Tactical Tailor

SOG Knives & Tools – What are THEY Thinking

We love SOG Specialty Knives & Tools. However, we don’t love questionable practices in light of military ethics codes. It seems Sergeant Joshua C. Holubz, US Army (Ret) was the winner of the SOG Knives “Friday Faceoff” making him last week’s Face of SOG. Truth be told, his story is harrowing. But that doesn’t justify using his image in uniform to sell knives.

DoD 5500.7R is the Joint Ethics Regulation. Para’s 2-304 and 3-209 cover this issue. Read it and make your own conclusion.

2-304. Use of Military Title by Retirees or Reserves. Retired military members and members of Reserve Components, not on active duty, may use military titles in connection with commercial enterprises, provided they clearly indicate their retired or inactive Reserve status. However, any use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD. In addition, in overseas areas, commanders may further restrict the use of titles by retired military members and members of Reserve Components.

3-209. Endorsement. Endorsement of a non Federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise may be neither stated nor implied by DoD or DoD employees in their official capacities and titles, positions, or organization names may not be used to suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment of any non Federal entity except those listed in subsection 3 210., below.

When we saw this photo posted on SOG’s Facebook page, we posted a comment that this looked like an ethics violation. SOG didn’t take the photo down. Instead, they deleted our comment.

So, what do you think? Was SOG right or wrong? Would it have been better to use a photo if he was out of uniform?

Unfortunately, SOG will probably never have anything to do with us again after bringing this to light. If so, we can live with that. If you are a servicemember (active or retired), make sure you know what you are doing when you involve yourself with commercial entities. If you are a company, please don’t put our servicemembers in this situation.

If you want to know more about ethics rules here are some resources:
Office of Government Ethics
U.S. Department of Defense Standards of Conduct Office
Office of General Counsel, Department of the Army
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Judge Advocate General, Ethics and Fraud Remedies
Department of the Navy Ethics Program


17 Responses to “SOG Knives & Tools – What are THEY Thinking”

  1. I see what you mean but... says:

    Wow, you’re on a roll. Out to alienate all of industry?

  2. Five Bucks says:

    Not to say SOG is without blame, but SGT Holubz knows better. It’s in AR 670-1, and that issue is a frequent enough board question that it’s come up in every study guide I’ve seen. He knows better.

    I don’t blame him for wanting some publicity and free gear, but getting out is no excuse for being lax with the standards when you represent the Army.

    SOG should take a closer look at things like that if they expect people and organizations to continue doing business with them. That’s why companies like USAA use servicemen in civvies or actors in non-specific unit uniforms for the PR shots.

    Both parties are in the wrong here.

  3. Chris says:

    It takes a lot of brass to do what Eric is doing. There’s a very fine line between the commercial interests in maintaining good relations within the industry and doing what you feel is right. Having been there myself, I can tell you that being outspoken can have an adverse effect on business. You really have to weigh the impact. I also think that integrity is it’s own reward and the people who really matter recognize that.

    Good on you.

  4. Paul Weaver says:

    You were right to point out the relevant regs to SOG … they were wrong to ignore your comments, and deleting the comment just shows they know they’re wrong.

    The ad would have been fine if he’d been in civvies, perhaps with something like a hat to indicate his former service. But showing him in Class A’s is wrong.

  5. bruce martin says:

    pretty sure you would RCP before hitting 20 years as an E-5. you dont retire before 20 years, you just ETS.

  6. iclackofreadingability says:

    The soldier in Question is not active duty, and so the quoted regs DO NOT apply. All I see is a lack of reading comprehension on soldiersystems.

    2-304. Use of Military Title by Retirees or Reserves. Retired military members and members of Reserve Components, not on active duty, MAY USE military titles in connection with commercial enterprises,

    3-209. Endorsement. Endorsement of a non Federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise may be neither stated nor implied by DoD or DoD employees in their OFFICIAL CAPACITIES

    All I see is a pic some former soldier, with a bunch of awards that he earned while active duty. Their is no mention or inference of official DOD or Unit….” appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD”

  7. I see what you mean but... says:

    I’m looking at that picture and it sure looks like a personal endorsement to me. Lots of refugees endorse products. I don’t think that is the issue here. They just don’t use the uniform to do it.

    The real question is, what would Joe Sixpack think?

  8. I see what you mean but... says:

    Oops, not refugees, retirees… Sorry

  9. Paul Weaver says:

    RE: https://soldiersystems.net/2011/10/02/sog-knives-tools-what-are-they-thinking/comment-page-1/#comment-49672

    That Soldier appears to be wearing a number of unit awards (Fourragere, and Presidential Unit Citation) which he certainly did not earn on active duty in the past 50 years – therefore, he’s out of uniform at a minimum.

  10. El_Magnifico says:

    OK… I normally don’t reply to these kinds of things (seriously, I don’t). That being said, while I agree (somewhat) that he should not be wearing his uniform in their advertising, I will say that he would be far from the first to do so (and not the highest ranking by a long-shot). Also, there is a load of disinformation on here that I couldn’t let stand so I put my (admittedly weak) Google-fu to work and dug up some info in less than 10 minutes that most of you should’ve looked at before commenting:

    1. Bruce Martin says he couldn’t have made it to 20 years and retired at E5. While Bruce may be right, the YOUNG Sergeant doesn’t claim to have served for 20 years. After searching for his name, you’ll note that his squad was ambushed on March 17, 2007 in Iraq. Judging from the description of his injuries that were used as part of the narrative to get the Staff Sergeant who saved him a Silver Star, and the narrative on SOG’s Facebook page, he was messed up good. Therefore, some reasoning (OK… guessing) would be that he was medically retired. Therefore, he could very well have “retired” as an E5. Semantics… maybe.

    2. Paul Weaver indicates that the soldier in question is wearing unauthorized unit awards and then goes on to incorrectly identify one of them. SGT Holubz is wearing a Valorous Unit Award over his right breast pocket, not a Presidential Unit Citation as Mr. Weaver identifies it. VUA=red; PUC=blue. Putting good ole fashioned Google-fu to work, Wikipedia tells you the units that make up 3/2 Stryker. Searching the Center of Military History website reveals that 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment (which is part of 3/2 Stryker at Lewis) was awarded the VUA for actions in OIF in 2007… which was enough for me to stop even searching. As for Mr. Weaver’s contention that no unit “in the past 50 years” has been awarded a PUC (which, come on, is what you were saying) he is wrong again. The 3ID (for one) was awarded said citation for the invasion of Iraq… I know: I stood about 50 feet away from President GW Bush when he awarded it. Don’t believe me… either Wikipedia or CMH can help you out.

    Do I think it was necessary to have SGT Holubz in uniform to sell a knife… no. Heck, throw him in some ACUs and take the pic that way (w/o showing the US ARMY velco tape)… University of Phoenix and other organizations advertise that way in Army Times… EVERY ISSUE. You log on to USAA’s website without seeing every service represented and no one complains about that.

    As for the SoldierSystems crew: Cut the dude some slack. If you’re not going to write about gear and want to get people worked up about something, focus on the douche-tards that never were in the military (or were and conflate their experiences) who exploit the public’s general lack of knowledge for their own personal gain. As for your disapproval of SOG: focus on the performance of their products, not their advertising… that’s why I come to this site everyday, to see what’s out there and available for use in training or on deployment that I might want to get my unit to order or buy for myself.

    Rant complete.

    Keep your powder dry and your muzzle down-range

    • Administrator says:


      We love SOG knives and have said so numerous times. However, we have less issue with the retired SGT who we agree was medically retired, than we do with SOG. They do business with the Government and should have known better. It was a bonehead thing to do. The fact that they deleted our comment clinched it for us.

      And, agreed, put the guy in some sterile ACUs. It’s perfectly acceptable. No harm, no foul.

      But all of this was stated in the article. We often wonder why we even bother writing articles since commenters so often completely ignore the actual article when they compose their submissions.

      All in all, take this article as a cautionary tale.

      -The Editor or one of his henchmen

  11. MarkM says:

    As a loooong time knife user I’ve observed the obsession some makers in the industry have concerning the military tie-in. It’s used to market their product to a younger crowd, who’s one substantive characteristic is a complete lack of awareness that knives aren’t very good weapons at all.

    The whole genre of tacticool uber blades is really a joke. I’ve pursued them for decades and when I finally was able to afford one, all I got for my effort was – wait for it – a KNIFE. It did not have the stopping power of a .22, was difficult at best to deploy and use, created a huge concern over loss, and didn’t really cut anything better than a $40 Chinese import Benchmade or Spyderco.

    Now we have a soldier dragging himself into the middle of a questionable ethics situation, which is really caused by marketing mavens churning some publicity trying to keep their dated and slow moving product in the limelight.

    What part of “Ad Campaign” do we not smell here?

    Those who offer a decent knife with value don’t need to play games with a military tie in, just as other tool makers don’t get major celebrities to endorse their lines, either. Good tools sell themselves. Consider that when you see the name of a product splashed on the side of a NASCAR racer, or next weeks photo of another veteran in an ad that is deliberately manipulating the one element of the buying public who doesn’t know any better.

    It’s all just a game to separate Joe Snuffy and his wannabe admirers from their hard earned cash – to buy respect. Unfortunately, it does the opposite.

  12. I have read through the article and comments above, have also reached out to Eric to discuss this situation. Waiting to discuss with Eric before posting more. I can see the points being made here but it was an honest mistake and consider it lesson learned on our part.


  13. Damn, I can’t even spell knives right in my name. Still not fully awake yet.

  14. […] spoke on the phone this afternoon to discuss our article criticizing the “Faces of SOG” program. SOG spokesman Chris Cashbaugh explained their position and we suggested that they prepare a […]

  15. tomaso says:

    You gota love the new world….make one mistake and the internet gods want your head on a platter…i thought this was Soilder Systems…not the tactical inquirer…

    PS: love my SOG Pentagon II…if im arms length its far more deadly then a .22…but thats because of training…its just a tool you know = )

  16. bbmn says:

    internet gods comment –> awesome

    space ninja knife training comment –> sad