Army to replace black berets as standard headgear

Soldiers wearing the black beret. / FILE

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Black berets may soon be harder to spot on troops at Fort Jackson and all Army soldiers.

Army Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey announced in a release that the patrol cap will replace the black wool beret as the default headgear for the Army combat uniform.

The Army says the changes were made based on a survey of opinions from soldiers in the field."These are changes that the field said they wanted to see," said Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. "The Soldiers didn't like the fact that the beret was hot -- it was not something that they wore the majority of the time," Chandler said. "And they didn't like the fact it didn't shade the sun and it took two hands to put on. And they didn't like to carry two pieces of headgear to do different functions during the day."

Chandler said he spoke with "several thousand" soldiers and also received comments through social media sites.

South Carolina Army National Guard Col. Pete Brooks says the change comes just in time to help soldiers deal with the heat. Brooks says the brimmed patrol cap is easier to put on and wards off the sun. The change is part of a wide range of changes being made to Army uniforms.The beret has been the standard headgear for the Army's combat uniform -- the camouflage uniform worn by most soldiers, but many soldiers were already wearing the patrol cap for much of their field work -- requiring many soldiers to carry two hats on a daily basis.

Despite the switch, the beret won't disappear altogether. Berets will remain as the standard for the Army service uniform.

Another change to the combat uniform will allow soldiers to sew on rank insignia, the name tape, the service tape along with certain other patches. Currently Velcro is used to attach all patches to the uniform.

A top Army general ordered the switch to berets 10 years ago to help boost morale. But it irritated elite units who were given green or maroon berets as badges of honor.

Army leaders say the change is taking effect Tuesday, which also happens to be the service's 236th birthday.

Are you in the Army? What is your opinion on the beret to patrol cap switch? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)