On October 17, 2000, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Eric Shinseki, stated in a speech to the AUSA National Convention in Washington, D.C.:
"It is time for the entire Army to accept the challenge of excellence that has so long been a hallmark of our special operations and airborne units. As another step towards achieving the capabilities of the objective force, effective 14 June 2001, the first Army birthday of the new millennium, the Army will don its new headgear. The black beret will become the Army standard. Special operations and airborne units will retain their distinctive berets. But starting next June, the black beret will be symbolic of our commitment to transform this magnificent Army into a new force -- a strategically responsive force for the 21st century."
The Black Beret has been worn exclusively by Army Rangers and has become a powerful symbol of excellence earned only though extreme effort under adverse conditions. General Shinseki's directive was quickly followed with an order that all active duty Rangers serving throughout the United States Army were to remain silent on this issue.
In general, Rangers support your vision of transforming our Army. The entire Army should be more lethal, with increased mobility and ease of deployability. We don't enjoy seeing soldiers who are discouraged due to inadequate housing, outdated equipment and no funding for training. These are definitely areas where there is room for improvement and we applaud your efforts in that regard.
However, it is our view that giving soldiers a symbol which has served as a mark of distinction for others to aspire to, will merely cheapen the symbol. It will not solve the soldier's problems of inadequate housing, need for better equipment, or increased funding for training. These are issues which merit additional consideration, beyond changing what the average soldier regards as headgear, and that which we regard as a powerful symbol of excellence to be earned.
We ask you to reconsider your decision and look towards other measures which would provide useful solutions to these problems.
Everyone realizes the importance of symbols. The symbols of acheivement which are hard earned serve as incentive to encourage others towards excellence. That's the significance of the Black Beret, actually, any Beret worn in the US Army today. This is an attempt to devalue an important and effective symbol. When everyone has it, it won't mean anything.
General Shinseki's staff has the following opinion, taken directly from their public relations talking points:
"Over the years, the Army has made other uniform changes that required some period of adjustment for soldiers and supporters. In the early '80s we went from a solid green uniform to the camouflage Battle Dress Uniform; we adopted a black pullover sweater and then changed to a button-sweater with buttons; Army raincoats have changed; we did away with the Khaki uniform. This aspect of the Army's Transformation is similar."
Have members of General Shinseki's staff advised him that the Black Beret holds as little meaning to Rangers as a button-sweater or a raincoat could to others?
We have undertaken this effort to retain the Black Beret exclusively for Rangers. We need to retain this powerful symbol for Rangers of the future because they deserve to earn it in the same time-honored tradition that Ranger veterans have earned it. action to be Of course, these young men will join the Rangers to be their best and lead our nation into battle, not to wear a hat that may or may not be in style.
More importantly, we also need to retain the Black Beret to honor Rangers who have gone before us and paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their comrades and our nation's interests. A debt is owed. You are urged to join the fight.
Other units in the Army, which are not Ranger units, already have their own powerful symbols of achievement and recognize that there is no need for this decision to be implemented. After all, who would feel comfortable being given that which other soldiers have earned only with great difficulty?
One thing is certain: Rangers must stand united to deliver a clear message. We greatly appreciate all of our Airborne, Special Forces Brothers who have decided to make the stand with us. The rate of fire must be high, focused, and sustained at a high level.
In order to accomplish this, please use the information on this website as a tool to assist you in directing your messages to the correct destinations. We are here to Inform the veterans and the taxpayer. The American people who are not aware of what the Black Beret symbolizes to Rangers need to be educated. We are requesting the support of all Ranger, Airborne and Special Forces soldier to assist the public in becoming educated on the importance of this important issue. The professionalism and well-being or our entire Army depends upon it.