Articles

5 struggles those who wore BCGs will remember

Ah, the beloved and well-remembered basic combat glasses, the "S9" frames. Generations of American warfighters were warmly welcomed into the military with these fashionable spectacles.


Except not. More commonly known as "birth control glasses," these things were basically two Coke bottles bound with mud-colored wire.

Here are 5 things troops got to experience while wearing the Devil's eyewear:

1. The instant weird looks and laughs from other recruits

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall)

Most recruits look and feel awkward their first time sporting an Army haircut or lumbering around in a brand new pair of combat boots. But the next level of awkwardness was reserved for the wearers of BCGs.

This always led to jokes among fellow trainees, at least until drill sergeant showed up. That's when everyone fell silent — so that drill sergeant could get his jokes in.

2. Permanently obscured vision thanks to the range day

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

In basic training, everyone is trained to hold their weapon the same way during marksmanship training. Recruits have to place their faces to the rifle the same way every time to make them more accurate. So, everyone is ordered to hold the weapon with their nose to the charging handle.

The problem is, this places the rear sight close to the BCGs for many shooters. The rear sight sometimes scratches the glasses during training and, after a few times at the firing positions, BCG wearers leave with a scuffed section of glass at the bottom of their field of vision in their dominant eye.

3. The constant fogging during smoke sessions and marches

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Marching through dusty trails, doing pushups until it "rains" inside, and conducting mountain climbers all cause basic trainees to sweat heavily. This sweat quickly condenses on the lenses of BCGs, creating a thick fog. After a while, sweat droplets fall on the lens as well. This gets rid of the fog but makes it look like everything is underwater instead.

4. Basic training photos that not even a mother could love (though some hipsters might)

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

Basic training photos only appeal to a few people, typically the recruit's mother and grandmother. But unless they got a sympathetic photographer who let them remove their glasses, those rocking the BCGs were doomed to photos that even a mother would only put up as a joke.

Most trainees got a kind-of-lame, posed photo from basic. The four-eyed folks got a punchline that their family would bring up during every Christmas block leave for the rest of their life.

5. Duct tape repairs actually made them look better

While most glass wearers dreaded having to make cheap repairs with duct tape, BCG people knew that dropping their frames in strategic ways led to a silver covering for those awful brown frames. Yup, those cheap repairs were an improvement over the stock model.

Unfortunately for newer and future troops, the military has gotten rid of S9s, the old basic combat glasses, and opted for a more modern look, the 5A frame. So, the community of birth control glasses wearers is now closed.

These are the new 5As that basic trainees are issued:

(Photo: U.S. Army Melissa K. Buckley)

They're actually . . . dare we say it . . . stylish. Alas, it's the end of an era.

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