A former Army Ranger is planning a 750-mile trek with full pack and gear to protest Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki’s recent decision to allow all soldiers to begin wearing black berets in June.
Dave Scott, 42, a craftsman who spent four years in the Army, is currently training in sub-zero temperatures in Montana, where he lives. He said he plans to walk three 10-mile legs daily — beginning in Ft. Benning, Ga., home to the Army’s infantry schools — until he reaches Washington, D.C.
The trip, he said, is expected to take about a month. He is tentatively scheduled to begin his journey Sunday, Jan. 21.
According to a report in the Fayetteville (North Carolina) Observer, Scott hopes the publicity will force military officials in the Pentagon to reconsider Shinseki’s decision to allow all soldiers to wear the Rangers’ coveted black beret.
Other services also wear specially-designated berets — airborne soldiers wear maroon berets, and Special Forces troops wear green — but Shinseki’s decision affects only the black ones worn by Rangers.
Like other special units, Rangers value their beret as a sign of accomplishment, involving more difficult training and more specialized warfighting skill.
“The only possession that I have in my life that I value materially is that beret,” Scott told the Observer.
Since Shinseki’s Oct. 18 decision, soldiers, officers and others have groused about allowing regular troops to wear the beret. Those who currently wear one say they are entitled to because they “earned it.”
One high-profile critic of Shinseki’s decision is Gen. Charles C. Krulak, the revered former commandant of the United States Marine Corps, who thinks the Army chief of staff’s decision was confusing.
“I really don’t know why Eric did that. He’s a good man, but I think this is one where he probably made a call that he is going to end up regretting — and probably retracting,” Krulak said in an interview with WND talk host and reporter Geoff Metcalf in October.
“One of my dear friends spent three tours in Vietnam with Special Forces and, when he read that on the front page of the Washington Post, it was to him the ultimate slap in the face. I mean, that would be like our Marine War Memorial, taking one of those Marines off of that statue,” Krulak said.
But Shinseki has defended his decision, saying it was based on the need to boost the Army’s sagging morale, which has been steadily eroding throughout the Clinton administration.
Critics of Shinseki’s decision say changing uniform requirements will do little to improve morale. Rather, they point to endless deployments, little family time, low pay and general disrespect as factors most responsible for low morale.
As for Scott, he said he doesn’t take issue with Shinseki for making the decision, but instead is critical of the decision itself.
If able to address the four-star general personally, Scott told the Observer, he would simply say, “Sir, people make mistakes.”