From Ranger Brian Duff, 3/75 Veteran

October 23, 2000

I have received many emails from fellow Rangers regarding the issue of black berets to the army as a whole. All of the emails I have received are written in a state of shock, disgust, amazement, and rage. Rangers still can't believe that this is actually happening. Many have asked me, in all sincerity, if it was some kind of sick joke.

I have been informed that regular army soldiers are already giving the active duty Rangers a hard time about the issue. They are rubbing their newly purchased berets in the face of the Rangers, in anticipation of the day when they too may don a black beret. A great point was brought to my attention. It had to do with the new members of the Ranger Regiment, and their black berets.

When I enlisted in the army, my whole driving motivation was receiving my black beret at the end of the Ranger Indoctrination Program. When I was at my lowest, and my instructors were destroying us with endless smoke sessions I always kept that beret in my mind. When my body gave out, my mind drove me forward, it drove me towards the black beret, and my scroll.

Well over one hundred newly graduated airborne students had orders to attend my RIP class. Many of those dropped the first night. When our 3 weeks was all said and done, we graduated 21 new and proud Rangers. The 21 of us had EARNED the right to wear the black beret.

Out of 16 soldiers in my basic training class who attended RIP, I was the only one to EARN my beret. The rest quit the program and were shuttled out to the regular army. Why should they now, after quitting the program, be allowed to wear the black beret that I EARNED?

What will the RIP cadre do now when a soldier, fresh from airborne school, shows up in a beret? Initially the beret was something to strive for. Later it became a symbol of my, and my fellow Rangers hard work and suffering. It was a symbol that I wore with pride. It was a symbol that I feel separated me from other soldiers. It was a symbol of the Ranger Creed. A Creed that I lived and breathed.

I feel that non Ranger soldiers on the whole are outstanding men and women. I feel that many soldiers, if they were to put forth the effort and desire could EARN the right to wear a black beret, and be a Ranger. However, the majority of soldiers do not want to make the sacrifice, nor effort, to EARN the right to wear the black beret.

They chose not to wear a beret when they failed to volunteer, or quit after volunteering, for the Rangers. Rangers, on the other hand, chose volunteer to live an uncertain and often grueling life. We chose to put our bodies and minds through hell on earth. We chose to endure what only other Rangers know we have and can endure. We EARNED our berets.

The proposal by General Shinseki is made by a person who evidently does not understand the sacrifice made by Rangers, past, present, and future. He is looking for the easy way out. If he were to ask any Ranger they would tell him that there isn't an easy way out, there never is.

A Ranger would tell him that the only easy way out is to quit. Quitting is exactly what General Shinseki is doing. The General is quitting on his most combat ready, and effective unit. He is quitting on the efforts and sacrifices made by all of us Rangers. He is quitting on the memory of all those Rangers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice without question.

Corporal Smith of Bco, 1st Platoon, 3d Ranger Battalion, was killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, in early October of 1993. Regrettably, I only had the honor of meeting Corporal Smith a few times. Upon being assigned to Bco, First Sergeant Harris, who was killed in 1995 during a jump accident, assigned me to Corporal Smiths old platoon, 1st platoon.

I never failed to stop by at least once a day while we were in garrison and say a quiet hello to Corporal Smith, who's picture hung on our platoon wall. He was, and is and inspiration to me. Many times I thought about him giving his young life, and what he gave it for.

What did it all mean? I realized that Corporal Smith didn't give his life for the current presidential administration that turned its back on him and his fellow Rangers in their time of need. He didn't give it to feed the hungry of Somalia. He didn't give it defending his country.

He gave his life living up to the Ranger Creed. He gave his life protecting his buddies as he, and countless others before, and after him, have been trained to do. Corporal Smith EARNED his black beret and he died upholding the code which it represents.

Not a day goes by that I don't glance up at my beret, and say a prayer for the men who died upholding the virtues it represents. Now General Shinseki wants to take all that away. He wants to give it to the army as a whole. He wants to give it to an army who has no clue, or respect, for what the black beret means.

It disgusts me. This decision has brought out a passion and anger in me that I have not known for quite a while. I find it difficult to comprehend that General Shinseki, with the level of training in planning he has received, would be so nearsighted as to not see what harm he is doing.

I served as a grunt in a Ranger rifle platoon. As such, I was never privy to the planning of the big picture when it came to military operations. I was focused on my buddies, and my small objective. I find it hard to believe that General Shinseki has not realized that his plan has the ability to destroy the internal workings, and heritage, of one of the top units in the army today.

Rangers suffer casualties, it is part of the job. If this policy comes to pass all Rangers will be casualties. The casualties that will result from the implementation of this policy are casualties which are unnecessary. The casualties that will result from General Shinsekis policy are casualties caused by friendly fire.

The casualties caused by this policy, no matter what future reversals to General Shinsekis policy may happen, will always bear the scars of his friendly fire. The scars will be long and deep, and will bear witness to a decision made in haste and with lack of due respect. Berets are EARNED, not issued!


Brian Duff
Veteran of C Co 3/75 Ranger