FORT SILL soldiers don new berets

Friday, August 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) _ Soldiers at Fort Sill's 17th Field Artillery Brigade are sporting new headgear as the Army transforms itself into a 21st century force.

With a simple three-word command, ``Don your beret,'' brigade commander Col. Sid Oaksmith presided over the change Wednesday at Rowe Field.

Oaksmith provided a history lesson about the new black berets with their distinctive blue flash as he addressed the battalion's ranks of soldiers who stood hatless in the morning sun.

British armored units were the first to don the black beret, Oaksmith said. He said the headgear was the essence of practicality _ brimless so as not to interfere with armored vehicle fire control sights and black to ``hide the grease stains.''

Oaksmith said the beret was adopted as a morale-enhancing distinction approved by local commanders between 1973 and 1979. Army Rangers were officially authorized to wear the black beret in 1975. But by order of the Army chief of staff, the black beret went by the wayside for the rest of the Army in 1979.

The flash emblazoned on the front of the beret features a blue background with 13 white stars superimposed on the inside of its outer border.

``The flash is designed to closely replicate the colors carried by the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army at the time of this army's victory at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War,'' Oaksmith said.

He said the beret ``stands for excellence, unity, values, agility, deployability and adaptability.''

``Second, you have a flash representative of a battle that marked the start of the greatest transformation this world has seen _ the birth of our great nation,'' he said.

``You and I are the real transformation,'' Oaksmith said. ``We are the Army of One, molded as a team with the training and invincible spirit that have always marked this nation's fighting forces.

``We are the objective force and we are the ones that will do the work that will transform this Army,'' Oaksmith said.