Two officers from 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), one wearing a maroon beret and the other a rifle-green beret, participate in change of command ceremony, 2017

The United States Army has used military berets as headgear with various uniforms beginning in World War II. Since June 14, 2001, a black beret is worn by all U.S. Army troops unless the soldier is approved to wear a different distinctive beret. A maroon beret has been adopted as official headdress by the Airborne forces, a tan beret by the 75th Ranger Regiment, a brown beret by the Security Force Assistance Brigades, and a green beret by the Special Forces.

In 2011, the Army replaced the black wool beret with the patrol cap as the default headgear for the Army Combat Uniform.[1][2][3]

In 2019, the Army proposed the creation of a new grey beret for USASOC soldiers qualified in psychological operations (PSYOP), but has yet to receive its official approval. In the meantime, grey berets are only issued to Army Junior ROTC cadets.[4]


An arctic–qualified infantryman with 1st Bn, 60th Inf. RGT, 172nd Inf. BDE wearing olive-drab beret, c. 1970s

In the United States military, the beret was unofficially worn by a variety of special operations units during and following World War II. In the spring of 1951, the 10th and 11th Ranger Companies wore black berets during their training at Camp Carson, Colorado, before their deployment to Japan.

After the Vietnam War, morale in the U.S. Army waned. In response, from 1973 through 1979, the Department of the Army authorized local commanders to encourage morale-enhancing uniform distinctions. Consequently, many units embraced various colored berets, for example various armor and ranger units adopted the black beret. Similarly, many other units embraced various colored berets in an attempt to improve dwindling morale. In particular, the 1st Cavalry Division assigned various colored berets to its three-pronged TRICAP approach. In this implementation, armored cavalry, airmobile infantry, air cavalry, division artillery, and division support units all wore different colored berets, including black, light–blue, kelly–green, and red.[5][6][7]

Various Army branch–specific berets were also worn by some soldiers in the 1970s which were dyed to match the heraldic colors of their branch.[5][6] Enlisted soldiers attached their regimental distinctive insignia while officers attached their polished metal rank insignia on these branch-specific berets positioned over the left eye.[5][6][7] By 1979, the Army put a stop to the use of berets by conventional forces, leaving only special forces and ranger units the authority to wear berets.[5][6][7]


Main article: Black beret

The black beret was worn by various reconnaissance, ranger, and armored units in the 1960s and 70s. Today, the black beret is worn by regular soldiers of the U.S. Army.[5][7][8][6]

In 1975, the black beret was officially authorized for wear by the newly created battalions of United States Army Rangers who had worn it unofficially during the Vietnam War.[9] Also in 1975, a unique black beret was authorized for wear by female soldiers but was of a different design than the one worn by male soldiers.[10][11][12]

In 2001, the black beret became the primary headgear for both the service uniform (in garrison setting) and dress uniform for all United States Army troops unless the soldier is approved to wear a different distinctive beret.[5][13][14] In 2011, the Army changed back to the patrol cap for primary wear with the utility uniform, with the beret remaining the headgear for the dress uniform.[15]

A US Army infantryman with the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, Reconnaissance Platoon wearing black beret with platoon beret flash, 1970[7]
US Army Ranger School Class 11-71 commander wearing black beret with his Ranger Tab and rank insignia, 1971[16]
A U.S. Army NCO with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment wearing black beret with Armored Cavalry Oval, DUI, and rank insignia, c. 1970s[7]
A US Army Medical Corps officer wearing black female beret with Officer Cap Device, c. 1975[10]
An infantryman with 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Brigade, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry wearing black beret, 1976[17]
An armor officer with the US Army Armor School wearing black beret with Armor School Instructor Flash and rank insignia, 1976[7]
A soldier from 2nd Infantry Division, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment wearing black beret, c. 2001


A soldier from the 1st SFAB wearing a brown beret, 2018

The brown beret was created in 2018 for soldiers of the U.S. Army's then-new Security Force Assistance Command and its brigades or SFABs.[18] Soldiers assigned to the command and its brigades are authorized to wear the brown beret—with a brigade specific beret flash and distinctive unit insignia (DUI)—to recognize these new specialized units whose core mission is to conduct training, advising, assisting, enabling, and accompanying operations with allied and partner nations. According to an official U.S. Army article, "SFAB soldiers will be on the ground with their partners - fighting side-by-side with them in all conditions, so the brown beret symbolizes dirt or mud akin to the 'muddy boots' moniker given to leaders who are always out with the troops."[19]


Main article: Maroon beret

Then CPT Dan McKinney—a Sơn Tây raider—with the US Army Infantry School's Airborne Department wearing maroon beret, c. 1973
Then 1LT Alexander Woody with 1st Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at a ceremony for the U.S. Army's birthday, 2012

In 1943 General Frederick Browning, commander of the British First Airborne Corps, granted the U.S. Army's 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion honorary membership in the British Parachute Regiment and authorized them to wear British-style maroon berets.[20][21] During the Vietnam War, U.S. military advisers to Vietnamese airborne units often wore the Vietnamese French-style red beret.

With the Department of the Army policy in 1973 permitting local commanders to encourage morale-enhancing distinctions, airborne forces began to wear the maroon beret as their mark of distinction.[5][6][7][8][22] This permission was rescinded in 1979 when the army Chief of Staff, General Edward C. Meyer, required all units to adhere to the uniform regulation.[5][6][7][22] On 28 November 1980, updated uniform regulations authorized airborne (parachute) units to resume wearing the maroon beret.[5][6][22] In the interim, airborne units wore the Hot Weather Cap (olive-drab hats resembling a baseball cap) with their parachutist badge and airborne background trimming affixed above their rank insignia with the combat uniform and the Airborne Insignia on the garrison cap with the service dress uniform.


Main article: Tan beret

SPC James Smith from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment wearing black beret with original beret flash—note the white border around the flash—c. 1993
COL Richard Clarke from 75th Ranger Regiment wearing tan beret with new beret flash—note the black border around the flash—c. 2007

On 14 June 2001, U.S. Army Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade were authorized to wear a distinctive tan beret to replace the black berets that had recently become the army-wide standard. The color was chosen by the members of the 75th Ranger Regiment as being similar to other elite units with similar missions worldwide, notably the British, Australian and New Zealand Special Air Service regiments.

The change in color also required modification of the associated beret flashes worn by the Ranger units, changing the borders from white to black in order to provide better contrast to the lighter beret.


A special forces detachment from 8231st Army Unit, U.S. Army Japan prepare for a combat dive operation near Okinawa, Japan in 1956, wearing their green berets prior to their approved wear in 1961. c. 1956
Former JFK Special Warfare Center and School Command Chief Warrant Officer wearing his green beret, c. 2018

Main article: Green beret

In the United States Army, the green beret may be worn only by soldiers who have graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course, signifying, along with the Special Forces Tab, they are Special Forces qualified paratroopers.

The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) (10th SFG) had many veterans of World War II and Korea in its ranks when it was formed in 1952. Members of the 10th SFG began to unofficially wear a variety of berets while training, some favoring the red or maroon airborne beret, the black beret, or the British Commando green beret. In 1953, a beret whose design was based on that of the Canadian Army pattern, and which was rifle-green in color, was chosen for wear by Special Forces units.[5]

Their new headgear was first worn at a retirement parade at Fort Bragg on 12 June 1955 for Lt. Gen. Joseph P. Cleland, the now-former commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Onlookers thought that the commandos were a foreign delegation from NATO.[5][23]

In 1956 Gen. Paul D. Adams, the post commander at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, banned its wear, even though it was worn on the sly when units were in the field or deployed overseas. This was reversed on 25 September 1961 by Department of the Army Message 578636, which designated the green beret as the exclusive headgear of the Army Special Forces.[5]

When visiting the Special Forces at Fort Bragg on 12 October 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to make sure that the men under his command wore green berets for the visit. Later that day, Kennedy sent a memorandum that included the line: "I am sure that the green beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead".[24] By America's entry into the Vietnam War, the green beret had become a symbol of excellence throughout the U.S. Army. On 11 April 1962 in a White House memorandum to the United States Army, President Kennedy reiterated his view: "The green beret is a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom".[24] Previously, both Yarborough and Edson Raff had petitioned the Pentagon to allow wearing of the green beret, to no avail.[24]

See also


  1. ^ Lopez, C. Todd (June 15, 2011). "ACU Changes Make Velcro Optional, Patrol Cap Default headgear". U.S. Army. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
  2. ^ Pierce-Lunderman, Cursha (June 23, 2011). "Bye-Bye, Beret: Switch to Patrol Cap Brings Mixed Feelings". U.S. Army. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
  3. ^ Shaughnessy, Larry (June 14, 2011). "Army Backtracks on Black Berets After More than a Decade of Debate". CNN. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
  4. ^ "The Army is Thinking About Giving SOF PSYOP Soldiers a Distinctive New Beret". 10 November 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l A Short History of the Use of Berets in the U.S. Army, via WebArchive, dated 03 November 2000, last accessed 26 March 2019
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h The Beret in U.S. Military Uniform History, The Balance Careers, by Rod Powers, updated 27 June 2019, last accessed 14 September 2019
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i US Army berets - blue, black, green, maroon, tan..., The US Militaria Forum, last accessed 16 October 2020
  8. ^ a b History of the Army Beret, CSA SENDS - THE ARMY BLACK BERET,, last accessed 12 February 2020
  9. ^ History of the Black Beret, Army Study Guide, by SMA Jack L. Tilley, last accessed 23 December 2020
  10. ^ a b Class A Service and Dress From Uniforms From 1970's-2000; US Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History; last modified 2 July 2009, last accessed 20 May 2020
  11. ^ AR 670–1 1981 (OBSOLETE):Wear and appearance of Army uniforms and insignia, Department of the Army via Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library, dated 1 November 1981, last accessed 21 November 2020
  12. ^ Appendix–D, Women's Army Corps Uniforms 1942–1978, University of Göttingen, last accessed 12 May 2019
  13. ^ Youngest Beret, 1st Battalion, 23rdInfantry Regiment, Fort Lewis's 23rd Infantry Regiment official homepage, last updated 15 July 2002, last accessed 29 December 2020
  14. ^ Defense Leaders Uphold Army's Black Beret Decision (Corrected Copy), American Forces Press Service, by Linda D. Kozaryn, dated 16 March 2001, last accessed 20 November 2021
  15. ^ "Army dumps beret as official ACU headgear". Archived from the original on 2014-02-20.
  16. ^ Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade (ARTB), Graduates, 1971, Class 11-1971,, dated 1971, last accessed 13 June 2020
  17. ^ Fort Hood, TX - 1976 - when I was in the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry (Mechanized Infantry) in the First Cavalry Division. A great looking uniform with the black beret - the 1/12 had lots of unit citations too., US Army photograph hosted on Facebook, curtesy of Quentin Robinson, dated 1976, posted 11 November 2015, last accessed 15 January 2022
  18. ^ "It's official: Army unveils brown beret, new patch for military advisers, SFAB". 8 February 2018.
  19. ^ 1st SFAB hosts activation ceremony; Heraldry announced,, dated 8 February 2018, last accessed 2 March 2018
  20. ^ 509th PIB Red Beret, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, America's First Combat Paratroopers, History of the 509th PIB in WWII (1941 - 1945) Archived 2022-03-31 at the Wayback Machine, 509th Parachute Infantry Association, dated 2006, last accessed 19 October 2021
  21. ^ Earning it: A complete history of Army berets and who's allowed to wear them, ArmyTimes, by Meghann Myers, dated 19 November 2017, last accessed 19 October 2021
  22. ^ a b c All American Legacy Podcast Ep 25 - The French Hat, 82nd Airborne Division Official YouTube Channel, dated 26 June 2017, last accessed 25 April 2022
  23. ^ P.32, "Inside the Green Berets" by Charles Simpson III
  24. ^ a b c LeFavor, Paul (2013). US Army Special Forces Small Unit Tactics Handbook. Blacksmith Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-9895513-0-4.