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Black berets are crowning glory of local Army unit



Published: Mon, April 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



During times of war or in an emergency, the 423rd quartermaster battalion would serve as the 'control cell' overseeing the command and control of water sources.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

LORDSTOWN -- Winning a war in times of instantaneous communications, high-tech satellite surveillance operations, biochemical weapons and suicide bombers often depends on who can get where the fastest.

To ensure that United States forces don't lose time, the U.S. Army has become increasingly mobile. "We can be deployed anywhere in the world within 24 hours," said 1st Lt. Paul E. Gebhardt, an operations officer in the 423rd Quartermaster Battalion, Warren.

To recognize that transformation and the soldiers who have completed advanced training, a distinguished black beret was adopted as part of the official dress uniform.

Thirty-four soldiers from the 423rd Quartermaster Battalion donned their berets for the first time during a ceremony Saturday morning.

"The beret symbolizes the change that allows for the new Army structuring -- a lighter, more mobile force," Gebhardt said.

Transformation: Although the terror attacks on America in September may have underscored the need for mobile military forces, the lieutenant said the Army's transformation has been under way for more than a year.

Berets were first worn by tank troops because they were functional; headsets fit over top of them, Gebhardt said. Rangers adopted them during the Vietnam era. Paratroopers wear maroon berets, and special forces wear the distinguished green beret.

The soldiers of the 423rd Quartermaster Battalion will wear their black berets when they don dress uniforms or appear at public functions. Patrol caps will still be worn while the soldiers are working, loading equipment or patrolling.

Eventually, all 41 soldiers in the unit, including eight women, will earn the right to wear the black beret.

During times of war or in an emergency, the 423rd Quartermaster Battalion would serve as the "control cell," overseeing the command and control of water sources anywhere in the world that the unit would be deployed.

kubik@vindy.com




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