1st SFAB Responds To Concerns Over Adoption Of Green Beret And ‘Legion’ Nickname


Last week, photos of an Olive Drab beret intended for wear by the US Army’s newly minted 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade surfaced. They set off an internet firestorm that has culminated with the unit issuing this statement on Facebook.


It says:

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. 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 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.

Thank you for your support as we establish the identity and culture of the #1SFAB.

U.S. Army U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) XVIII Airborne Corps

The Olive Green color of the 1st SFAB’s new beret was a bit too close for comfort for the US Army Special Forces, who were awarded the Green Beret by a Presidential Memorandum issued by President Kennedy, well over 50 years ago.


While the shades of Green are different, the President didn’t say “Rifle Green” Beret and the issue item has a tendency to fade to a much lighter shade over time. It’s always been referred to simply as a ‘Green Beret’. What’s more, popular culture refers to SF by that term thanks to a popular song and book turned movie. ‘Green Beret’ is part of the national lexicon.


When the Olive Drab beret was combined with an arrowhead-shaped Shoulder Sleeve Insignia complete with tab ala SF and USASOC as well as the self-appointed nickname of “The Legion” (the actual nickname for the 5th SFG(A)), it all added up to appear that Big Green was attempting to steal SF’s lineage for this new unit. To make matters worse, the 1st SFAB was stood up to conduct a mission long accomplished by SF. The similarities were uncanny, even to the most reasonable observor.


In protest, numerous articles were written, memes were created, and supporters of the SF heritage even created a petition.

On Monday, Army Chief of Staff, GEN Mark Milley, himself SF qualified and a veteran of 5th Group, responded to concerns in a phone interview with Army Times.

Bottom line, GEN Milley has taken responsibility for the situation, explained that it was unintentional and directed the 1st SFAB to find a new nickname. Finally, he referred to the beret as an Olive Brown color, patterned after a British Army Beret but acknowldeged that the shade may appear Green. Based on the 1st SFAB’s statement, it looks like they’ll be adopting a much richer Infantry Brown.

Although not common knowledge, there was a move to adopt a Brown Beret for the US Army in the late 1990s. Then Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, was the lead on the initiative, but when he was relieved from his duty position and court martialled, the project was stopped.

Instead, in 2000, former CSA Shinseki awarded the Black Beret worn for decades by the 75th Ranger Regt, to the Army as a standard headgear, and issued the Tan Beret to the Rangers instead, complete with a contrived backstory. Soldier and Rangers alike still grumble over that fiasco.

At least this time the Army leadership has reacted before it is too late. Unfortunately, it took the collective voice of the internet to point it out rather than realizing it was a poorly hatched plan from the beginning.

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35 Responses to “1st SFAB Responds To Concerns Over Adoption Of Green Beret And ‘Legion’ Nickname”

  1. Strike-Hold says:

    Its nice to see that reason has prevailed – at last – but as you said, it should never have got to this point.

    Now they just need to change that arrowhead patch to a shield (which better reflects a FID type mandate anyways doesn’t it?).

  2. Nate says:

    This Post Receives : +10 Barry Sadler Points
    +20 William P. Yarborough Points

    Good Work guys!

  3. PNWTO says:

    While I haven’t read too far into this situation, is the “mission gap” so extreme that SF or even Civil Affairs can’t respond and grow/react to the need organically?

    If this was 2005 this would perhaps be a Blackwater solution but the world has changed.

    • Will Rodriguez says:

      Yes the gap is extreme.

      Most of FID has been done by conventional forces for at last a decade.

      Heck, the last time I ran the numbers almost 90% of the troops in Iraq to defeat ISIS by bringing the Iraqis up to speed were conventional.

      • Steve says:

        Will Rodriguez, I’ll see your past decade, and raise you the previous half century of SF quietly training conventional, SOF, irregular, LE and paramilitary forces.

        • Martin says:

          Steve, SF can do the job but there aren’t enough of them. The current scale of foreign training is massive and our SF guys are deployed too much even without them doing a lot of that mission. The SFABs are an attempt to institutionalize the training mission in the conventional forces. That isn’t a terrible thing but I doubt they will end up being permanent formations whenever (if ever) some of our current missions end.

        • Will Rodriguez says:

          Steve, not trying to take away SF’s accomplishments. Trying to demonstrate the need is greater than SF can satisfy and that the conventional side has been doing it for quite a bit of time.

          BTW, I’ll raise your half century to a century and a half. Who do you think was training our allies in Korea, WWII, The Phillipines, Indian Scouts, state militias etc. all the way back to our founding?

          • Sneaky nerd says:

            Please tell me about this century and a half of Army FID

            • Will Rodriguez,
              If you think just training someone to shoot or walk in a formation is FID shows me that conventional forces have missed the mark. Training is only one small slice of the pie. Hence why SF is the proponent for FID. I rest my case.
              You can teach any monkey to shoot or walk in a formation, so go ahead and turn on your t.v. and watch your A Team and enjoy your FID missions. Joking but you really bit off more than you can chew.

              • GP says:

                I can see why Army leadership wants to separate these soldiers from other Army units, because volunteering to join the SFAB guarantees you will stay on deployment. Also, they have to incentivize when building a brigade-sized unit entirely of volunteer-deployers. I know that most of us who served during the 2000’s were guaranteed to receive at least one campaign medal, but today’s mission and OPTEMPO is simply not the same.

                For those talking about FID – the SFAB seems to be meant to train and advise larger Army units (not operate) whereas the SF generally train and operate with smaller SF-type units. They are different missions and the SFAB will not necessarily require the “operator” training to the level required of the SF missions.

                I will agree that wearing the green beret was a bad move by DA.

                Either way, my hat’s off to all of the volunteer soldiers of the 1st SFAB.

            • Will Rodriguez says:

              I did Sneaky. Research just about every war where the US Army has served overseas (and in American Indian nations) you’ll find examples of the US Army standing up other nations’ armies. During WWII and Korea the US Army actually trained foreign army units. Pre WWII, the Philippine Army is an excellent example. Heck, MacArthur commanded it. Post WWII US Army support to Greece is an example.

              • Will Rodriguez says:

                Having served in Latin America and trained Latin American soldiers for four years I’m quite familiar with FID. I actually worked with quite a few SF types also. They didn’t exhibit the animosity to the conventional side I see here.

                Again, I’m not trying to denigrate US Army SF (I’m a fan) but it’s not like FID didn’t exist before SF was created. I like the A team but the insecurity of some here is much more entertaining.

    • GOAT says:

      This is no where near Civil Affairs wheelhouse. Completely different mission for CA.

  4. eatsnakes4living says:

    LOL. So now they are going to take on Ranger like berets, AGAIN?

  5. Old SF Guy says:

    I very much respect the CSA for his willingness to own this, set the record straight, and even engage via social media. Uncommon in today’s senior leadership.
    Personally I think the SFAB mission is valid and as far as the beret, etc I believe officers with the SFAB probably took his intent of making the unit distinctive and went off the rails. Like I said before, a senior NCO should have stopped this before it got to this point.
    But I digress – good to see it’s being set right. DOL.

    • Sneaky nerd says:

      Most had little issue with their mission set but with the presentation.

      I do agree it is nice to see the CSA own it, his reasoning is flawed and inaccurate. He first mentioned SF hasn’t trained conventional forces, specifically ANA, then back peddles and said only some did while most trained the commandos. The commandos only came about in 2007 and in small numbers. The rest of us were working with regular ANA and AMP. Even outside of CENTCOM, ODAs were engaging in conventional forces.

      There are aspects we just can’t effectively advise on and that’s higher level logistics, artillery and armor. SF has proven that they can mentor HN infantry units.

      CSA’s stated desire to “evolve” SF into DA advisors is not evolving the organization. They aren’t necessarily a DA force.

      I honestly believe he has lost touch of what SF is and capable of, if he ever truly had it to lose.

      • Miranda McCoy says:

        Thank you so much for this comment. I am on a crusade to preserve the SF heritage my husband earned and has fought for and for which my children have sacrificed so much. Do you happen to have links to or copies of the articles in which Milley state that he wanted to “evolve” SF? Thanks in advance!

      • GP says:

        The “commandos” were there working alongside the SF when I was in Afghanistan in 2003, so you’re wrong. The purpose of the SF is not to train large conventional forces, their mission is to train and “operate” with small SF-type units. With the draw-down of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq (and to answer your 3rd paragraph), there is in fact a need for brigade sized training units like the SFAB – it just wasn’t a priority until the current administration.

        As far as what the SF is capable of, that’s not the question. The question is, should the SF be taking on the large scale training mission at all; and the answer is no. Again, enter the SFAB.

        While I definitely agree that the whole green beret thing was way off, I can see DA’s reasoning for wanting to separate the soldiers of the SFAB – volunteering for the unit guarantees you’re going to stay deployed.

  6. Mark says:

    If only folks had been this up in arms/zealous to bring about change over UCP ACUs right off the bat.

    • Colin says:

      oh man great point

      • Stephen says:

        We (soldiers) were completely up in arms over UCP. There was just no social media vehicle like you see today to get the attention of and call out senior leadership to get the desired reaction and results. Same with the transition to black berets (Ranger community).

    • JB says:

      Social Media wasn’t quite the force it is today back in 2004/2005.

  7. Kevin Scott says:

    They should stay in black berets like the regular Army.

    • d says:

      Or just wear a patrol cap and be good at stuff.

      In the days before the black beret, there were plenty of guys wearing regular BDUs and patrol caps that let their actions be their mark of distinction.

  8. Miranda McCoy says:

    SFAB took this post down from their FB page and replaced it with one that was clearly dictated from higher, with a link to the second article written from the second phone call Milley made to the Army Times. This whole situation is a cluster and Milley has, on multiple times in the past few days, proven himself as a leader who cannot be trusted. The only way he will do the right thing is if his superiors find out the real truth about this unit and his motivations for it. I encourage every single person concerned about this to immediately begin submitting Freedom of Information Act Requests to his office, to FORSCOM, to SFAB, and to the office of the Secretary of Defense.

    • SSD says:

      They didn’t take it down, they just posted several new items so it’s further down the page. It’s still there, I saw it earlier today.

      • Miranda McCoy says:

        SFAB took this post down from their FB page and replaced it with one that was clearly dictated from higher, with a link to the second article written from the second phone call Milley made to the Army Times. This whole situation is a cluster and Milley has, on multiple times in the past few days, proven himself as a leader who cannot be trusted. The only way he will do the right thing is if his superiors find out the real truth about this unit and his motivations for it. I encourage every single person concerned about this to immediately begin submitting Freedom of Information Act Requests to his office, to FORSCOM, to SFAB, and to the office of the Secretary of Defense.

        SSD, you are right. It is there now. I scrolled on my phone and computer twice earlier this afternoon and it was not showing up. Not sure why. But I am glad that it is so now we can see just how true the statement turns out to be in the coming weeks.

  9. Stafford Kevin says:

    This is a good decision in my opinion. I served at Ft. Bragg for thirteen and a half years out of my twenty two years career. Most of that time was with the 82D Airborne Division and I had the honor to work with a couple of ODAs while deployed. These men are a special breed who step forward to undergo some of the hardest training our military has to offer. The original plan for the SFAB clearly struck many veterans wrong for good reason. In my opinion, and my opinion only, the original concept strikes me as a “good idea fairy” thought up in order to open up additional “special operation” slots for officers and NCOs looking to pad their OERs and NCOERs.

  10. Wow! There goes the Army just shitting on special operations again. Amazing, our beret comes from war, is a REAL part of history and then later is a presidential citation and the Army just wants to shit on everyone who volunteers to work harder and earn something special by ignoring history and just giving it away. I have earned my beret as did my brothers and if these cheese !@#$% just want to give it away they can go f%^& themselves. This is even worse than what they did to our Rangers, this beret has a real long-standing history dating back to WW2.

    • GP says:

      If you actually “earned” your beret you would know that the green beret wasn’t established until 1961 – less than a decade after SF was founded – which would be quite a while after WWII.

      You are a poser.

  11. Dave says:

    I’m more than a hat. I did think it was cheesy for them to appropriate our hat and call themselves the Legion, but I’m not crying about it.

    Everyone does FID. I’m more annoyed at all the SF guys who think they own FID. It’s just one of the jobs; having some specific help frees us up.

    No one would mistake them for us anyway, they’re still going to be the guys with shorn heads and cold hands.