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Hats Off To Bill! Linda Sura Liza This article was written by Bob Lonsberry, a former Army "Journalist of
the Year".

"You Can Stick Your Hat, General"

For some reason, if you're going to defend your country, you have to wear a
hat. It's a big deal. Almost as important as marching in step and being able
to do push-ups. If you're in the Army, and you go outside without a hat,
something really bad will happen. Probably the Canadians will come across
the border and burn down your grandmother's house and make you speak French
or something. Or an angry man named Sergeant will yell at you. But whatever
it is, it'll be bad.

That's what I learned in the Army. And must be nothing's changed. Because
the chief of staff of the Army, the way up muckity muck, has figured out how
to make America even safer, and it involves hats.

Which is why I never made it past corporal. Because I figured if we were
going to do something to improve the defense of the country it would
probably have to involve guns and tanks and bombs and stuff. But I was
wrong. It's hats. See, to improve morale in the Army where people are
bailing out like rats off a burning ship they've decided to change the

This is not a joke. I'm not kidding.

See, when a soldier wears the Class A or Class B uniform the one that looks
like a funny green suit, or the one that looks like a sports shirt and some
slacks, right now he has to wear something the regulations call an "overseas
cap." It's hard to describe, and I can't tell you what soldiers call it, but
there's a picture of one on page 426 of "Gray's Anatomy." The one without
the fallopian tubes.

Anyway, you put this thing on your head and it sits up there several inches
like one of those ridges on the back of dinosaurs. Very odd. The Marines
have a cool one, the guys in World War II had cool ones. Unfortunately, the
modern soldier has a big envelope on his head.

But they're going to change that. The overseas cap is gone, replaced by a
black beret.

Now, when I heard this, it kind of rung a bell. Because I had heard
something about a black beret out of this administration one time before. I
couldn't place it exactly, right at
first, so I thought about it. And then it hit me: Harmonica Lewinsky.

Yeah, special counsel to the president Harmonica Lewinsky always wore a
black beret. See, in the old days, women would wear a yellow ribbon in their
hair to remind them of their soldier who was far, far away. (Any of you who
know the song, feel free to join in.)

Anyway, from now on, the soldiers will wear a black beret to remind them of
their (soon to be former) command-in-chief's special friend. Maybe they will
call the new beret a "Lewinsky." Which, if you think about it, is not so
different from what they call the overseas cap now.

Now, you might think that soldiers who routinely have their careers ruined
by engaging in shenanigans like those that involved Harmonica Lewinsky would
be upset by this Clinton-era memento. But they're not. Mostly they count
themselves lucky they don't have to do anything with a cigar.

(OK, I think we've milked the Harmonica thing enough for one column.)

Of course, she wasn't the only one to wear a black beret. There was one more
person with a special place in the heart of this administration who was
famous for such headwear: Che Guevara. (If you don't know who that was, it's
because you're young.)

Surprisingly, the bigwigs at the Pentagon don't point to the resemblance to
a sleazy intern or a Communist guerilla as the morale-building aspect of the
black beret. They point to the Army Rangers. The Rangers eat nails and crap
fire, or something like that. They're rough, tough, smart, and deadly. They
are arguably the most elite of
America's armed forces.

And they wear black berets. It is a sign of great honor and accomplishment.
Which is why the brass wants to pass the berets out to everybody. If the
Rangers walk tall with the berets, they figure, so will everybody else.

Which is dumb. Way past dumb, really. This is in the neighborhood of stupid.

Because it's not the look of the Rangers' black beret that gives it its
cachet, it's the great feats which one must achieve to wear it. And if you
remove the feats, you're left with a doofy French hat. The Ranger beret
builds morale because of what it stands for. If you give it to everybody in
the Army, it ends up standing for nothing - not even to the Rangers who've
earned it and you've done little more than trade one ugly hat for another.

Which is an example of what's wrong with military thinking under this
administration. It's one more example of ignoring reality to fiddle with
window dressing. The fact is that the Army is wildly under strength and
ill-prepared. It is strewn over a variety of peacekeeping postings that
disrupt soldier families and break soldier pride. It is inadequately
financed, housed, paid and equipped. Soldiers are asked to do too much with
too little and for too little. They are treated like dogs.

When the vice president says this is the strongest and best-prepared
military in the history of the world he is lying. Repeating for emphasis:

Morale is down in the Army because soldiers are not stupid. They know
they're getting hosed. They know where they stand with this administration.
They know Washington doesn't give a damn about them. And some stupid hat
isn't going to change that.

--- By Bob Lonsberry (c) 2000

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