- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

Army documents show service leaders methodically planned how to sell the idea of issuing berets to all soldiers but failed to anticipate the ongoing firestorm of protest from special operations warriors.
The Army predicted soldiers would accept the change "in stride." In reality, commandos have barraged the Army and unit leaders with complaints.
The internal documents reveal a plan to "establish" stories in USA Today and other newspapers on the correctness of discarding a folding green cap in favor of black berets at a cost of $12 million.
Special operations and airborne the only soldiers currently authorized to wear berets are up in arms. They are exchanging scores of e-mails criticizing Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, who announced last month that the new beret policy will start on June 14, the Army's birthday.
Army Rangers particularly are upset because their distinctive black berets will now be standard issue for everyone from clerk to infantryman.
But the Army briefings prepared before Gen. Shinseki's announcement did not foresee the firestorm.
"High level assessment say Rangers will take decision in stride and choose to switch to 'Darby Ranger' beret or maintain the black beret," say the documents, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Times.
Opposition to universal berets became so intense that one commander at Fort Bragg, N.C., ordered soldiers to stop using official e-mail addresses to vent their anger and to stop talking to the press.
Lt. Col. Russ Oaks, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said that despite the opposition, the service still plans to adopt the new cap policy.
Asked if the Army was aware of the unhappiness, he said, "I think you can concede there's some discussion along those lines."
Col. Oaks said Gen. Shinseki has explained to troops he wants the beret to symbolize a more agile, lethal Army force now in the planning stages.
"The beret has a history in the U.S. Army, and the units that have traditionally worn the beret have been the adaptable flexible units and [it] epitomizes everything we see the objective force to be," he said.
The documents show the Army instantly began selling the beret policy once Gen. Shinseki made the announcement. "Establish article with Army Times and national publications (e.g. USA Today)," the briefing says. "Hire marketing firm to ensure professional dramatic results and deliver message to potential recruits."
The briefing papers say Rangers will have the option of keeping the black beret or switching to the historic 'Darby Rangers' cap worn in World War II.
Wayne Lawley, president of the Special Forces Association, a group of 7,000 current and former Army Green Berets, wrote to Gen. Shinseki on Oct. 29 asking him to delay the wearing date.
"Since announcement of the beret decision on black Tuesday, 17 October 2000, our message traffic [unanimously opposed to the change] has increased tenfold," Mr. Lawley wrote.
"The Army-wide beret decision may appear to be icily logical to some; however, we view the decision as disrespectful to our brothers in battle, the Rangers and to Special Forces soldiers," he said. "The green beret, sanctified by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, is treated as sacred in our ranks. It is given as a reward for excellence in training and accomplishment in battle. The beret is coveted by many and worn proudly by only a few. On behalf of the Special Forces soldier and his heritage, we respectfully request that you belay this decision."
Army Special Forces wear the green beret; Rangers, the black; and airborne troops, the maroon.
The universal black beret will replace the battle dress uniform cap.
The documents show the Army began studying the new beret in June and Gen. Shinseki approved it three months later.
"They knew about this for months before they ever announced it," said Jimmy Dean, Special Forces association secretary. "It's going to hurt the Army before they know it."
To try to keep each category of beret distinctive, the Army is creating patches, or "flashes," signifying different branches.
The documents show a variety of different flashes from which to choose. Army personnel at the Pentagon would have their own insignia, using the Army colors of black and gold.
Other flash options "are adopted from our national emblem based on the crest on the colors of the 1st Regiment, United States Army circa 1790s."

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