Skip to comments.ARMY: Black Beret Blues
Posted on 04/21/2009 10:30:47 AM PDT by llevrok
April 20, 2009: U.S. Army troops are becoming more energetic and vocal in efforts to get rid of the black beret they have been forced to wear for the past eight years. Back in 2000, the U.S. Army commander (Chief Of Staff) general Eric Shinseki ordered that the black beret replace the traditional billed cap (which had been used for nearly a century). Shinseki believed the black beret would be a symbol of excellence, reflecting the overall professionalism of the entire Army. He believed the black beret would repair the (largely nonexistent) divisions created by the use of different color berets in some units (red for airborne, green for special forces, black for rangers). Shinseki also believed that, because black berets are (everywhere but in the United States ) worn by armor troops, and in the U.S. by Rangers, the new headgear would reflect a merger of both light and heavy forces. This was a non-issue to most troops. Shinseki also insisted that selecting the color black was not intended as an insult to the Rangers (who were, and still believe that this was exactly what was intended) but was simply the best color to match the battle dress uniform (BDU). This, despite the fact that there is no longer any black in the BDU. Shinseki also wanted to create a "world class uniform" that would be respected by foreigners who came into contact with US troops. But American troops associate the beret with armies that tend to lose (especially the French) and consider it no great honor. Then there are practical issues. The beret is made of wool, and requires more care to keep it presentable. Even at that, no one can agree on exactly how one should wear it. The damn thing is made of wool, and is uncomfortable in warm weather. Since it has no bill, it provides no shade for the eyes when troops have to stand in formation. It also costs twice as much as the patrol cap (the baseball cap live headgear, that is the same pattern as the BDU and is soft and light). But for many formations and occasions, the troops must wear the beret, instead of the patrol cap. Most troops would prefer to use the patrol cap, in camo or monotone versions, instead of the beret.
From the beginning, the black beret was very unpopular. Surveys quickly revealed that the majority of the troops were hostile to the head gear change. But Shinsheki went forward anyway. Current and former rangers, and many members of Congress, appealed to president Bush to reverse the policy back then. But September 11, 2001 came along before Bush could do anything, and the beret issue has been pushed into the background ever since.
But now the troops feel they have won one war, and are on their way to winning another, and would like to get some relief from those damn, stupid berets.
Thank God I got out before they changed to the beret. There was nothing wrong with the soft cap. It was much sharper and shaded your eyes.
Wearing wool on your head in the summer is not a good idea. The summer soft cap had holes in it for air.
Get rid of the damned thing.
The beret was chosen for our various elite troops in memory of their fighting behind the lines in France in WW II. Shinseki's making it part of the uniform for all the troops reeked of some Lake Wobegon Army where all the troops are above average.
Soldiers put on the soft cap any chance they get. It protects the eyes and keeps the head cooler.
I never wanted to wear it.
Give the Black Beret back to the Rangers and I’ll happily go back to my patrol cap and keep both the sun and rain out of my eyes.
Bush was C in C for 8 years and didn’t even do this. He was so sad.
Gunny G’s Sites & Forums....
History of the Beret
Military forces have worn distinctive uniform items for centuries to create a psychological advantage and boost their esprit de corps, but the military use of berets is a relatively recent phenomenon, said Walter Bradford, an Army historian who has studied the issue.
Scottish Highland troops wore a bonnet in the 17th and 18th centuries, while the headgear most people now know as the beret was worn in the Basque region of France and Spain in the same period, Bradford said.
But widespread use of the beret among Western armies didnt begin until the 20th century, when French tank crews in World War I wore both the small Basque version and a larger, floppier variety.
In the 1920s, British tank crews began searching for an alternative to their stiff khaki service-dress cap, which just wasnt practical for duty inside the relatively new armored vehicles.
The cap had to be worn backwards to use the gunners sights, with the chin strap down to keep it on the head, Bradford said. The light wool serge fabric soon became home for grease stains as it was clutched and adjusted by soiled fingers.
In 1924, the tankers came up with a black wool beret whose size fell in between the two French versions and was bound with black leather featuring an adjustable ribbon that ran around to tie in the back.
When the British tankers added their traditional Fear Naught emblem above the left eye, they had a snappy piece of headgear that quickly became famous for its distinctiveness and grew to be the symbol of armored formations around the world, Bradford said.
The military popularity of berets soared during the World War II era when various British units donned the headgear in several colors, including a khaki brown variety adopted by Special Air Services troops and a maroon variety worn by Britains first airborne force, the Parachute Regiment, that became affectionately known as the cherry berry.
Legend has it that the color was picked by novelist Daphne du Maurier, wife of Maj. Gen. Frederick Browning, one of Britains highly decorated World War II heroes, Bradford said.
Berets debut in U.S. military
The first use of the modern beret in the U.S. military was in 1943, when a battalion of the 509th Parachute Infantry was given maroon berets by their British counterparts for their service in the war.
In 1951, the Marine Corps experimented with green and blue berets, but dismissed them because they looked too foreign and feminine, Bradford said.
The first widespread use of the headgear by U.S. forces came shortly after, when a new Army organization that was specially trained for insurgency and counterguerrilla warfare began wearing a green variety in 1953. It took another eight years for the Armys Special Forces the Green Berets to win presidential approval from John F. Kennedy to make their headgear official.
In the 1970s, Army policy allowed local commanders to encourage morale-enhancing uniform distinctions, and the use of berets boomed. Armor personnel at Fort Knox, Ky., wore the traditional British black beret, while U.S. armored cavalry regiments in Germany wore the black beret with a red and white oval.
Troops of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., started wearing the maroon beret in 1973, while at Fort Campbell, Ky., the trend exploded, with post personnel wearing red, military police donning light green, and the 101st Airborne Division taking light blue as their color. In Alaska, the 172nd Infantry Brigade began using an olive green beret.
In 1975, the Airborne Rangers got approval from the Department of the Army to use the black beret as their official headgear.
Over the next few years, the whole thing got out of hand, and in 1979 senior Army officials put on the brakes, Bradford said. The leadership allowed the Rangers to keep their black berets and in 1980, agreed to allow airborne troops to continue wearing the maroon version. But all others varieties were declared off-limits.
These days, the United States is on the low end of the spectrum among NATO allies in terms of the variety of berets worn by their military forces.
Turkey, Greece and Luxembourg also authorize only three colors for various segments of their forces, but most countries have four or five. Belgium has seven and the United Kingdom tops the list with nine.
On Oct. 17, Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki announced that the black beret would become standard Army headgear next year. Shinseki said he wants to use the sense of pride that the beret has long represented to the Rangers to foster an attitude of excellence among the entire Army as it moves forward with its sweeping transformation effort to a lighter, more deployable, more agile force.
His decision has set off a firestorm in both the active-duty and veteran Ranger community as well as in the Armys other two special operations camps, the Special Forces and the airborne.
On Oct. 20, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley said Airborne Rangers might receive headgear of a different color when the entire Army dons the Rangers traditional black beret next June.
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Edited by - GunnyG on 02/20/2005 07:51:36
Posted - 02/20/2005 : 07:55:25
Butler, Carlson, Puller—not yer run-of-the-mill PC Marines!
Neither was CMC Dave Shoup...
#160 CMC Dave Shoup On Berets
by Dick G Dick G (Login Dick Gaines)
Former CMC General Shoup On Berets
I think it is a sign of the times...the so called leadership is so far out of touch, they think that a beret will make a difference. The USAF tried to improve pilot retention by issuing WW2 type leather jackets to all pilots...didn’t work, this won`t either. About 40 years ago it was suggested to USMC Commandant David Shoup, that perhaps the Marines should adopt beret. General Shoup`s reply was “ Why would anyone want to look like a faggot or a Frenchman?”
R.W. “Dick” Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
They should go back to the old soft cap
There are too many senior officers in the Army who hate the specialized forces (Rangers, Special Forces, Airborne) and this was the reason they decided on the black beret for all troops.
Also, with all US Army in a black beret....it makes the US Army look like some weak European military
Here's the inspiration:
As I recall the berets were to be made in China back in the crinton era
This headgear reflects the feelings of the administration for the military:
Can someone post a picture of the soft cap? I know what the beret looks like; my son has one. But I don’t remember the other.
To quote the movie “The Incredibles”:
“If everybody’s special; no one is”
Well, it WAS until you made it a symbol of "everyone"....hint to Shinseki....not all troops are "excellent"...not even all infantry troops.