The Army's chief of staff may soon decide on the specific shade of brown beret that will be worn by soldiers in the new Security Force Assistance Brigades, despite media reports that the specialized unit will don berets similar to those worn by Special Forces.
The controversy began when an image of an olive-greenish beret surfaced in an Oct. 26 Soldiersystems.net post that indicated the 1st SFAB would wear the green beret, which has striking similarities to the traditional Army Special Forces beret.
The service plans to stand up six of the advise-and-assist brigades -- five active and one National Guard.
The Army has approved a new shoulder sleeve insignia with a tab for the SFABs, Maj. Chris Ophardt said. The arrowhead-shaped patch features a broadsword facing upward. The tab reads "Advise-Assist."
Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley is awaiting swatches in varying shades of brown to consider for the SFAB beret, Ophardt told Military.com.
The swatches are not yet available for public view, Program Executive Office Soldier spokeswoman Debra Dawson said.
The Army has not issued a formal statement about the SFAB beret color, but Ophardt released the following comments that Milley posted to a recent Army Times story on the subject:
"I want to assure everyone that the color of the SFAB Beret will be brown and will not be green or any shade of green," Milley wrote. "It is derived from the Brown Infantry Beret worn by many Armies. There was no intent to dishonor or misappropriate the Green Beret of US Army Special Forces and all it stands for."
The 1st SFAB posted the following message on its Facebook page to address the issue:
"The 1st SFAB has great respect for U.S. Army Special Forces, their many accomplishments and their singularly distinguished history. We also respect the concerns associated with the heraldry of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
"The 1st SFAB is not a Special Forces organization," the statement continued. "We are a conventional force purposefully built to partner with other conventional forces. SFABs will support Army readiness by allowing brigade combat teams to focus on building their readiness for large-scale contingencies instead of on the train, advise and assist missions.
"In accordance with Army guidance, we will select a new unit name," the 1st SFAB statement said. "The Army has also decided the SFABs will wear a Brown Infantry Beret like those worn by many armies. Our new name and photos of the beret will be published once the final decisions are approved."
Milley, who served in the Army's 5th Special Forces Group, discussed the SFAB units Oct. 9 at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting, stressing they are not designed to become a substitute for Army Special Forces
SFABs will be structured using the noncommissioned and commissioned officers of infantry brigade combat teams to train foreign military units in conventional light infantry tactics, he said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.