From SGM(Ret.)William Bowles, Veteran of Special Forces

October 21, 2000

Dear General Shinseki,

I am writing in regard to your decision to make the black beret the headgear for the United States Army.

News articles quote you as saying it is to boost troop morale, and to reduce the amount of officers and senior noncommissioned officers leaving the service early.

To be just given an item cheapens it, and it will come to mean no more than the old service hat or cap. When you earn something, be it money, medals, or distinctive headgear then it becomes something special.

To try and boost morale and esprit DE corps by mandating wearing of a beret, reminds me of the ancient Romans when needing to boost morale would order another gladiator into the pits. It reminds one of the black boots of Hitler's Gestapo. Those procedures failed and so will this one.

In my military opinion it looks like a gimmick, actually more like a failure. A failure in military leadership to understand what is truly needed for morale to reach its traditional high status. Gimmicks will not work in warfare, wrong choices will result in needless deaths, failure in leadership will result in unacceptable losses.

Regardless of what the politicians say, I know, and the active duty soldiers know what the problems are and that is a long list. For sure, it starts at the top, a failure of leadership. Officers at all levels more concerned with getting their ticket punched and being politically correct rather than learning their military skills and training their troops on the skills they will need on distant battlefields; on building unit esprit DE corps and unit morale.

The Airborne units, the Rangers, and Special Forces have earned their berets and paid for them in blood on battlefields around the world.

I respectfully request you reconsider mandating the black beret as the standard headgear, it serves no purpose.


William Bowles