Dump The Beret!

May 5, 2010 By
Posted in Military Life

The cover story to this week’s Army Times says it all: “Dump the Beret”!! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve hated this infernal wool contraption since it was invented.

When I first joined the Army, I was assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (OPFOR) at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, CA. I spent six years wearing the black beret and was so excited when, in 2001, I would be going to another unit where I could wear the patrol cap. Then, General Shinseki, Army Chief of Staff at the time, had the biggest brain fart in military history and decided the entire Army should look as good as the 11th ACR (or Rangers, if you want to pretend they also wore it) and mandated that on the Army’s birthday in 2001 we would ceremoniously switch to hot, black wool from the more comfortable (and utilitarian) patrol cap! Why? “The black beret will be symbolic of our commitment to transform this magnificent Army into a new force – a strategically responsive force for the 21st century.” No, really, that’s a quote from General Shinseki!

Everyone hated the idea. Sure, you had the required leadership “praise” and “support” for the beret, but that is what we’re supposed to do. We were told that the Army will learn to accept it and all the bellyaching will go away. Well, here we are ten years later and Soldiers STILL hate it from the lowest ranks to the highest. Troops come up with all sorts of excuses to wear the patrol cap and bend the rules. EVERY SINGLE DAY I find myself correcting someone about wearing the patrol cap in a Garrison environment. The only good thing about the beret is that since its inception, Soldiers actually LOOK FORWARD to going to the motor pool because they can wear their patrol cap there. Then they try to extend the boundaries of the motor to wear it longer. “Sergeant, I’m just walking to my car from the motor pool.” Never mind that they parked 20 miles away so they could walk longer in it!

The Army should be embarrassed that we’ve carried on this charade as long as we have. Hell, we’ve gone through two other uniform changes since the beret was introduced and not ONE change to our embarrassingly ridiculous headgear. The patrol cap provided a standard of wear. Look at this photo:

All the Soldiers are uniform in their wear and appearance of the patrol cap. There’s a single way to wear the thing and it doesn’t involve shaving or forming and doesn’t change shape depending on the wind into the Swedish Chef hat!!

Sometimes, however, they wear the damn beret differently! It’s an eyesore in formations. It doesn’t mean they’re wearing it wrong, it’s just that they come made so different – even with the same manufacturer – that you never know what you’re getting.

When I first got to Fort Hood, I needed a new beret (because I accidentally packed all mine!). I now have five berets in my car because they were all crap in some way. One looks like a woobie blanket for my head, keeping my ears nice and tucked in case of a freak Texas snow storm. One doesn’t even fold past the leather liner of the rim. One simply won’t form and looks like something the balloon boy floated away in. I ended up paying a LOT of money for a pre-shaped, pre-shaved beret from one of those Korean seamstresses scattered all over military towns.

I can’t find a Soldier who likes the beret that actually has a real job in the Army! I’m not talking about someone that never sees beyond his desktop pen organizer and paper clip magnet box, I mean anyone that actually has to wear the damn thing more than 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t keep the sun out of your eyes. It doesn’t keep your head warm. It’s hot in the summers and causes heads to break out. I’m convinced its responsible for impotence in men and lack of estrogen in women. The one thing it DOES do good is take away the attention from those awful Army BCGs.

31 Responses to Dump The Beret!

  1. “or Rangers, if you want to pretend they also wore it”… What the hell is that supposed to mean? Rangers DID wear the black beret.

  2. As one who wore a Beret with pride long before the Army gave them to everyone I will agree somewhat with your piece. Leave the Beret to those who EARNED the right to wear them.

  3. Mick, dude relax. I was making a Cavalry joke! You know, “If you ain’t Cav, you ain’t….” It’s okay, really. Just take a long, deep breath and probably read a little into the humor infused into this post. Man, people are so touchy.

  4. Edd, I completely agree!

  5. carol steward

    Edd I have to agree with you even tho CJ is a good friend of mine. But my hubby worked dang hard to earn his Beret shortly after President Kennedy authorized it to Special Forces as a “Badge of Distinction”!! We never did understand why “everyone” became allowed to wear a beret; without the distinction of being a Real Trooper but at least it wasn’t our “Green Beret”. Do you all know the reason Bill Clinton awarded the contract to China for the black beret? (To line his pockets but it got revoked therefore they are made by a US company.) The best green berets were made in Canada.

  6. Bob The American

    I’m of two thoughts here.

    I was never in the service, but I was a Boy Scout. And in our troop, we had the option of the tent cap (I forget the real name. It just looked like a tent) and the beret. I was one of the few who wore the beret. There were very few who wore the beret. because there was an unwritten code in the troop that you didn’t wear it until you earned it. Which means you had to have everyone’s respect, as well as rank, to do so. And they just looked good.

    But everybody wearing them just makes them look stupid. Honestly, a beret should be an earned thing. Like the Rangers. They should wear one. But every day, make it the patrol cap.

  7. Wait, wait, wait a minute…

    First off, let me say that I think the Army should dump the beret for use with the ACUs…

    buuuuuuutt, don’t make the arguement the berets look stupid because everyone wear them differently – remember the PCs?? Ranger Rolls, Tanker Folds, starched PCs, wrinkled PCs, some with sew on rank, some with pin on. Some guys wore them high on their head, some wore them like ball caps.

    The berets look waaaaaaaay better than the c*nt caps and should stick around for class A and B wear. Everyone will bitch either way – I remember everyone having to put on that hot dog hat and all the grumbles from them.

    Oh well, no one will be happy ever. Eff it – No headgear at all. Solves all the problems.

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  9. I hate the beret with a passion. Why has there been a constant feminization process from the Army Chief of Staffs over the last decade? I don’t want to look like a modern european force.

    Army:

    There’s a thing called tradition. I know we don’t teach soldiers anymore about the men who came before them, and I know we shun any uniform they once wore, but lets try to have some respect for these traditions.

    Bring back the Pinks while you’re at it.

    Marine Corps has us beat in every sense in regards to respect for tradition.

  10. I think that we should dump all berets except for the Green Beret. I know that lots of people especially the Rangers would want berets but I think they are just too foreign. My next choice would be to leave the berets with SF and Rangers and take it from the airborne. I really don’t consider the airborne elite like I do the Rangers or SF.

  11. Ian spoken like some one who has never been to Jump School. During WWII the Airborne uniform was with boots bloused and the C cap with a glider patch. Airborne has always worn a distinctive uniform, which is why they should retain the Maroon Beret. All forces around the world recognize the Airborne as a step above.

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  13. Ian-Great Idea, spoken like a true LEG.

  14. Ian, I was in the duece, and 1/75 Inf. back in the day. So tell me what can a ranger company do, that a airborne infantry company cannot do?

  15. As a soldier in the United States Army, I must disagree. I worked hard during my basic training to earn my beret. I thnk that it makes us look more professional in a garrison environment. I will say without fear or hesitation that the reason soldier’s berets look horrid is because our Drill Sergeants failed to teach the proper way to form them. This is a matter of people not squaring away their battles, not because of the Beret being a bad idea. It does not make us look foreign, it shows that we have dicipline for our appearence. When it comes to working out in the field or in the motor pool, as mentioned, then yes, PCs should be worn. I am not in favor of going back to the Garrison Cap when in Dress uniform. If you think that we should dump the Beret, then I am going to make mention of the fact that the Army needs to dump the ACU as soon as possible as well then. The ACU makes us look worse than the Beret. I have seen so many soldiers who look like garbage in this uniform. They fade easily, the velcro (hook and fastener) wears out too easily, and does not blend with any surrounding I have been in. I never had the chance to wear BDUs, so I cannot speak to why they did away with them. The brass needs to get their arms around this situation with the Multicam as soon as possible. Wearing a uniform that does not blend in with the surroundings that we are fighting in is a diservice to all of us on the ground. My unit deploys in June, I am going to be on the line as a Combat Medic, my credentials are only included to disuade anyone who wants to call me a POG and tell me that I have no clue what I am talking about. While I am at it, the ASU looks terrible as well. The only unit affiliation on the Uniform is the pin, if you have been deployed. What ever happened to unit pride, whether or not you have deployed? And seriously, blue? I thought we were in the Army, not the Air Force. I love the Army, I just think our appearence is lacking on all levels. My opinion is to go back to the way the Class As looked during Vietnam, green with the khaki shirt, with enlisted rank sown on the sleeves. I know it would make me feel like a soldier to wear that. The uniform we wear to combat doesn’t even have to be Multicam, as long as it is something that works. Anyway, just my thoughts, friendly commentary. Toujours Pret, Always Ready, hooah!

  16. Hey medic I worked hard for mine to but it still doesn’t mean i like the beret. I completely agree with the article. The beret is ugly, uncomfortable and usless we should leave the berets to the French.

  17. 82NDAirborne98

    Medic,

    No Offense but………You EARNED the right to be called a Soldier, YOU EARNED the right to wear the Uniforms of a Soldier in the U.S. Army.

    Those who wore the black beret prior to Gen Shinseki’s proposal truly did EARN the right to wear the black beret as they’re Elite Troops.

    I was a Paratroop and wore my Maroon Beret with pride as it showed that I was a Member of an organization that not everyone was privelaged to be a part of.

    Now that I’m in a Non Airborne Unit it’s disgusting to see Troops attempt to steal the Airborne Heritage in this manner.

    Prior to the Black Beret, paratroopers were allowed to maintain our heritage by wearing the Glider Patch on the Over Seas cap marking that we had volunteered not once, twice, but three times for our Country.

    So I don’t care what you think of the Beret, I’m of the opinion you haven’t nearly touched what I would consider earning it.

  18. If you havent earned one…shut your pie hole.
    Grab a cherry and tell him he’s not an elite troop. You’ll see the difference as you get back to your feet.
    God be with you if you tell that to someone who’s earned his combat jump wings.

  19. Alright, Well first off let me thank all the vets on here for what they have done for our country, it means alot to me.
    Now second…Medic.. im glad you are serving our country, but in my honest opinion you havent earned the Beret. You earned everything else… and maybe a CIB one day… but not a beret

    What ever happened to being part of an elite unit in this military? they give you almost no way to distinguish yourselves… other then a patch. The army really does ignore heritage… even foreign armies pay attention to their heritage… but we got rid of the last bit of the army that had anything to do with heritage going over to just the dress blues… and getting rid of the greens… when the marines… are still wearing the Greens and blues they have for the longest of time… Then the navy still wears the same whites they have for ever… except for getting rid of their denims… which might i add has come to the dismay of many navy vets i know… even hearing one of them yell at a sailor upon seeing him wearing their new duty uniform.

    Though I am still of the belief that Rangers, Paratroopers, and Green Berets should be the only ones allowed to wear a Beret… and Whats wrong with the Cunt Cap? That is also heritage? I personally love wearing mine (I am a WW2 Reenactor) I dont like the envelop style ones of the 50′s but I love my ww2 Cunt Cap.

    How can you not tell me this looks sharp
    http://i255.photobucket.com/albums/hh145/leighm25a/gruverdoughertyfr6.jpg

  20. You didn’t earn your beret in basic. Army basic is a joke.

    I felt I was cheapening the thing by wearing it.

  21. cold steel trooper

    Fellow Troopers and others,

    I definitely agree that giving the beret to everyone in the Army dilutes it’s significance. I want to thank Medic for his service and wish him luck as he continues to earn our admiration and respect.

    As someone whose service included patrolling the East/West German border for a couple years, it was always enough for me to know that I served with some of the finest soldiers in the world. The Blackhorse wasn’t just another “unit” in the Army, it was assigned to the Fulda Gap for a reason.

    That said, the order came down a few years before I got to Fulda saying that the Blackhorse was no longer authorized to wear the black beret and I admit being disappointed about that, but never once did I think the beret made would make us a better soldiers. What made us better soldiers was tough training, sleepless nights, bad ass NCO’s and leadership that settled for nothing less than our very best.

    You can pin a big “S” on your chest, but it doesn’t make you Superman. The Blackhorse gets in your heart because its forged like steel through trial, sweat and hardship not because you get a funny french hat. We didn’t demand respect by what we wore, we earned respect by what we did.

    Now, if esprit de corps is your aim, the beret should be reserved for elite units. I like the fact that the Special Forces and Rangers had there own distinctive berets…hey, they’re 100% badass and that is no lie. I respect them because they earned it. We had Tanker boots, Border Legion Certificates and the honor of serving in one of the Army’s most elite Regiments with a mission that was so critical they put us on the razors edge 24/7 – 365.

    Finally, if I was ever issued a beret and the Blackhorse flash that came with it, you can bet I’d wear it with pride, but it wouldn’t define me or the Blackhorse. If you really want to distinguish us and pay respect to our past, let us wear the original western cavalry hats that our Regiment began with.

  22. Give beret back to Rangers…go back to woodland BDUs…phase out M16 and M4 for HK weapon…Bring 1911a1 back as well…cut up M9 pistols for scrap.

  23. The beret is crap. Wear it with pride? I didn’t do anything to earn it. I’m proud to be a soldier not a chef or a fashion star. If I had earned the right to wear a green or tan beret it would be an entirely different story. When your standing in formation and it’s 100 degrees and the sun is beating down on your face you want something to cover your eyes not a wool heater for your head. Give me my pyle cap anyday over a beret.

  24. (ACTUAL) Combat Medic (Afghanistan)

    The black beret sucks, the PC is practical. The beret is awful mainly because 90% of soldiers that put it on don’t know how to wear it. If it were worn correctly (shaved, formed tight to the head, no wrinkles, appropriate flash placement) it WOULD be a sign of unity and pride but sadly it’s a sign of an unprofessional, untrained, immature generation of “soldiers” that can’t even wear their damn headgear correctly.

  25. AmericanSoldier

    As being a Soldier for @ 25 years, with @ 17 Active Duty thus far…we can save face for the old leaders by keeping black berets for Class A Uniform-type occasion, but otherwise, get rid of the time wasters, and do SOMETHING POSITIVE and practical for our SOLDIERS Now. Shinsheki had a rotten idea, and the man has been history for many years – DUMP the Beret, and let our Special Forces return to their glorious tradition that was taken from them.

  26. Da beret is gone! Yay! 14 JUN 11!

  27. Dad retired from 1SFG at Ft. Lewis. He hated the fact that everyone got the opportunity to wear the beret that was once coveted by those who went through their own form of hell to earn the right to wear it. I’m in general agreement with him. I’m an O3 with 12 years prior enlisted experience in the Navy and can say that going back down to Ft. Lewis, on the occasion that I have to, I see a wide range of how it is worn. There is no standard or enforcement of the proper wear. Heaven forbid I’m there with my dad because I end up hearing a tirade of comments about how sloppy most soliders are in the way it is being worn. I grew up in a military family and can say there has been a decline in the military bearing of most of the services. We’re losing that “hard core” edge that we once had control over and are in the business of making sure we don’t offend anyone. What a shame. This is further exemplified that each time I go on base, the soldiers that are actually manning the gate along with the rent a cops, fail to render any kind of honors to those entering. Are salutes lost as well? (I’m not on a high horse at all, so don’t go down that road, but I’m talking about general military bearing. i.e. removing your cover in the mini-mart, rendering salutes, not walking and texting or talking on cell phones.) Didn’t mean to hijack the discussion and go off topic, but it came to mind. The berets should be left where they were. Change just for the sake of change is not the way things should be.

  28. Everyone has an opinion on the beret…that and $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee at any Denny’s…

  29. The U.S. Marine Corps has the decency and respect for its accomplishments in history to change nothing in its uniforms (except getting rid of division patches and modifying the camo uniform) why can’t the Army? The garrison cover was easy to stow in your belt when wearing your uniform, and hate to break it to everyone who also hates the dress blues, but BLUE was the ORIGINAL color of the U.S. Army uniform until the days before World War 1!!!

    Observe your traditions, be prideful of them…. don’t turn your backs on them.

  30. Not only is it terrible from a practical standpoint (uncomfortable, hot, difficult to wear properly), but it was instituted for a stupid reason: to raise morale by making maligned ‘Big Army’ soldiers with low professional self-esteem feel like bad@$$ commandos by putting a cool, sexy beret on top of their heads. It didn’t work, it was never popular, many soldiers never learned to wear it properly, and it — along with that JROTC-looking baby blue flash (which was actually only supposed to be an interim design until individual units each came up with their own) — has become a symbol of rank-and-file mediocrity in the U.S. Army.

    I remember the day the Army started wearing those things. I was deployed to Kosovo at the time, and our battalion sergeant major held a formation when he read the prepared statement by General Shinseki, and had us don the beret for about three seconds before saying, “Okay, now take those stupid-looking things off.” It was detested from the get-go.

    Too bad it can’t be completely done away with: soldiers will still be forced to wear that abortion with the blue Army Service Uniform. This is unfortunate, as the Army Dress Blue Uniform (upon which the new blue ASU was based) was literally the only good-looking uniform the Army even had (with the exception of the USMA cadet uniforms).

    It’s depressing to think that now, if you’re in the Army and you ever want to wear a uniform that looks good, you have to be assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment in Washington D.C., where the soldiers get to wear the garrison cap and the ceremonial belt (and thus wear something that actually looks like a traditional military uniform instead of something that looks like a boy scout uniform had an illicit three-way affair with a mall cop uniform and a really bad business suit).

    It’s literally like there’s a committee made up of generals and sergeant majors somewhere who are making a conscious decision that the vast majority of soldiers must only ever wear stupid looking, ugly uniforms. Why do the Marine Corps uniforms look so good? For the same reason that the USMA uniforms look good: because they’re CLASSIC. The Marine Corps (or the USMA) never screwed with them to reflect ‘transitions’ into supposedly becoming one new non-existent thing or another. The C.R.S.-afflicted people who make these decisions in the Army will never, ever understand this in a million years.

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