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No Chinese Berets for Army, Fielding Phased Through Fall

By Gary Sheftick
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2001 – Some soldiers will don black berets by June 14, but others will receive the Army's new headgear in phases into November, service officials announced May 2.

They said the delay in fielding berets is due to three companies defaulting on deliveries and a policy decision not to issue berets made in China.

"The Army chief of staff has determined that U.S. troops shall not wear berets made in China or berets made with Chinese content," said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in a statement May 1. "Therefore, I direct the Army and the Defense Logistics Agency to take appropriate action to recall previously distributed berets and dispose of the stock."

An order for about 618,000 black berets had been contracted to a British firm, Kangol Limited, which subcontracted production to a factory in China. About half those berets have already been delivered, but most have not yet been issued to soldiers, officials said. Those berets will be recalled and sold as surplus through the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, according to a DLA spokesperson.

In addition, three contracts have been canceled with U.S. companies that had beret factories in Romania, South Africa and India. "Quality was one of the issues," said a DLA spokesperson of the terminations April 30. She added that the three companies had not met their delivery schedule.

Originally, 4.8 million berets were contracted to seven different companies for a total cost of $29.6 million, according to DLA. The three remaining companies producing berets for the Army are Bancroft Cap Co. of Cabot, Ark., Dorothea Knitting in Canada, and C.W. Headdress, a British company with a factory in Sri Lanka.

The Army's goal is still to issue as many berets as possible by June 14, according to Lt. Col. Paul Hilton, coordinator of the fielding plan in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. Priority fielding will go to large stateside installations with deployable units, the Recruiting Command, the National Capital Region and a number of Army Reserve and National Guard units, he said.

"It's going to all three components at the same time," Hilton said. "The chief is adamant about that."

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki announced in October that soldiers would begin wearing black berets on the Army's birthday, June 14, as a symbol of the Army's transformation to a lighter, more- deployable force.

Soldiers in Ranger units, who have traditionally worn the black berets, will switch to tan berets. Soldiers in airborne units will continue to wear maroon berets and Special Forces will continue to wear green berets, officials said.

For the projected beret fielding schedule and other details, see the Army News Service's May 2 story at www.dtic.mil/armylink/news/May2001/a20010502beretfielding.html. [link no longer available]

(Gary Sheftick works in the Pentagon at the Army News Service.)

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