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U.S. Military Beret History

Page 2


Air Force Berets

Wear of berets in the Air Force began in the 1970s. In 1979, the black beret was authorized for wear by enlisted personnel in the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) AFSC (job). In 1984, two airman from Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina submitted a design for the flash and crest design. It was approved for all TACP airman in 1985. Air Liaison Officers (ALOs) are also authorized to wear the black beret after they graduate from the Joint Firepower Control Course, conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Instead of the crest, they wear their rank insignia on the beret.  Air Mobility Liaison Officers (AMLOs) are authorized to wear the black beret in the Air Force, as well.

In addition to the black beret worn by TACP/ALOs/AMLOs, colored berets in the Air Force are worn by Pararescue, Combat Controllers, Security Forces, and Combat Weather.

Present-Day Beret

These days, the United States is on the low end of the spectrum among NATO allies in terms of the variety of berets worn by their military forces.

Turkey, Greece and Luxembourg also authorize only three colors for various segments of their forces, but most countries have four or five. Belgium has seven and the United Kingdom tops the list with nine.

On Oct. 17 2001, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki announced that the black beret would become standard Army headgear the following year. Shinseki said he wants to use the sense of pride that the beret has long represented to the Rangers to foster an attitude of excellence among the entire Army as it moves forward with its sweeping transformation effort to a lighter, more deployable, more agile force.

His decision set off a firestorm in both the active-duty and veteran Ranger community as well as in the Army’s other two special operations camps, the Special Forces and the airborne.

In 2002, the Army made the tan-color beret the official beret of the U.S. Army Rangers, and all Army soldiers began wearing the black beret.

Current Army Berets

  • Black - All soldiers
  • Maroon - Airborne units (Paratroopers)
  • Tan - Ranger Battalions
  • Green - Special Forces units

Current Air Force Berets

  • Black - Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), Air Liaison Officers (ALO), and Air Mobility Liaison Officers (AMLO)
  • Maroon - Pararescue
  • Red (scarlet) - Combat Controllers
  • Royal Blue - Security Forces
  • Grey - Combat Weather

Some of the Above Information Courtesy of the Pacific Stars & Stripes. Special thanks to MSgt Charlie Heidal of www.romad.com and Lt Col Christopher Campbell for information about the Air Force Black Beret.

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