The Balaclava in the army

On 03/04/2021 — 9 minutes to read
balaclava in the military

Welcome to our new article about balaclavas in the military sector! You probably have many questions about them, and it must be said that it’s an interesting object surrounded by many gray areas.
Between myths and realities often conveyed through Hollywood movies, today we explain to you everything you need to know about the use of balaclavas in the military :

  • Why is its use so widespread in the armed forces?
  • What is the point of using a balaclava in military missions?
  • Is it forbidden for civilians to obtain and wear it freely?

A balaclava is a working tool just like the rest of the military equipment. Its use is diverse and includes many facets such as: identity protection, the maintenance of its neck at human temperature, or the protection against the wind and the rain.

Let’s see now all this in more detail starting with the use of the balaclava by the special forces of different countries. You will see that this tool, often neglected compared to the armament of a soldier, is just as essential for a professional.

Why do special forces wear balaclavas ?

Why do special forces wear balaclavas

We’ve all seen a special forces agent with a balaclava, or a combination of a beanie and a neck getter that hides his face. But why do they wear them? Are they afraid for their personal safety to want their face not to be visible?
To identify the usefulness of a balaclava for special forces, everything will depend on the objective of the unit in question and its mission.

To illustrate our point we will take as an example the Russian special units SSO that fight in Syria to support the local political regime. In this case, we are dealing with professionals working sometimes undercover in a desert region. In this case, there are precisely 2 types of uses for the balaclava:

  1. To protect their face and neck from natural elements: sand, the temperatures, the dirt. It is an essential asset to keep suitable hygiene of life. It also allows to improve its efficiency in the fight and to keep the morale on the duration. For missions in cold places, with the help of a polar balaclava, it is much more pleasant to work where the air temperature is close to -20° Celsius. It is at the level of the neck that the greatest heat loss is recorded, it would be a waste not to protect yourself. Also, there are places in the world such as countries in Africa or South America where the dust is so dense at certain times that without balaclava to filter the air breathed, the soldiers would swallow quantities to make themselves sick.
  2. Improve their camouflage: during military operations in enemy territory, one of the fastest, simplest and most effective ways to camouflage your face is to use a face mask. Thus, it becomes possible to choose a model that corresponds to its combat environment and to change it at will.
  3. For the sake of discretion: the balaclava can also mask their face. Very useful thing especially during operations undercover.

We’ve gone over the usefulness of balaclavas for more traditional units. As far as counter-terrorism is concerned, the use of face mask is totally different. Let’s discover it right away with the next chapter, dealing with the relationship of police forces to this precious tool that is the balaclava.

Why do some armed police wear balaclavas ?

Why-do-some-armed-police-wear-balaclavas

First of all, before getting into the heart of the matter, let’s try to name with precision who these police units are. We are talking about special forces agents, attached to the police by their mission. For example the GIGN in France, SWAT in the USA, or SOBR in Russia.

The fight against terrorism carried out by special units of the police force requires total confidentiality from these professionals. Indeed, by operating on the national space, the police of a state are subject to reprisals. They often have to deal with non-governmental organizations that can use blackmail as a means of pressure: theft, kidnapping, intimidation of all kinds…
Particularly widespread in South American countries, where these police units are fighting against drug cartels that sometimes operate with impunity because of the corruption, these practices are a real way for these criminal organizations to protect their territory and their business.
It is the same with religious fanatical organizations such as Daesh, which can commit targeted murders on personalities of all kinds in order to intimidate the population.

The use of the balaclava for special police forces is then mandatory. The safety of their families, as well as their own safety on their national territory, is at stake. Because while these everyday heroes are used to striking suddenly and head-on for the protection of the population, these criminal organizations have no scruples and are ready to use any means at their disposal to impose their will on individuals.

With that said, now find out what it’s like for traditional army units. If a soldier can wear a balaclava and under what conditions.

Can you wear a balaclava in the army ?

Depending on the country, the balaclava is included in the standard equipment provided by the army. Otherwise, it will be up to you to get one to complete your military uniform. But be aware that anything that is not essential to your mission will only make you feel cluttered. Far be it from me to offend the tacticool, i.e. those who want to show off more than to really work. But if you wear a balaclava in your unit and it has no function other than to bring you style, you’re an asshole. And your comrades will let you know it. If you’re lucky, it’ll be before your superiors laugh at you!
However, if you got your balaclava with the rest of your gear or if you want to get one for practical reasons, you are free to choose the model you want.

Let’s see in the next chapter the different functions of a balaclava for a soldier. Now!

Why do soldiers wear balaclavas ?

I could cut the question short and simple answer that a soldier wears a balaclava because he was ordered to. Which is not wrong, it remains the first quality of a good soldier: to follow orders with discipline! At least, he will not attract the wrath of his superiors. Which is a good point.
But if a soldier wears any kind of equipment because he has been ordered to do so, it is for a good reason. For example, the soldiers of the Russian army are all equipped with balaclavas and throughout the year. With the possible exception of hot periods: in summer, the temperature rises to about 35 degrees Celsius, while in winter it takes -20 degrees minimum in the same place.

There are 2 types of use of the balaclava by the regular army units:

  1. Protection against the cold: nobody needs frozen soldiers. It would be silly to advance in the snow or the desert of Afghanistan at night without balaclava because the biggest losses of heat of the human body are done at the level of the neck.
  2. Protection against dust: it is sometimes difficult to breathe properly in some regions. In the countries of the Middle East, sandstorms are to be expected. This is why another accessory is very popular there: the shemagh. But it is a local accessory that is not very practical to wear, and its only function is to protect against sand infiltration through the collar of one’s clothes. For this purpose, longer balaclavas exist. And in addition, to better protect against dirt they will keep you warmer at night.

Now that you know everything about the use of balaclava in the armed forces, let’s see its use for civilians.

Is it illegal to buy a balaclava ?

You ask yourself this question because in Hollywood movies it is the gangsters who wear the balaclava? Or because it is an accessory worn mostly by the military?
Well it’s not the case, because you are free to get them!

Whether it’s a camouflage balaclava or in solid color, you can buy it without any problem.

And that’s good, because we have a very large assortment of balaclava to offer you. You will find on our Russian military surplus everything you need:

  • Classic balaclava with 3 holes or modular balaclava (can be used in different ways such as bandana, scarf, or face mask)
  • Balaclavas made of classic fabric or fleece to survive very low temperatures, or even waterproof balaclavas that will be very practical when hunting or fishing in the rain.
  • Balaclavas in all colors: black, olive, or in a whole range of camouflage for all seasons and environments!

Don’t wait to order yours if you see a model you like. Returns are sometimes long, and our balaclavas sell out fast

Can you wear a balaclava in public ?

Wear a balaclava in public

That’s a very good question, sir. You are not free to wear a balaclava where you want. We won’t list countries for the simple reason that it’s not our business, and I’m not a lawyer. But in the United Kingdom for example, any person wearing a balaclava on the public street to mask his identity is liable to a fine. In other words: if you try to protect your identity by wearing a balaclava, be prepared to answer some questions at the nearest police station. Because a person examined for any reproach would not wear a balaclava in the middle of the street, except in cases where he/she is trying to attract attention.

Now you know everything about balaclavas in the military. A true balaclava professional! Don’t forget to give us your impressions or feedback if you have served as a soldier in the army or police, first hand accounts are always the best.

Don’t forget to take a look at our balaclavas, we might have the models you like.

Quentin

Founder and editor-in-chief at Kula Tactical. - "I created our surplus with the aim of offering a space dedicated to lovers of the great outdoors. As a regular airsoft player myself, I've improved my game and style with Russian gear that has proven incredibly effective in the field."

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