Thursday, April 30, 2009

"A sign of our Greatness...?"

This article comes from Stars and Stripes, by Ashley Rowland, with my comments in italics pasted in, in pink.

Soldiers Call for Army to Drop Berets


April 18, 2009

Stars and Stripes|by Ashley Rowland

They’re hot, sweaty and do nothing to keep the sun out of your eyes during a long formation. Quite the opposite: a good beret insulates the head and absorbs sweat. Many army berets though are not made of 100% (merino) wool and often have a synthetic lining which keeps the head warm. A true Basque beret can easily be pulled forward to keep the sun out of your eyes, but unfortunately, US Army berets are so small (in diameter) that you can't do this (compare this to the French Chasseurs Alpin!). Also, army berets have a synthetic, vinyl  –sometimes leather- drawstring, which makes the forehead more sweaty (compared to a no-headband wool rim.

Those are just a few of the reasons the Army should stop making soldiers wear wool berets outdoors, a group of delegates said Friday at the 8th Army’s annual Army Family Action Plan conference.

"Everyone is affected by the beret," said Sgt. Brad Stuckey, spokesman for a group that studied family-support issues. "This is an issue that your average soldier feels very strongly about."

The group recommended that soldiers be required to wear lighter, cotton-nylon blend patrol caps instead. They block the sun, absorb sweat and are somewhat water resistant, Stuckey said. Nylon does block the sun, like wool, but does not absorb any moisture. Most Spanish and French berets are Teflon treated and waterproof (impermeable).

Soldiers had a list of complaints about the black beret. Among them:

*It doesn’t match the Army Combat Uniform, which has no black in its pattern.

*It has to be shaved, washed and dried on a lampshade or hat stand to hold its shape.

*It can cost nearly twice as much as a patrol cap, and there’s no standard way to wear it.

"You have seven people wearing it seven different ways," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jon Butler.

He said people have complained about the beret since it became part of the uniform in 2001.

"It’s been brought up a lot, but it’s consistently shot down," he said. "If it’s an issue enough to keep being brought up, then there’s definitely something behind it."

8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Fil said at the end of the conference that all of the ideas presented were good ones.

"We’re going to have to think about the one on the beret," he said. "That’s a hard sell."

 Originally published January 8, 2009 at 4:10 PM | Page modified January 11, 2009 at 5:22 AM

Why is this such an issue in the army, or in the US Army, for that matter? Most grievances, like colour and regulations on how to wear the beret, can be easily addressed, but possibly there are other motives as well. Mr Rod Powers mentions in his article on Berets in the US Military: "In 1951, the Marine Corps experimented with green and blue berets, but dismissed them because they looked too “foreign” and “feminine.”

It is amazing how serious this matter is taken by grown up people with guns. Have a look at: for some fine debating. A bit of Googling on 'beret' and 'US Army' shows how many manuals have been issued on the issue. But, there is hope, as Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki said: 'The Beret is a sign of our Greatness!'.


  1. Way back during Vietnam, my unit was authorized to wear berets with the unit logo. It was optional and most of the guys elected to stick with the boonie hat or the baseball cap. the general attitude was "We don't want to look like a bunch of French painters."

  2. "...looks too 'foreign' or 'feminine'...". - therein lies the crux of the issue. How can a soldier look macho when he looks like a poofter Frenchie? Xenophobia and homophobia drive so much of society.