Army Ends Black Beret Requirement for Most Soldiers

VIDEO: Patrol cap becomes official headgear for the Armys combat uniform.
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Complaining is as common as saluting in the U.S. Army, but over the past decade the piece of soldiering that received the most carping was the uniform's black beret.

The beret, made of wool, is itchy, requires two hands to put on properly, and literally stinks in the summer heat, soldiers claim.

The Army finally told the soldiers to be at ease over the beret this week, decreeing that it no longer a uniform requirement and will be replaced by a patrol cap. Although the beret will still be worn with the formal dress uniform, it is no longer required to be worn with the camouflaged uniform that is used on a daily basis by troops.

The change came about in response to a survey of soldiers' opinions taken by Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, said Army spokesman Gary Tallman.

"The beret, from a functional standpoint, provides no protection," said Tallman. "There's no protection from the sunlight or heat. If you're doing maintenance, working in a motor pool or servicing trucks, a patrol cap is much more functional gear to wear. It lasts longer."

Facebook groups like "Please… Get rid of the Black Beret in the US Army" are filled with posts dissing the black beret.

Typical was a post by Mark Ponce who wrote, "We should get rid of beret. It is a lousy piece of headgear and it smells bad in the summer." Ponce did not identify his rank or unit.

It was 10 years ago today that the Army implemented the black beret as an official piece of the uniform across all units. With this decision, some soldiers expressed the sentiment that the beret should have remained an entity only used by members of Special Forces, symbolizing the elite status of the unit.

On the same Facebook group, Kevin Gramlin wrote last week that he supported the nixing of the beret requirement.

"The ENTIRE Army getting the beret was stupid from the start. And it angered those of us in other branches of service that EARNED our beret's. Now any Tom, Dick, or Sally sitting behind a desk gets to wear one," he wrote.

Gramlin's post suggests he is or was a member of Special Forces, but he did not provide any further information.

Sgt. Eric Hendrix, the public affairs spokesman for the Army's Special Operation Command said that this is not a sentiment everyone shares.

"Special Forces, all airborne troops and Army Rangers have worn their respective berets for a very long time. In allowing all of the army to wear [the beret] … it was nice that everyone got to wear it at one point," he said, adding that this rule change will not affect Special Forces.

Along with the black beret no longer part of the camouflage uniform, it was also announced that instead of using Velcro, soldiers will be permitted to sew on various badges.

No official date of implementation has been released.

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