WASHINGTON — The US Army is abandoning the beret, after a failed 10-year experiment.
The black beret, which proved deeply unpopular with American soldiers, will be replaced by a patrol cap for everyday wear, US Army spokesman Colonel Tom Collins said Monday.
The move came after outgoing Army chief of staff, General Martin Dempsey, asked the army’s sergeant major “to go out and talk to soldiers across the force and see what was on their minds,” Collins told AFP.
“One of the things that soldiers consistently brought up was the desire to wear the patrol cap as part of their duty uniform,” he said.
The beret will still be part of the Army’s dress uniform, but will no longer be worn in the field as soldiers complained that it was impractical, he said.
“It does not have a visor and doesn’t shield the sun, doesn’t absorb sweat well,” Collins said.
One soldier put it more bluntly.
“I hate wearing a wet sock on my head,” Chief Warrant Officer Mark Vino, at Fort Vino in Washington state, told the Army Times. “Plus it makes head/skin break out.”
Before 2001, the black beret was associated with the elite Rangers special operations forces. Many Rangers resented the idea that the hat they had earned the right to wear had been assigned to the entire force.
The uniform change applies to 1.32 million soldiers — including 566,473 active duty troops — and goes into effect immediately. The new headwear comes with a lower price: a beret costs $11.90 while a patrol cap is only $6.50.
The decision does not affect units that have long worn berets as a mark of distinction, including the Rangers’ black beret, Army special forces’ green beret and Airborne’s maroon version.
As part of the change, soldiers will have the option of having their name tags, rank and badges sewn on to their uniforms.
There also will be a new look for Army soldiers working at the Defense Department’s headquarters at the Pentagon, with camouflage to be replaced with the more business-like dress uniform, Collins said.
“For soldiers serving in the Pentagon, we will transition to the dress uniform,” starting in July, he said.
In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, all the armed services started wearing combat uniforms in the Pentagon, to underscore the country’s war-footing.
But Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year had his staff drop the combat uniforms, and some other offices in the Pentagon have returned to the dress uniform.