Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shinseki at VA

My apologies for linking to an E.J. Dionne editorial, but it is a convenient way to raise my support for the nomination of General Shinseki as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. This is really a good choice, but not for the reasons Dionne so gleefully points to. This is a really good choice because Shinseki is a really good man. In the interest of full disclosure, he is the father-in-law of a college friend of mine (who will likely find himself relatively high in an Obama Justice Department).

I think he was treated dreadfully by the Rumsfeld crowd, and his prescience about what it would take in Iraq was spot on.

What REALLY always impressed me about Shinseki was something very different. He's the guy that brought the black beret into the Army. My God, when he first brought this subject up, there was a near-muntiny! "Only the elite Rangers get to wear a beret" and "only the elite Green Berets" get to wear a beret and "only the elite 82nd Airborne" get to wear berets....you get my point. He said screw it, we'll all wear berets. And you know what? He made it so (though all the "elite" folks wear their own colored berets still). And now, even Army REMF's look tough.

Just before Shinseki retired, I wrote him an email telling him how awfully I felt about his treatment. He responded with all the class you would expect from an incredibly classy man. And he got a big kick out of a Navy guy's respect for the beret call.


Smoothfur said...

I agree that General Shinseki had every right to say screw it, we'll all wear berets. But he could have accomplished this by having the Army in general wear any other color beret without denigrating the proud Army Rangers by taking away their distinctive black beret which in the thirty plus years since being adopted had become a symbol of something earned by a few.

Smoothfur said...

Reminds me of the story about a Green Beret soldier asking a Marine why the Corps did not have distinctive headgear for personnel in elite units. The Marine pointed to the Marine Corps emblem on his cover and said "we do have distinctive headgear for people in an elite unit and there it is. Semper Fi.

Anonymous said...

I worked for him in Sarajevo. He's the best. When I left I told him as much and he also thought it was funny a Navy guy looked up to him.

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