United States military beret flash
In the United States (US) armed forces, a beret flash is a shield-shaped embroidered cloth or metallic insignia that is usually attached to a stiffener backing of a military beret. Today, the attached flash 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. The embroidered designs of the US Army beret flashes represent the approved distinctive heraldic colors of the unit to which they are assigned while the US Air Force's represent their Air Force specialty code (AFSC) or their assignment to a special unit, such as Combat Aviation Advisor (CAA) squadrons. Joint beret flashes, such as the Multinational Force and Observers and United Nations Peacekeeping flashes, are worn by all of the US armed forces on unique berets while assigned to a specific multinational mission.
With the exception of Joint beret flashes, US Army soldiers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) attach their unit's distinctive unit insignia (DUI) to the center of their beret's flash while warrant officers and commissioned officers attach their rank insignia. US Air Force commissioned officers who are in the Air Liaison Officer (ALO) carrier field (AFSC 13LX), Security Forces carrier field (AFSC 31PX), assigned as Air Mobility Liaison Officers (AMLO), or assigned to CAA squadrons do the same while commissioned officers assigned to AFSCs authorized metallic flashes attach a miniature version of their rank insignia centered below their flash. US Air Force airman and NCOs only wear their metallic flash or cloth flash and crest on AFSC or unit specific berets.
Throughout its history, US Army units have adopted different headgear devices—such as unique color accoutrements, insignias, and flashes—to help distinguish them from other units wearing the same headgear. One example of this started in World War II with the adoption of airborne insignias which were authorized for wear by military parachutists and glider-born forces on specific assignments and by those assigned to airborne units. The airborne insignias were worn on the left-side front (for enlisted) or right-side front (for officers) of the former US Army service uniform's garrison cap. Although airborne units began to wear the maroon beret as their official headgear, the garrison cap with Airborne Insignia continued to be authorized for wear until the black beret became the standard US Army headgear in the early 2000s.
It is not clear when the modern-day beret flashes began to be used by the US Army. However, US Army films and photographs between 1956 and 1962 suggest the distinctive organizational beret flashes may have been introduced in late 1961, around the time the green beret was officially authorized for wear by members of the US Army Special Forces. Prior to that time, the green beret was worn informally and special forces soldiers used their Parachutist Badge as their beret's flash.
Other beret flashes began to appear in the 1970s when the US Army's armored cavalry regiments in Germany began wearing black berets with maroon and white cloth ovals behind their DUIs, to the left of the wearer's rank insignia (i.e. over their left temple). By 1979, the US Army put a stop to the use of berets by conventional forces, leaving only special forces and ranger units the authority to wear berets.
In 1980 the US Army reversed part of its decision allowing airborne units to wear maroon berets, ranger units black berets, and special forces units green beret. The US Army's 1981 uniform regulation describes the wear of these newly approved berets with the only authorized accoutrements being officer rank insignias, DUIs, recognition bars, and modern-day distinctive organizational beret flashes; however, beret flashes were only worn by select units and soldiers. For example, only special operations qualified soldiers were authorized to wear their special forces group's distinctive organizational beret flash while none-qualified soldiers wore a recognition bar—color and pattern matched to their unit's beret flash—below their DUI or officer rank insignia. The recognition bar was discontinued in 1984 when the Special Forces Tab was authorized and all soldiers assigned to a special forces unit were authorized to wear their unit's distinctive organizational beret flash. Throughout the 1980s, modern-day beret flashes started to become the norm for all units authorized to wear berets. The design of each airborne and special operations unit's beret flash was created and approved by the US Army Institute of Heraldry (TIOH) and was based on the design of the unit's background trimming—which made their debut in World War II—or TIOH research into the unit’s heraldry.
In late 2000, when the Chief of Staff of the Army decided to make the black beret the standard headgear of the US Army, General Eric Shinseki also decided that all units that did not have an approved beret flash will wear a new universal one. However, units can request authorization for a distinctive organizational beret flash, as was done for the US Army's new Security Force Assistance Brigades. According to Pam Reece of TIOH, the universal US Army Beret 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."
US Air ForceEdit
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 replica of the Strategic Air Command Patch. In 1966/67, the first US Air Force Security Police Beret was issued to the newly created 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. 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. 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 beret flash depicting the early SPS falcon over an airfield with the motto "Defensor Fortis" (defenders of the force) embroidered on a scroll at the base of the flash.
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. Historical photographs have shown graduates of the US Air Force Pararescue School wearing the modern-day large metallic Pararescueman Beret Flash on their newly earned berets in a Fall 1975 class photograph; 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. Other historical photographs suggest the large metallic Combat Controller Beret Flash started to be worn on their unique scarlet beret in the mid to late 1970s. However, it is still unclear when the Combat Controller Beret Flash became an official part of the uniform.
In 1979, US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) airmen were given authorization to wear the black beret. In 1984, two TACP airmen 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. The US Air Force approved the design and authorized all TACP airman to wear the new flash and crest in 1985. Soon thereafter, ALOs were given authorization to wear the black beret and the TACP Flash (no crest). Similarly, AMLOs were also authorized to wear the black beret and in January 2015 TIOH authorized the modification and wear of a variant of the TACP/ALO beret flash for AMLOs—it authorized the inclusion of a small eight-point black and white compass rose to the upper-left corner of the flash—which help distinguish AMLOs from ALOs.
In 2004, the US Air Force authorized the wear of the pewter-green beret to graduates of the US Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) specialist technical school. The beret's flash, also known as the SERE specialist device, is a relatively small polished metal shield embossed with their SERE emblem and motto.
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. Around 2010, the beret flashes and crest were replaced with a large metallic SOWT Beret Flash, similar in proportions to the current Pararescueman and Combat Controller Beret Flashes.
In 2018, the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) authorized the wearing of the brown beret to airman assigned to the 6th and 711th Special Operations Squadrons who specialized as CAAs within the US military. Although not authorized by the US Air Force, these squadrons are authorized to wear the beret while on AFSOC installations. The beret is worn with a US Army style blue and green cloth beret flash (no crest).
In the 1960s, select US Navy riverine patrol units adopted the black beret to be part of their daily uniform. In April 1967—after being denied approval by Commander, Naval Forces Vietnam—Commander of the Riverine Patrol Force (COMRIVPATFOR) sent an official message to the Commander of River Patrol Flotilla Five authorizing the wear of the black beret. In this message, COMRIVPATFOR defined the wear and appearance of the beret along with its distinctive flash stating, "Beret will be worn with river patrol force insignia centered on right side." and "Only standard size river patrol force insignia will be worn on beret. ... No other emblem or rank insignia will be displayed on beret." Today, these US Navy small boat units honor their Vietnam harritige by wearing the black beret with historically relevant riverine task force flashes during special occasions, such as award and promotion ceremonies.
Female service dress beret devicesEdit
Starting in the 1970s, a special but short lived female beret was authorized for wear as alternate headgear with various uniforms. The US Army, US Air Force, US Marine Corps, and US Navy authorized the use of black, dark-blue, dark-green, and navy-blue female berets, respectively, for wear with various service dress uniforms. Commissioned officers of all branches, US Navy commissioned warrant officers, and all US Air Force and US Marine Corps warrant officers (commissioned or not) wore a regular or miniature version of their service's Officer Cap Device on their female berets.. All US Army warrant officers wore a special Warrant Officer Cap Device on their female berets while US Navy warrant officers wore miniature versions of their unique Warrant Officer Cap Device until commissioned. Enlisted and NCOs wore regular or miniature versions of their Enlisted Cap Device on their female berets, with the exception of US Navy senior NCOs (E–7 through E–9) who wore large versions of their rank insignia.
Some beret flashes currently in useEdit
Joint beret flashesEdit
Acquisition and TestEdit
Yuma Proving Ground's Airborne Test Force 68th Armor Regiment's 4th Battalion 17th Cavalry Regiment's 1st Squadron 40th Cavalry Regiment's 1st Squadron 73rd Cavalry Regiment's 1st Squadron 91st Cavalry Regiment's 1st Squadron 319th Field Artillery Regiment's 2nd Battalion 319th Field Artillery Regiment's 3rd Battalion 319th Field Artillery Regiment's 4th Battalion 377th Field Artillery Regiment's 2nd Battalion 143rd Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion 325th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion 501st Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion 503rd Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion 504th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion 505th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion 508th Infantry Regiment's 1st 2nd Battalion 509th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion
Joint Special Operations Command-Army Element Special Operations Command-Army Element Special Operations Command Africa-Army Element Special Operations Command Central-Army Element Special Operations Command Europe-Army Element Special Operations Command Korea-Army Element Special Operations Command North-Army Element Special Operations Command Pacific-Army Element Special Operations Command South-Army Element Defense Logistics Agency's Defense Distribution Depot-Army Element Joint Special Operations Command's Joint Communications Unit Special Forces personnel, assigned to Joint Chiefs of Staff
Army Infantry School's Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade Army Infantry School's 1st Battalion, 507th Infantry Regiment SWCS's Special Warfare NCO Academy Quartermaster Center and School's 262nd Quartermaster Battalion XVIII Airborne Corps NCO Academy
US Air ForceEdit
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