To beret, or not to beret


Every so often, it seems, the Marines-wear-beret rumor rears its head. Usually it’s when leathernecks get the chance to question or schmooze with senior brass. Back before the Army in 2001 standardized the beret for all soldiers, every so often some bold and usually gung-ho junior Marine would ask or suggest the wear of berets. No commandant or uniform board approved such an idea, however.

Battle Rattle recalls a day back in the mid-‘90s, when a young Marine joined others greeting then-commandant Gen. Chuck Krulak on a ship’s mess decks asked the four-star general why Recon Marines couldn’t wear the black beret, so they could stand out as being, well, elite, he argued. The general quickly dismissed the question, although Battle Rattle wonders whether that Marine’s staff NCOs were less forgiving.

Even with the Army’s still-controversial adoption of the beret as universal head wear, Marines and the beret remain an ongoing curiosity. Sometimes, the question surfaces in the most unlikely place, at the oddest time. Most recently, it arose in the most unlikely crowd: Soldiers in South Korea.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates talks to soldiers during a short talk and question-and-answer session July 20 at Camp Casey, South Korea.//DoD/Cherie Cullen

Defense Secretary Robert Gates talks to soldiers during a short talk and question-and-answer session July 20 at Camp Casey, South Korea.//DoD/Cherie Cullen

Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to South Korea, where he would visit the Demilitarized Zone, meet with South Korea defense leaders and announce new U.S.-Republic of Korea “show of force” exercises designed to remind North Korea of repercussions for its March torpedoing of the ROK ship Cheonan. The sinking is the latest act by the North to heighten already rocky tension in the Far East.

Suffice it to say, the Pentagon chief had a full plate of heavy issues, but on his July 20 arrival he took some time to take a few questions from soldiers at Camp Casey, an Army garrison in Seoul. A couple of soldiers – all wearing the black berets authorized by the Army – asked about the Defense Department’s ongoing plans to extend Korea tours to three-year for married service members. One soldier asked about the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. But then came an out-of-the-ballpark question.

“Is there any revelation about our Marines going to patrol caps or berets?” a soldier asked, hinting that “counterparts would like to ask.”

The question surely was unexpected. “First I’ve heard of it,” Gates responded, laughing. “They don’t tell me these things.”

Just what fueled the question isn’t clear. Was it wild speculation or scuttlebutt that’s bouncing around the joint commands and camps in South Korea or perhaps some secret covert plan underway on the peninsula?

Battle Rattle asked a manpower and reserve affairs spokeswoman in Quantico, Va., who chuckled at the notion but said she hadn’t heard of any policy change. Bill Johnson-Miles, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokesman, said the command likewise hadn’t heard and hadn’t gotten any recommendations about berets “to even consider adopting them.”


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  1. Berets? Heck no. Marines are Elite no matter what MOS or Special Forces. I take great offence from anyone wanting Marines to wear a Beret, even if your a Marine. Lets go to the tree line and have a talk. I have been out since 2007 and I miss putting on my BDUs. The 8 pointed cover just fits and feel great. Berets are for girls. I am not talking about Marines chicks. Remember in Boot Camp when your Drill Instructors would talk to you about the name Marine. When you have earned the title first. When you call your self Marine. How do you feel? Its your name with a kick to the jaw. Army, Navy and Air Force. Does not sound right nor fits. Sould like you belong to something. Like a club. Then when you add in the Corps. Marine Corps, its family. Oorah!!!!

  2. Not many (maybe no) Marines want to wear a beret. Our eight point cover with the eagle, globe, and anchor is quite distinct. The non-issue of this blog post isn’t worth much discussion.

  3. Let’s be realistic. The beret may be cool, but it’s pretty useless for anything except stuffing it in your pocket.

    Today’s utility cover has been worn by Marines since 1943. It has history, it is distinctively ours and it looks darn good when worn properly. It’s also easy to clean in the field and the bill keeps sun and rain out of your eyes. Berets are european. If the army wants to wear them, fine, but let us keep our covers. Heck, maybe it’s time to give them a special name, instead of just “utility cover”, or “mechanic’s cap”, from what they evolved.

  4. Don’t do it, guys. It’s the most useless, P.O.S. headgear known to man. Or, if you REALLY, REALLY want berets, you can have ours. We don’t want them.

  5. Why? Why would any self respecting Marine even concider doing something the army does? We have something that helps us stand out as an elite force, the title. No matter where you go, we are known by that EGA that we put on everything we own. The 8-point cover is the only thing I want to wear in garrison.

  6. Berets are for the French and the Army, and the French Army. No self-respecting United States Marine would ever touch one.

    What’s next? Unit patches?

  7. Marines, I’m with you on not adopting berets, but I got to say some of you sound really defensive. Anytime you have to put down the other branches of service in order to make yourself feel important it makes you sound weak. Let your fighting speak for you as it has since day one.

  8. Marines need to stick with what works.
    We have an age-old formula for success that has been proven time and again.
    The Army is constantly tweaking their methods because they still don’t have it right.

  9. Our cover is actually an engineers cap. It works great as a utility cover, which is what it is. Berets look formal and are not practical when used as a utility cover. Let’s let our other branches keep what they like and we’ll keep our traditional cover.

    Semper Fi,
    Sgt Shanteler ’85-’95

  10. Our uniform has allways remained clean and funtional, no specialty patches except war II, no branch insignia ie armor, infantry, etc. It needs to remain so, berets did not make solders better they only offended the Rangers who up till that time wore a black beret. We need to let the army do what they do they have to have something to recruit, we have the name Marine…

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