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
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
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
Veteran of C Co 3/75 Ranger