A balaclava is a full head mask usually composed of warming materials like cotton or heavy cloth. It typically covers the entire head down to the base of the neck, often with two openings in the front for the wearer's eyes.
Balaclavas are named after the town that created them, specifically Balaklava in Ukraine. They were originally made in large numbers during the Crimean War to protect British soldiers from the nations bitter cold. The garb quickly grew popular among the British soldiers and eventually gained worldwide appeal, especially in colder nations like Russia. Many military forces who specialized in winter combat made use of them and continue to do so to this day. Besides protecting people from the cold, they were also adopted as a means to hide identities in various special forces and mercenary groups.
Virtuous Mission/Operation Snake EaterEdit
Naked Snake had many encounters with GRU and Spetsnaz. Ocelot soldiers who wore modified balaclavas that were made of a thinner, leather-like material than the winter designed versions. These balaclava's were not designed to retain heat; the high temperature and humidity of the jungles and high plateaus of Tselinoyarsk made such a feature unnecessary. Instead, the masks were meant to ward off minor hazards such as insect bites and stings to the wearers face. The masks also protected the wearer from outstretched branches and thorn covered bushes, making traversing through the dense jungle foliage easier.
The balaclavas used by the GRU soldiers differed from those worn by Ocelot operatives in that they were gray in color, with the Ocelot masks being black. In addition, the balaclavas used by the GRU soldiers possessed a visor-type vision opening, whereas the Ocelot Unit's balaclavas were of the two-eyed variety. The Balaclava also mitigates the tear-gas effect caused by the detonation of smoke grenades. The Pain, a member of the Cobra Unit, also wore a balaclava to disguise his deformed face, removing it only to start firing bullet bees from his mouth. Although the Ninth Directorate of the KGB stationed in Tselinoyarsk did not wear a balaclava, they did wear similar headgear, which was also covered by a hood.
One GRU soldier in particular, Johnny wore a special balaclava with the letter "J" emblazened on the forehead. He was the only soldier to have a mask with such a feature.
San Hieronymo TakeoverEdit
The San Hieronymo Takeover was orchestrated with Russian soldiers who received the same basic training as the GRU forces Naked Snake encountered during the Virtuous Mission and Operation Snake Eater, so it is fitting then that these soldiers also came with identical weaponry and attire, including the trademark GRU balaclavas. While the masks served little practical use in the dry, urban environments of the Heironymo missile base, they were still worn as a matter of unit discipline and conformity.
For Naked Snake's personal uprising however, the masks proved an invaluable asset. With all the Soviet soldiers appearing virtually identical thanks to their face obscuring masks, Snake was able to send soldiers cooerced to his side through many key locations with next to no chance of detection, save by the more observant eyes of soldiers and personnel not dressed in the same uniform.
Peace Walker IncidentEdit
Big Boss's military company, Militaires Sans Frontières (MSF), made use of a wide range of garb and armor, sometimes for matters of camouflage, sometimes for matters of protection, and even occasional matters of formality. But one article of clothing that remained constant throughout all these battle dresses (minus the odd tuxedo or bathing suit) was the standard issue MSF balaclava. Composed of seven high density textile sections and lined with well ventilating foam insulation, the MSF head mask was one of the most advanced articles of war clothing during its time, granting the wearer superb protection from even the thickest debris kicked up in heavy battle. While the material did not provide any real defense against bullets, it did greatly cushion the more sensitive parts of the skull (the back of the head, the bridge of the nose, and center of the jaw, and the temple regions) from serious injury during close quarters combat, allowing a trained soldier to take a pummelling and still retain consciousness. The masks also came equipped with two codec earpieces and a miniaturized microphone embedded in the mouth section, granting two way communication with MSF Mother Base to coordinate mission objectives. The MSF balaclava was even worn during training exercises, and was considered a standard part of the MSF uniform. Only Big Boss himself was permitted not to wear one during missions, which he did out of personal preference.
Hot Coldman's forces also wore balaclavas to protect themselves from jungle nuisences like insects or foliage. Helmets were often worn in combination with the masks. The American faction of the Peace Sentinels wore visor-type balaclavas, whereas the Soviet faction of the Peace Sentinels wore two-eyed balaclavas similar to the MSF. However, they forego the balaclavas while indoors, such as at the Mine Base.
Big Boss's military within Zanzibar Land utilized balaclavas during field operations.
During Liquid Snake's takeover of the Shadow Moses nuclear disposal facility, his personal military, the genetically modified Genome Army, was forced to endure the extremely inhospitable conditions Shadow Moses offered. While each Genome Soldier was heavily modified to be stronger and more durable the standard human being, not even they could endure the sub-zero temperatures of the frozen arctic without proper attire. Thus, in addition to thick jackets, pants, and other warming paraphanalia, each Genome was provided a winter balaclava to keep their heads warm and functional. Like the rest of their winter garb, the balaclavas were made of white material to let each soldier blend in with the surrounding snow, though this was of little consequence inside the actual facility. Some soldiers were granted uniforms and balaclava's of different hues for this reason. Because of the chilly atmospheres ability to penetrate into the various buildings through the ventalation ducts, the Genome Soldiers were made to wear the masks even when not patrolling the outer perimeters, which proved very handy for the daring Meryl Silverburgh, who donned a full Genome uniform in order to infiltrate the complex undetected after having escaped imprisonment. The only exceptions for the group were the NBC units and the Genome Combat Veterans, who instead wore a gas mask either because the environment necessitated their use, such as the nuclear warhead storage building's main floor as well as the western labs (in the case of the NBC units), or for reasons never explained (in the case of the Genome Combat Veterans).
The Big Shell IncidentEdit
The Gurlukovich Mercenaries, a Russian army-for-hire, had long used balaclava masks as part of their standard attire even before joining forces with Solidus Snake's group, the Sons of Liberty. The reasons for wearing these masks had less to do with a matter of protection or insulation, but instead served as a way to conceal identity. With the Gurlukovich forces seeing combat all across the globe, the need to hide their persons proved necessary to make themselves as difficult to trace as humanly possible; thus, they made use of balaclavas even in places where they wouldn't normally be worn, such as the inner workings of a tanker or, in the case of the Big Shell Incident, the sea swept scaffolds of the Big Shell. The sole exceptions in the Gurlukovich Mercenaries to wearing the balaclava as a standard part of their uniform are the top leaders of the organization, including Sergei Gurlukovich, his daughter Olga, Revolver Ocelot, and an unnamed officer accompanying Sergei during the Tanker Incident.
The Gurlukovich balaclava was made of black, skin tight fabric, making it easier for the wearer to don additional headgear, such as helmets or night vision goggles. Being that it's primary purpose was to hide identity, the masks provided little warmth to the wearers head, though in the case of the sun drenched Big Shell, that wasn't necessarilly a bad thing.
During his infiltration of the Big Shell, the "FOXHOUND" agent Raiden temporarily donned a full Gurlukovich uniform, balaclava included, in order to make his way to the hostages held in Shell 1. It was the removal of this balaclava at the hands of Revolver Ocelot that put Raiden in high peril of being killed or captured, the intervention of Mr. X being the only thing that saved him. Similarly, Solid Snake, while disguised as a SEAL Team 10 operative, donned a balaclava.
The members of SEAL Team 10 also utilized balaclavas, presumably to conceal their identities when conducting missions.
In 2014, Liquid Ocelot's Outer Heaven PMC was one of the most powerful in the world, with its soldiers possessing some of the best gear and equipment money could buy. Among their standard issue equipment, namely with the PMC unit Praying Mantis, were desert adapted balaclavas, woven out of micropore covered material that allowed sweat and oil to escape outward but prevented sand and dust from going inward. While being quite simple in comparison to the rest of the Outer Haven soldiers' gear, the masks were worn by all the standard infantry units under Liquid Ocelots control as a means to protect his soldiers from the harsh elements of the desert battlefield. Like those worn by the Gurlukovitch army, the masks were often worn in combination with helmets, eyepieces, and other such devices. In regards to the PMC unit Raven Sword, they wore an armored variation of balaclava, presumably for security purposes.
Johnny Sasaki also wore a balaclava of sorts that connected with the rest of his battlesuit. He often wore eyeprotection, effectively enclosing all his body, save for a stray tuft of hair, from the outside world, belying his somewhat paranoid personality. Meryl also briefly wore a balaclava before meeting Snake in the Middle East, implying that balaclavas were standard issue in Rat Patrol Team 01.
Although not balaclavas, several of the Middle Eastern Militia members wore similar cloths over the head, known as shemagh scarves, that served a similar purpose.
The South American rebel soldiers sometimes wore balaclavas. Snake's South American rebel disguise also came with a balaclava.
Behind the scenesEdit
Balaclavas have made many appearances in the Metal Gear series, usually worn by enemy soldiers, though there are exceptions to the rule. A more common name for the balaclava is ski mask.
Some of the Genome Army soldiers, clad in blue uniforms with blue balaclavas and blue helmets, greatly resemble the footsoldiers of Cobra, the terrorist organization that serves as the antagonist of the GI Joe franchise.
A character named Adam was intended to appear in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, who was intended to be a Russian commando who wore a balaclava, while underneath he was to have a very handsome appearance. However, he was cut early in development, with character artist Yoji Shinkawa noted as being unfortunate and wasteful due to him, alongside Snake-Man, another character design cut from the game, possessing a certain amount of charm.
There are also a variety of balaclavas that show the mouth in addition to having two eyeholes. However, the only instance they have appeared are in Metal Gear Online.
In reality balaclavas are only worn during soldiers during covert ops in enemy territory and missions that require the identies of the operatives to be kept secret as well as protecting them from the elements. During routine patrols in already occupied buildings and in their controlled territory they are hardly necessary. Peace Walker does, however, have the soldiers without balaclavas while indoors, specifically at the Mine Base.
Although the Spike VGA 2011 trailer for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance showed the enemy group that would later become Desperado Enforcement LLC. wearing balaclavas, they did not wear them in the final version.
Notes and referencesEdit
- ^ Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Kojima Productions (2008)
During EVA's history lesson to Solid Snake about the creation and infighting of The Patriots, a flashback is shown of Big Boss with several soldiers under his command, as well as Metal Gear D being seen among them, thus implying that the soldiers were from Zanzibar Land. Likewise, the soldiers were wearing balaclavas in that image, although Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake did not imply even once that they wore balaclavas.