Three Meter Zone | JD's Bunker | Poetry | Chapel | American Journal
Do You Reckon It's The Hats?
J. D. Pendry
I think that one of the causes of these repeated failures is that our best and greatest men have greatly underestimated the size of this question. They have constantly brought forward small cures for great sores - plasters too small to cover the wound.- Abraham Lincoln
It[the black beret] will be a symbol of unity, a symbol of Army excellence, a symbol of our values. -General Eric Shinseki
General, your logic is flawed. It's not the symbols that produce unity, excellence and values. Instead, it's the demonstration of those things that produce the meaningful symbols. In other words, the black beret did not make the Rangers; the Rangers made the beret. If you place a black beret on to the head of an undisciplined, poorly trained soldier the only thing that will change is the hat.
I've never worn a beret of any kind, but I respect those who do. It's not the hat I admire; it's the professionalism consistently displayed by the units and soldiers who wear them. What produces such high quality individuals and units? Do you reckon it's the hats?
I wore a campaign hat for a while so I can speak about that. Day after day, it was the character, professionalism, and hard work of the men and women that brought respect to that distinctive headgear not the other way around. Just as in the elite units, it was self-discipline, high standards, a sense of duty, and probably a dozen other positive attributes you can think of that produced these individuals. It was demanding training and adherence to high standards that produced these attributes. They didn't fall out of the hat when the Drill Sergeant placed it on his or her head. Nor will they magically fall from a black beret and change an undisciplined or substandard soldier into a good one - or produce unity, excellence and values.
Like Mr. Lincoln said, we have a great sore and this hat is a plaster too small for the wound. We need to address what's real if we want to reinstall some pride, excellence, unity, and wear our values. The first step toward that end is leaders focusing on real issues and not cosmetic ones.
I suppose I could go on with this list, but what's the point. There are many, many pressing problems for the Army's leadership to deal with. I doubt if the solution to any of them is in a hat - unless maybe it's one of those magic ones you pull rabbits from.
© 2000 J. D. Pendry