When the economy finally improves and the Army has difficulty recruiting new soldiers, will it turn to more uniform changes to lure prospective recruits? How bad will things get? Will the US Army eventually dress it’s generals up like South American dictators or North Korean generals next? Or is it’s plan to fill the Army with female soldiers (note the word female is going to be banned from use with the Army after the year 2014) in a hope to offset any future trouble finding young men willing to volunteer after the economy gets better?
In my opinion the disintegration of the Army dress uniform began in 2001 with the change to the black beret for all soldiers.
Personally, I’m a fan of the green beret as it was the WW2 movies about the Airborne Divisions jumping behind enemy lines into Normandy and Arnhem and the exploits of the “Green Berets” in Vietnam that attracted me to join the US Army, since my family had all been in the US Marine Corps or the US Navy.
It wasn’t so long ago, Special Forces soldiers were mocked for wearing a girl’s hat as most of the Army brass felt berets were too European for American soldiers to wear.
Ironically, anyone who’s served in an SF unit knows the green beret is rarely worn and mainly for formal occasions or change of command ceremonies. Most Special Forces NCOs and officers wear a patrol cap or “ball” cap, even in garrison and occasionally wear civilian clothes, even on post.
While the fame of the ‘Green Berets’ heroic accomplishments in guerilla warfare in the jungles of Vietnam might have left it’s mark on the public, Special Forces never quite fit into the regular Army’s vision of big tank battles against Soviet forces invading Europe until recently during the war against terrorism, so the Army’s elite, going back to World War 2, has always been the Army Rangers and it was none other than the black beret the Rangers have used since the Vietnam era that began the musical chairs of uniform changes for the Army during the end of the Clinton era until today.
First we had the hairbrained idea from non-other than General Shinseki, appointed by President Clinton, about switching Army headgear to black berets because he said “all soldiers are elite” and the armor “tankers” wore the black beret before the Rangers back during World War 2 (neglecting to mention it was British tankers that wore the black beret not American armored personnel)
All of this ironic given Gen. Shinseki had completed the Ranger course himself but never served in a Ranger Battalion or Regiment.
Army backtracks on black berets after more than a decade of debate
By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
June 14, 2011 12:41 p.m.
The Army’s black beret is being replaced with the patrol cap
“Sanity has prevailed,” says one soldier
Some soldiers say the beret is hot, hard to adjust and takes two hands to put on
Washington (CNN) — Ten years ago this week, under orders from Gen. Eric Shinseki, then Army Chief of Staff, the black beret became standard gear in the U.S. Army. It was the start of a pitched battle within the Army that would soon find itself fighting two hot wars.
Once again, General Shinseki, now retired is back in the news.
From World War 1 to Vietnam soldiers wore the “garrison cap” which was folded into the belt when not being worn.
Even General Eisenhower wore the garrison cap with and without his “Ike” jacket.
Because of the heat, most soldiers in the Pacific theater wore tan uniforms and those in the European theater wore green.
The other option was the service hat also known as the “wheel” or “bus drivers” hat that some soldiers found too cumbersome to carry inside buildings.
The service cap or the garrison cap were worn until the black beret was directed for wear by General Shinseki in 2000.
During the difficult recruiting times of the late 1990s when the economy was good and few were enlisting, the larger sized Army was competing with the smaller sized Marine Corps for the same recruits and the Marines were doing a better job marketing, recruiting and kept their recruitment numbers above 100% while the Army hovered around 95-99% of it’s quotas until the economy went bad in 2008.
General Shinseki wanted to boost the flagging morale of the army with a new hat – the beret, arguing all soldiers are elite, so everyone in the Army should wear a black beret like the Army Rangers wore but the Army Rangers opted to switch from the black beret to a tan beret to distinguish themselves from the regular soldiers in the Army, rather than conform to General Shinseki’s idea.
The tan beret the Army rangers have adopted after 2000 looks awful when worn with the new ASU
On the green class A uniform the Ranger and Special Forces tabs, which denote that soldier has successfully completed the Ranger or Special Forces courses, are sewn on the left sleeve.
An airborne tab merely means a soldier is assigned to a unit that is on “jump” status and parachutes from planes or reflects a airborne heritage going back to World War 2 like the 101st Airborne division which hasn’t been on jump status since Vietnam but the Army wanted to retain the unit’s history.
(The 101st Pathfinders was the only unit in the division that remained on jump status until this year)
The Special Forces and Ranger tabs cannot be worn on the ASU so they have been replaced by metal badges worn on the pocket which looks incredibly stupid. In my opinion it’s not worth wearing the metal ranger and special forces badges at all on the ASU. It presents a cluttered appearance. Less is more when it comes to looking sharp in a suit.
The new ASU looks like shit and it’s an embarrassment to the Army, like the black beret issued to all soldiers 10 years ago or the ACU camouflage uniform issued for wear in Iraq and Afghanistan and the woodland pattern body armor issued for wear in Iraq with the DCU during the invasion of Iraq.
Previously only Special Forces (green berets) or Rangers or Paratroopers were authorized to wear berets with the green Class A dress uniform and they wore “jump boots” as well. Unlike the ASU the “dress blues” required a blue service cap for all soldiers regardless of unit or rank.
(US Air Force pararescue and combat controllers as well as security airman “MPs” also wear berets)
The class A “greens” will no longer be authorized for wear after 2014 and replaced by the blue ASU which looks awful with the maroon beret of the paratroopers.
During the Vietnam era until 1985 a tan long sleeve shirt was worn underneath the Class A green uniform or a short sleeve shirt for hot climate locations like Hawaii or South Vietnam.
The Green beret looks especially bad when worn with the new ASU.
During the Vietnam era into the 1980s the uniform worn hadn’t changed much since World War 2
The Army claimed it was returning to it’s civil war roots by choosing a blue uniform but the civil war uniform featured stripes that wrapped around the entire sleeve or covered most of the lower portion of the sleeve whereas the new ASU uses the Class A service stripes and overseas bars which are much smaller.
Along with changes to the camouflage uniform the Army couldn’t keep it’s hands off the dress uniform and money that could have been spent on more important things has been spent keeping up with the Joneses otherwise known as the US Marine Corps.
The United States Marine Corps who don’t wear any berets and haven’t changed their uniforms since before World War 2, beyond the female hat controversy, have their own dress blues, which are very popular.
The Marine’s have often featured their dress blues in their commercials, recruiting posters and during parades to inspire young men to enlist into the Marine Corps and their dress blues have had a lasting influence on the public’s perception of the “tough” “lean and mean” men that make up the Marine Corps as well as the confidence, strength and masculinity that supposed to come from having served in the USMC.
The Army merely switched the former Class A service uniform to the color blue, moved around some patches and badges then ditched the green Class As and dumped the previously well respected “dress blues” reducing Army dress uniforms from 2 to 1, like it’s ridiculous idea that the Army only needed 1 camouflage uniform – the ACU claiming it was a universal pattern that would work in any environment. Meanwhile the other services, especially the US Navy retain several dress uniforms for wear.
Each service stripe on Navy and Marine uniforms represents 4 years of service in the military.
The army service stripes on the “dress blues”, only worn by enlisted personnel with 3 or more years of service, have been replaced by the small “ticks” on the new ASU in the green class A style.
While the other services retained their original large sized service stripes for their enlisted soldiers on their dress blues for Marines and whites or black or tan for sailors (olive for Aviation personnel in the Navy)
Overseas bars are a tradition going back to World War 1 and represent time served overseas during wartime.
Originally located on the left sleeve during World War 1 and 2, they were relocated to the right sleeve, except on the “dress blues”. They are also on the right sleeve of the ASU.
In the past the Marine Corps was substantially smaller than the Army, during World War 2 into the cold war but by the time of the Iraq invasion that was no longer true.
Nevertheless, the Marines have maintained that their high standards, smaller force structure and their idea that “every Marine is a rifleman 1st” including cooks and clerks have instilled in the public at large the belief that the Marine Corps is an elite fighting force. In fact Marine infantryman receive only 2 more weeks training than a standard Army infantryman, primarily for familiarity with waterborne operations, swimming and extended marksmanship training. But their promotion of the individual Marine has impacted the public’s perception of who the “few and the proud are” while the Army kept it’s focus on equipment, like tanks, helicopters, artillery, new trucks and high tech radios as well as mottos like “Be all you can be” “Army of One” and “Army Strong” which has diminished the reputation of the individual soldier, especially compared to the World War Two era.
The US Army has promoted that it’s edge against our enemies is not the individual soldier but it’s investment in high technology. Even back during Vietnam era, the Army maintained that the Viet Cong guerillas and the North Vietnamese Army were no match for airmobile warfare that the new helicopter represented. This same concept permeates the US Air Force with it’s F-22 stealth fighter and the US Navy with it’s DDG 1000 destroyer, the Navy Seals which make up 1% of the USN notwithstanding.
The Marines still have a dress “green” uniform for wear but after 2014 the Army will no longer use it’s dress green uniform. One thing I’ve noticed is a fit soldier in a tailored uniform looks much better than an overweight soldier in an unaltered uniform.
The previous army dress blues were limited to wear for funerals, weddings, balls or special occasions while the greens were worn for less ceremonial occasions that required a more formal appearance than the “camouflage” uniforms worn in the field.
The new uniform has taken on a crowded appearance with the new metal badge on the lower right pocket replacing the cloth “combat patch” previously worn on the right shoulder as well as the drill sergeant badge right next to it. It’s one step from third world dictator look.
The “combat patch” officially known as a the former wartime service insignia has been relocated to the right chest below the right pocket and is a metal badge instead of a cloth patch as worn on the green Class A uniform like it was during World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, Greneda, Panama and Desert Storm.
The “combat patch” is also worn on the field aka “camouflage” uniform and has been a tradition going back to World War 1. None of the other services wear it, except Air Force personnel assigned to Army units.
In the past I wanted to wear everything I was awarded, earned or issued but an experience in the summer of 2000 at Fort Drum New York at the 10th Mountain Division Lightfighter school changed my mind, after I noticed the First Sergeant who ran the school did not wear his ranger tab, his jump wings or any of his authorized badges or patches and merely “ranger rolled” his patrol cap and walked with military bearing everywhere. That was when I began to think, the clothes don’t make the man.
Additionally, I’m so offended by the new changes to the Army dress uniform that I have chosen not to wear the new combat badge, as Army regulations do not require the wear of badges, ribbons or patches on dress or field uniforms only the correct placement if a service member chooses to wear them and even on my ACU I often wear nothing but what’s required; US flag, unit of assignment patch, name and branch tapes.
Additionally, I can proudly boast that since 1999, I have only worn the black beret once for 5 minutes during a uniform inspection.
Unfortunately the class A uniform switched to a lime green shirt worn underneath the coat in 1986 but it looked better than the ASU otherwise and the dress blues look better than the ASU.