United States military beret flash

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US Army Special Forces Soldiers from seven special forces groups wearing their green berets; the different groups can be identified by the different colors and designs of their beret's flash.
A US Air Force colonel wearing his scarlet beret with metal flash and miniature rank insignia, which is worn by US Air Force Special Tactics Officers and Combat Controllers.

In the United States Army and United States Air Force, a beret flash is a shield-shaped embroidered cloth or metallic insignia attached to a stiffener backing of a military beret. The flash attached to the stiffener is worn over the left eye of the wearer with the excess cloth of the beret folded and pulled over the right ear giving it a distinctive shape.[1][2] The embroidered backgrounds of the US Army beret flashes represent the approved distinctive heraldic colors of the unit to which they are assigned[3] while the US Air Force's represent their Air Force specialty code (AFSC).[2] US Army enlisted and non-commissioned officers attach their unit's distinctive unit insignia on the center of their unit's flash while warrant officers and commissioned officers attach their rank insignia to the center of the flash.[1] US Air Force commissioned officers assigned to AFSC 13LX (Air Liaison Officer)[4] and 31PX (Security Forces) do the same while those assigned to other AFSCs that are authorized to wear metallic flashes attach a miniature version of their rank insignia below their flash on their AFSC specific beret.[2]

History

US Army

US Army Special Forces Soldiers receiving instruction aboard a US Naval ship during a water insertion and demolition exercise in 1956, wearing their green berets where they use their Parachutist Badge in the same manner as one wears today's beret flash.

It is not clear when beret flashes began to be used by the US Army. However, US Army films from 1956 through 1962 suggest beret flashes may have been introduced around 1961,[5][6][7] when the green beret was officially authorized for wear by members of the US Army Special Forces.[8][9]

Beret flashes began to appear with more conventional forces in the 1970s when the US Army's armored cavalry regiments in Germany began wearing black berets with red and white cloth ovals to the left of the wearer's rank insignia.[8][10] By 1979, the US Army put a stop to the use of berets by conventional forces.[8][9]

In 1980 the US Army reversed its decision for airborne units allowing them to wear the maroon beret;[8][9] soon thereafter unit specific beret flashes began to appear.[10] The design of each airborne unit's beret flash was created and/or approved by the US Army Institute of Heraldry[11] and based on the design of the unit's background trimming,[12] which made their debut in World War II.[13]

In late 2000, when the Chief of Staff of the Army decided to make the black beret the standard headgear of the US Army, GEN Eric Shinseki also decided that all units that did not have a distinctive organizational flash will wear a new universal one.[1][11][14] According to Pam Reece of the US Army Institute of Heraldry, "The [US Army] flash is designed to closely replicate the colors of the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army at the time of its victory at Yorktown."[14]

US Air Force

Beret flash of the 1041st SPS
A US Air Force Security Police Airman wearing his beret with small metal flash depicting the patch of his major command, circa 1980
One of two former SOWT beret flashes with the former Combat Weather Team crest

In 1957, the Strategic Air Command's Elite Guard was the first US Air Force unit officially authorized to wear berets. The first beret flash worn on this dark-blue beret was a small metal full-color replicas of the Strategic Air Command patch.[15][16] In 1966/67, the first US Air Force Security Police beret was issued by the 1041st Security Police Squadron (SPS); the 1041st SPS used a depiction of a falcon on a light blue patch as its beret flash until the unit was disbanded in 1968.[17][18] In February 1976, the US Air Force Uniform Board approved the dark-blue beret as an official uniform item for the US Air Force's police and security forces.[17] The beret flash used on these dark-blue berets was a small metal full-color replica of the unit's major command patch until March 1997 when the heraldry of the 1041st SPS was honored by mandating a new universal flash depicting the early SPS falcon over an airfield with the motto "Defensor Fortis" embroidered on a scroll at the base of the flash.[citation needed]

In 1966, the US Air Force authorized the wear of the maroon beret by Pararescuemen. Initial wear of the beret followed the trend of the US Army Special Forces who wore their Parachutist Badge over the wearer's left eye acting as the beret's flash.[19] Historical photographs have shown graduates of the US Air Force Pararescue School wearing the Pararescueman Beret Flash on their newly earned berets in a Fall 1975 class photograph;[20] however, it is unclear when the Pararescueman Beret Flash became an official part of the uniform.

Historical photos of Vietnam Era US Air Force Combat Controllers show them wearing black berets that were worn in the same manner as the Pararescuemen and Special Forces berets of the era, with their Parachutist Badge used as the beret's flash.[21] No other information has yet been found as to when the Combat Controller Beret Flash started to be worn on their scarlet beret or when it became an official part of the uniform.

In 1979, US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Airman were given authorization to wear the black beret. In 1984, two TACP Airman submitted a design for a unique beret flash and crest that would be worn on the beret in the same manner as the US Army.[1][8] The US Air Force approved the design and authorized all TACP Airman to wear the new flash and crest in 1985.[8] Soon thereafter, Air Liaison Officers (ALOs) were also given authorization to wear the black beret and the TACP flash (no crest).[2][8]

Although there is limited information on the US Air Force Special Operations Weather Technician (SOWT) beret flash, historical photographs show the use of two unique cloth flashes that were worn on their distinctive gray beret along with a small metal Combat Weather Team crest.[22][23] Around 2010, the flashes and crest were replaced with a large metal Special Operations Weather Flash similar to the current Pararescueman and Combat Controller flashes.[24]

Beret flashes currently in use

US Army

Airborne units

Special operations airborne units

US Air Force

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Department of the Army Pamphlet 670–1, Uniform and Insignia Guide to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, armypubs.army.mil, dated 25 May 2017, last accessed 4 July 2017
  2. ^ a b c d Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, Department of the Air Force, Air Force e-Publishing, dated 28 May 2015, updated 9 February 2017, last accessed 4 July 2017
  3. ^ US Army / US Army Heraldry / Beret Flash and Background Trimmings, The Institute of Heraldry, last accessed 19 November 2016
  4. ^ AFSC 13LX Air Liaison Officer, Career Field Education and Training Plan, Department of the Air Force, dated 21 May 2013, last accessed 24 November 2016
  5. ^ Special Forces UDT Training at Okinawa & Army Mules ~ 1956 US Army; The Big Picture TV-372, the US Army's "The Big Picture," Pictorial Report No. 29; from Jeff Quitney YouTube Channel, published 3 March 2017, last accessed 19 June 2017
  6. ^ Army Special Forces: "Silent Warriors" US Army 1961; The Big Picture TV-518, the US Army's "The Big Picture;" from Jeff Quitney YouTube Channel, published 22 October 2014; last accessed 19 June 2017
  7. ^ Green Berets: "Special Forces" 1962 US Army; Henry Fonda; The Big Picture TV-547, the US Army's "The Big Picture;" from Jeff Quitney YouTube Channel, published 19 November 2015; last accessed 19 June 2017
  8. ^ a b c d e f g U.S. Military Beret History, The Balance, US Military Careers, by Rod Powers, updated 8 September 2016, last accessed 24 June 2017
  9. ^ a b c "A Short History of the Use of Berets in the U.S. Army". Archived from the original on 24 June 2001. 
  10. ^ a b Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms, by William K. Emerson, University of Oklahoma Press, 1996, last accessed 19 June 2017
  11. ^ a b Army Regulation 670–1, Uniform and Insignia Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, Department of the Army, armypubs.army.mil, dated 25 May 2017, last accessed 4 July 2017
  12. ^ "Beret Flashes and Background Trimmings". The US Army Institute of Heraldry. United States Department of the Army. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  13. ^ Insignia of Airborne Units, U.S. Army, Second World War, Airborne Breast Oval Background Trimmings, American Military Patches, Other Insignia and Decorations of World War Two, by Dr. Howard G. Lanham (hosted on angelfire.com], dated 2001, last accessed 24 June 2017
  14. ^ a b History of the Army Beret, CSA SENDS - THE ARMY BLACK BERET, armyreal.com, last accessed 2 July 2017
  15. ^ Pinckney, Kali, Defensor Fortis: A Brief History of USAF Security And Those Dedicated Few Who Defend The Air Force At The Ground Level, Universal Publishers Press, ISBN 1581125542, ISBN 978-1581125542 (2003), pp. 37–38
  16. ^ Balcer, Ray (Col.), HQ SAC Elite Guard (April 2005)
  17. ^ a b History of the Security Police Beret, by Safeside Association, last accessed 21 January 2010
  18. ^ USAF Security Police Squadrons in Vietnam, usmilitariaforum.com, posted 22 March 2009, last accessed 14 July 2017
  19. ^ Combat Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia, National Museum of the US Air Force, dated 18 May 2015, last accessed 17 July 2017
  20. ^ JUMP MAN, Oldest active-duty Airman jumps from Vietnam era to present day, airman.dodlive.mil, dated 23 December 2013, last accessed 17 July 2017
  21. ^ This Gallery Is To Inform You Of The Most Recent Passing Of Those Within Our Brotherhood, I'm So Sorry!; MKP Air Base Thailand, May 1967, sgtmacsbar.com, last accessed 17 July 2017
  22. ^ Earning the gray beret, Keesler Air Force Base public website, dated 10 June 2008, last accessed 18 July 2017
  23. ^ Christian Shepherd, 18th Weather Squadron Combat Weatherman, flickr.com, taken 7 October 2007, last accessed 18 July 2017
  24. ^ Special Operations Weather Team Recruiting Facebook page, Facebook.com, dated 9 December 2010, last accessed 18 July 2017
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