Ranger Dr. William Anton, Commander of H/75 Ranger in the Vietnam War

Dear Congressman Bartlett:

I am writing to you concerning the issue of the current Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA), General Shinseki, and his decision to "give" the "Black Beret" to ALL members of the United States Army effective 21 June 2001. This "cheapens" the Black Beret.

I am a retired United States Army Officer, and I have had the privilege and distinction to wear the Black Beret currently worn by United States Army Rangers, The Green Beret, worn by United States Army Special Forces Soldiers, and the Maroon Beret, worn by all United States Army Paratroopers. I served in two (2) Ranger Units, and I was the Commander of Company H (Airborne), 75th Infantry (Ranger), 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Vietnam. Our Ranger unit proudly wore the Black Beret.

I laud the ARMY CSA and his efforts to improve the morale of the soldiers and Officers in the Army. However, his decision is not well thought-out. He is taking away something, the Black Beret of the United States Army Rangers, which these soldiers and Officers have "earned" as a mark of distinction.

I think that since you sit on the house Military Appropriations Committee, you well understand that the Rangers, Special Forces, and Airborne units are the "first to fight" in ANY war and that these units comprise the elite of our nations fighting forces. To take away this "symbol" and "emblem" will destroy the great pride, morale and elan which these Rangers have fought to earn, and in many instances, die for.

General Shinseki is applying a coat of paint on wood that is rotten. General Shinseki should concentrate on building up the morale in many other areas. I am sure that you are aware of the vast numbers of junior and middle-grade Officers leaving the Army in alarming numbers. The problem is, as evidenced by numerous Army surveys, particularly those at the United States Command and General Staff College, is the erosion of military pay and benefits (which are about 40 plus-percent below those of comparable civilian occupations), and the "micro-management" of senior army leaders over their Officers and soldiers. To compound these problems, the 75th Ranger Regiment was not even asked to give their opinion of the matter prior to the decision being made, and they are currently forbidden to voice any opinion concerning this issue, either through official military channels or in a public forum. That is why this is left to us "old Rangers" to voice our dissent. Certainly, the Army as a whole, less the "elite" forces, can choose a different color - yes?

I applaud your efforts to assist retirees in recouping a COLA adjustment that passed Congress due to your introducing legislation to this effect several years ago. I am proud to say that this was in reply to my voicing my opinion to you concerning this matter. I am most proud of you and your leadership in giving to the military "Healthcare for Life" as was promised us in the past, and with your valiant efforts, made a reality.

I urge you to contact your House and Senate colleagues to prevent this travesty of justice.

Worst case, when we elect George W. Bush, he can sign a Presidential Executive Order giving the Black Beret to "only" United States Army Rangers. President Kennedy did this for the United States Army Special Forces for the Green Beret.

I remain one of your staunchest supporters and will certainly again vigorously campaign for your re-election.


William T. Anton