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Soldiers call for Army to drop berets

By ASHLEY ROWLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 19, 2009

SEOUL — They’re hot, sweaty and do nothing to keep the sun out of your eyes during a long formation.

Those are just a few of the reasons the Army should stop making soldiers wear wool berets outdoors, a group of delegates said Friday at the 8th Army’s annual Army Family Action Plan conference.

"Everyone is affected by the beret," said Sgt. Brad Stuckey, spokesman for a group that studied family-support issues. "This is an issue that your average soldier feels very strongly about."

The group recommended that soldiers be required to wear lighter, cotton-nylon blend patrol caps instead. They block the sun, absorb sweat and are somewhat water resistant, Stuckey said.

Soldiers had a list of complaints about the black beret. Among them:

  • It doesn’t match the Army Combat Uniform, which has no black in its pattern.
  • It has to be shaved, washed and dried on a lampshade or hat stand to hold its shape.
  • It can cost nearly twice as much as a patrol cap, and there’s no standard way to wear it.

"You have seven people wearing it seven different ways," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jon Butler.

He said people have complained about the beret since it became part of the uniform in 2001.

"It’s been brought up a lot, but it’s consistently shot down," he said. "If it’s an issue enough to keep being brought up, then there’s definitely something behind it."

8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Fil said at the end of the conference that all of the ideas presented were good ones.

"We’re going to have to think about the one on the beret," he said. "That’s a hard sell."


Army Family Action Plan recommendations

  • Paying for high school juniors and seniors and a guardian to make one trip to the United States to visit colleges.

  • Standardizing requirements for a Department of Defense Education Activity high school diploma, so students transferring from stateside or international schools are able to graduate on time.

  • Awarding promotion points to soldiers who receive the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.

  • Establishing a dental liaison for Tricare at each overseas installation.

  • Expanding the number of slots for pre-kindergarteners in the U.S. Forces Korea Sure Start Program.

The recommendations will be evaluated by 8th Army, and some will be forwarded for review at the Army-wide level.