On Hats

image Thousands of Soldiers finally got their wish.  The Army dumped the beret and went back to the good ole’ patrol cap (Read the Army Times article).

The most frequent complaints about the beret were:

1. It takes two hands to put on.

2. It does not shade the eyes from the sun.

3. It’s hot.

So, now that we have the patrol cap back, these problems should be solved…right?  To test this, I recently took some time after morning physical training to conduct an un-scientific experiment.  I grabbed a coffee and sat down on a bench outside the post gym.  For 30 minutes I surveyed the Soldiers emerging from the gym to determine how well the implementation of the patrol cap was going.  Here is what I found.

In 30 minutes, 34 Soldiers emerged from the gym.  Of those, 8 had already donned their patrol cap before they entered my line of sight.  Of the remaining 26, 22 (84%) used two hands to don their patrol cap.  The rest only used one, or were airborne Soldiers who wore red berets.

Of the 34 Soldiers, 27 (79%) donned sunglasses in addition to the patrol cap.  I suspect the rest probably had their sunglasses in their car.  From driving around post, I’d say 90% of Soldiers outside are wearing sunglasses.

It seems the patrol cap isn’t that much easier to don than the beret; most Soldiers require two hands to do it.  Furthermore, although the patrol cap does shade the eyes, it appears that sunglasses are still required.  Perhaps the Soldiers who complained about the shade problem neglected to consider the movement of the Earth around the Sun, and thus the continually changing angle of sun-to-face.

As to the third point about the beret being hot; I did not measure the cranial temperatures of any of the Soldiers at the gym.  However, I know I really don’t notice a difference between the amount I sweat now and the amount I used to sweat under the supposedly oppressive beret.  Perhaps the third point requires more research.

Obviously, I am being a bit facetious, but I have my reasons.  The hubbub over the patrol cap/beret is a fitting symbol for a larger problem.  Now that the war(s) are winding down, there are a lot of folks who want to get back to the way the Army used to be.  The reasoning goes like this:  “There are a lot of things we used to do in the Army that fell by the wayside when these wars started.  We need to get back to doing those things.”

My question is: If what we were doing was so unimportant that we dumped the minute war broke out, why in the hell would be bring it back?  Whatever it was obviously wasn’t worthwhile enough to keep doing.

The patrol cap is only a visible metaphor for an Army teetering on a severe regression back to the 1990s.  I’ve been in long enough to remember those years – they are not worth reliving.

Will the Army regress or move forward?  Only time will tell, but one thing is clear – we’ll do it wearing our new (old) patrol caps.

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  1. Bradley
    February 4, 2012 at 12:39 am

    If you like the beret so much, you can wear it. Those of us who work in motor pools or on heavy equipment hate it. It’s got nothing to do with two hands, or one hand, as sometimes it still requires two hands to put a Patrol Cap on. however, if needed, it can be thrown on by using one hand quickly enough to not drop whatever is in the soldiers second hand.

    I read a couple of your articles. It seems to me you gripe and complain more than the people you write about in the articles on various subjects about how the army should or shouldn’t change. You are obviously getting old, and change in the military seems to revert into one of those “back in my day” stories all to often.

    • February 6, 2012 at 10:32 am


      I’d encourage you to re-read my article. I really don’t care what hat we wear – the larger point I was trying to make (which you missed) is that we have many, many problems in the Army – yet we are focusing a lot of energy on small problems (like hats).

      As to the second paragraph of your comment, I’m really not sure what you are getting at. You claim that I “gripe and complain” about how the Army “should or shoudn’t” change. Which, according to you, leads to the conclusion that I am old.

      I’m sorry, but I’m not sure how to respond. Perhaps you could be a bit clearer in what you are trying to say.


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