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Posted: 3/16/2001 11:34:54 AM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) - No retreat. The Army says it will not back off from its decision to make black berets the standard headgear for soldiers, though it might postpone the June target date.
The timing concerns a fuss over buying berets from China.
When he announced last October that all soldiers except paratroopers and Special Forces soldiers would wear black berets - traditionally the exclusive headgear of the elite Rangers - Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki said the change would take effect on the Army's birthday, June 14.
That set a deadline, however, for acquiring 2.6 million berets that the Defense Logistics Agency said it could meet only by contracting with foreign manufacturers. When word got out that China was among those suppliers it created a problem on Capitol Hill.
At a joint Pentagon (news - web sites) news conference on Friday, Shinseki and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz left open the possibility that the date could be moved if deemed appropriate to give the business to U.S. hat makers. They did not say how much delay might be necessary.
Wolfowitz said the entire matter is under review.
In the meantime, the Army settled one source of controversy - the fact that Rangers objected to Shinseki taking away their exclusive right to wear the black beret. The Rangers see it as a badge of honor that would be cheapened by making it a standard for the entire Army.
Shinseki said he had accepted a Ranger offer to switch from black to tan berets - enabling them to keep an exclusive color. In any event, he said his original decision to put the rest of the Army in black berets will not be changed.
``The Army is going to change,'' he said. ``Change, as all of us know, is difficult.''
Col. P.K. Keen, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., announced Thursday that the Rangers support Shinseki's decision as ``another step forward'' in transforming the Army.
``The Ranger tan beret will represent for the Ranger of the 21st century what the black beret represented - a unit that leads the way in our conventional and special operations forces,'' Keen said.
The change doesn't sit well with some veterans, however. David Nielsen, a former Ranger who walked 700 miles from Fort Benning to Washington to protest the beret issue, said in an interview Friday that he is deeply disappointed that the Rangers will no longer have their exclusive black berets.
``It's a shame,'' he said, adding that he believed Keen ``did what he thought was the right thing.''
``Fifty years of Ranger tradition is gone,'' Nielsen said.
For years, the black beret has been the exclusive headgear of the Rangers, a small force with a glory-covered history. Currently, only three Army units are authorized to wear berets: Airborne units wear maroon berets, Special Forces wear green (and are known famously as the Green Berets) and Rangers wear black. The airborne units and the Green Berets will keep their exclusive colors.
The Rangers were the first soldiers to scale the cliffs at Normandy's Omaha Beach on D-Day. They parachuted into Panama in 1989 and went to Somalia in 1992-93. During that mission, 18 Americans - including six Rangers - were killed in a failed attempt to capture a Somali warlord.
Under Shinseki's order, all soldiers - other than those authorized to wear green, maroon or tan berets - will wear the black berets with dress or ca
I find it hard to believe that we could not produce the berets here, not that they should be at all. Way to crap on your force morale.
I agree. It is one thing to take away the rangers exclusive rights to wear the black beret is a shame but to let the enemy of the U.S. (Communist China) make them is a double shame. Not to mention the quality issue or the slave labor.
Shinseki is a f*cking moron! We need less a-hole, ring-knocking, perfumed princes like him and more people with KATN attitudes like Hackworth cleaning house in the Pentagon. I'm VERY disappointed that Bush hasn't told him to hit the road. [:(!]
Sorry...better idea. What the army needs is a new Marine Commandant! [+]:D]
Ah, this drags up memories from the past. When I was stationed at Ft. Campbell, the beret issue came up, apparently someone wanted to issue the Air Assault Division steel grey berets, what a fu
well look at it like this .... at least the s*hitheads didnt change them to UN blue !!!!
The Army must have major recruitment problems. Giving pretty little black hats to everyone is just a gimmick. What a joke. If I were a Ranger, I'd be pissed too.
"didnt change them to UN blue !!!!"
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