Army dumping berets for combat uniform

June 14, 2011 at 1:46 PM
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ARLINGTON, Va., June 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army says it is dumping generic berets and bringing back patrol caps as the official top of the Army Combat Uniform.

The headgear change is one of several key uniform changes described by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler to the Army Times. Chandler is the top non-commissioned officer in the Army.

Chandler told the Times the changes were inspired by "thousands of soldiers" in post-deployment surveys, social media and discussions with troops during post visits.

The beret became standard headgear June 14, 2001, when Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki said the change was to show "our excellence as soldiers, our unity as a force and our values as an institution."

But during the past decade soldiers have complained about the beret, the Times said. It takes both hands to put on, can't be carried in a pocket and unlike the patrol cap -- which has ventilated sun protection -- the beret isn't even included on the list for deployment packing.

The Times said most troops in Chandler's surveys didn't oppose wearing the beret with the more formal service uniform, but were adamant that it not be part of the ACU.

An informal survey by the Army Times last May asked soldiers how they felt about the beret. More than 300 soldiers of all ranks said, "Dump it."

Chandler took his survey findings to Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and the two men gave their recommendations to Army Secretary John McHugh, who killed the ACU beret.

The Times said existing beret colors will remain, and units who have historically worn the beret -- Rangers, Special Forces and Airborne -- will wear the beret as standard headgear.

Commanders of other units also will keep the option to order the wearing of the beret with ACUs as they see fit -- for example, during a change-of-command ceremony -- Chandler told the Times.

The Army Times said it would reveal more changes in its next issue.

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