry platoon sergeant, I was irritated more than once when I gave instructions for a soldier to execute a task that required a knife, only to hear that the soldier didn't have one. In a garrison environment it was annoying, during a deployment, it was inexcusable! In my opinion, all deployed soldiers need a knife. What kind of knife depends on their circumstances.

  10. Bob Ohlemann

    Bob Ohlemann

    Dec 5, 2013
    BTW- Land lines are pretty much a thing of the past in the U.S. Army. The radios have encryption built into them and they are very dependable. I would say the most amazing transformation I saw in my twenty years in the Army was the advances in communications.

  11. Sonnydaze

    Sonnydaze Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 6, 2009
    ...but I guess the rifle was okay...

    Idiocy abounds. I guess he was a desk warrior... I knew a few.
  12. leghog


    Aug 10, 2013
    A Ranger is an infantryman. Mayhaps not Joe Infantryman but an infantryman none the less.
  13. leghog


    Aug 10, 2013
    I was an 11B too. Never taught knife fighting as an 11B.
  14. csisland


    Aug 8, 2013
    If my rifle jammed, I'd much rather have a glock on my side than a knife.
  15. BladeScout

    BladeScout Basic Member Basic Member

    May 16, 2010
    Most grunts dont NEED a knife.
    Some how ever find them NICE to carry.
    Few grunts need a large dedicated fighting knife.
    Some find knives reassuring to carry, but the larger knives often gets left behind and substitued for ammo or water after carrying it a few times.
    A multi tool and a mini-prybar is where its at.
    Im not saying, that there are NO soldiers, who actually find a need for a dedicated fighting knife, but they are few and far between.
    If the average grunt gets cornered, runs out of ammo or for what ever reason has to resort to his knife in the face of the enemy, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG! (with all respect for the REMFs and Rambos....well, actually with no respect for them at all;))
  16. ssgwhite

    ssgwhite Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 26, 2012
    Been in the Army 15 years and all over the place. Did I "need" a knife? No, I'm sure I would have got along just fine without one. But there's a lot of times where having it made me more efficient at what I was doing. I'm not a super duper clandestine ultra-eliter by any means, but I've used my knife almost every day.
  17. Bob Ohlemann

    Bob Ohlemann

    Dec 5, 2013
    Actually, you do not have to be Infantry to be a Ranger. There are Ranger medics, FO's, and even clerks.
  18. Bob Ohlemann

    Bob Ohlemann

    Dec 5, 2013
    Guess you didn't go to the right schools.

  19. leghog


    Aug 10, 2013
    Correct. But look at the context ----"For example, an army ranger is going to carry a different knife than an infantryman." Seriously doubt he was referring to medics, FSTers, or even clerks.

    Guess not in 23 years. Truth be told, I tried to go to as few schools as possible. You can end up spending 20-25% of a career in schools.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  20. neeman


    Apr 5, 2007
    I was in a SAR unit for rescue from buildings and the like, using all sort of rescue machinery and tools
    I carried a private non-issued Camilus Demo (all steel camper), which I used constantly
    It had a blade for cutting, an awl for making holes, a can opener for rations, and a bottle opener as a pry
    And I carried a seperate small waterpump plier

    This was before multi tools were available, so now I would carry a simple multi-tool

    Now, most of the boys carry Multi tools as it is on the list of suggested purchases the Army sends out to the kids before they get inducted
    Because I have four girls, I have found that a SAK Classic is very popular gift for girls for their going away (to the Army) party

    No folders, or bigger SAKs, and definitely no fixed blades
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014

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