Soldiers who hate the black beret won the day, but those who think the entire Army should adopt the MultiCam pattern uniform that troops wear in Afghanistan won’t get their way.
Introduced in 2000 and made a formal part of the Army’s uniforms in 2001, the beret was controversial from the start. When Stars and Stripes reported a week ago that it was (mostly) going away, the story became one of the most popular and most commented on at stripes.com for days afterward.
“The basic thing was, ‘Hey, we don’t want to wear the beret,’” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, who examined soldiers’ attitudes and made the recommendation to replace the beret with the patrol cap for wear with the Army Combat Uniform. “I think that was almost universal in communication to me.”
Chandler talked Monday on a conference call with reporters and bloggers who cover the military. Among other uniform changes he cited that are in the works or being considered:
• Re-examination of the Army Combat Uniform, which was introduced in 2005. Beyond allowing soldiers to sew on some insignia rather than Velcro or pin it on, the Army is considering wholesale changes.
“We’re not going to adopt the MultiCam for the entire Army [as many soldiers wanted],” Chandler said, “but we’re instead considering many different new camouflage options.”
• Possible changes to the Army’s Improved Physical Fitness Uniform, including changing the lining that comes sewn into the black PT shorts.
“We ought to take a look at the entire physical fitness uniform itself,” Chandler said. “There have been some changes in [the] industry that we may be able to provide something at a lesser cost that’s better for our soldiers.”
There are no plans to change the Army Service Uniform, which was introduced in 2008, Chandler said, although he said the Army is still “entertaining” suggestions. However, soldiers at the Pentagon will likely begin wearing a variant of the service uniform in October – most likely the Class B version, which means a short-sleeve shirt in the summer and long-sleeve shirt with tie in the winter.
And, of course, the beret.
Which led naturally to the question: If so many soldiers disdained the beret for so long, why did it take the Army a decade to make the change?
“We’ve been at war for almost 10 years now,” Chandler said. “We’ve had a lot bigger issues to worry about than a piece of headgear on someone’s head.”