"The Blue Berets"

         

History Page

"The Mission Comes First"

 

Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes) The Blue Beret Motto Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes)
"The mission comes first!"

 

 Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes) The Blue Beret Creed Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes)
"We shall not lie, cheat, steal nor tolerate those who do."

 

Our Story Blue Beret History

By SSgt Chris Yaroch, CAP

 

INTRODUCTION


To date, the U.S. Air Force has its elite beret wearing units. They consist of Pararescue (maroon), Combat Control (scarlet), Combat Weather Jumpers (gray), Tactical Air Control Parties (black) and Security Forces (dark blue). All play an integral part in the overall Air Force mission. Civil Air Patrol, much like its parent service, also has special units that contribute to the overall effort of our missions. At present, National Blue Beret is the only C.A.P. unit that exists that wears and is authorized to wear a beret. This is their story...



IN THE BEGINNING-1960's


It was a time of Woodstock, hippies, free love and the Vietnam War. During the winter of 1966-67, Col Allen Towne/Iowa Wing Commander requested that an intensive training program be set up in Iowa Wing to train senior members and cadets to become effective and knowledgeable in ground search & rescue operations. Under the command of Lt Col William B. Cass/Iowa Wing deputy Commander, a program was established for the spring of 1967. The purpose in mind was to create among the members of Iowa Wing; the ability to function effectively in almost any capacity when called upon.

The first training session was held in April 1967 and consisted of four training weekends. The curriculum consisted of standard first aid and personal survival. The basic uniform was the OD green fatigues, combat or jump boots, blue ascot, web belt and canteen. On the second weekend of the program, encampment members were called upon to help control flooding along the Mississippi River. Cadets and Senior members worked long hours filling sandbags and patrolling the dikes during the worst part of the flood. Training on the fourth weekend covered many subjects. Special emphasis was given to Civil Defense & C.A.P. cooperation, crowd control, drill & ceremony, traffic direction, survival, first aid, and communications. During that weekend, cadets were called upon to render first aid to victims of a serious automobile accident. During the program, one weekend was spent on Towhead Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River. The stay on the island was used to develop Espirit' De Corp and to encourage communication between Senior members and cadets. This training provided better-qualified personnel for search & rescue and created a high morale among the members. Soon after, the concept of the "Blue Beret" program spread to members of other wings, who asked if they could participate. Planning was initiated to invite other wings within North Central region to attend the next Iowa Wing Blue Beret encampment. Excitement and enthusiasm spread throughout the Region.

The idea of a program of this type mushroomed. Members demanded more training. Those who did not participate in the first session became interested and demanded another like it. As a result, a second session was held in late August to early September 1967. The four weekends were alternated over an eight-week period. The first two training weekends were held at Ledges State Park, where instruction was given on first aid. The third training weekend, held at Camp Dodge, included traffic direction; crowd control, basic wilderness survival, and search & rescue techniques. The final weekend consisted of a SARCAP that allowed members to practice what was taught the previous weeks. Ninety members completed the course.

The third Blue Beret encampment was held in the fall of 1968. It, too, was held on alternating weekends over an eight-week period. Eighty members attended this session. It is noted that many cadets from previous sessions returned for additional training.

In June of 1969, eighty-six members from five wings within North Central Region convened near Dubuque, IA. for the first region-wide Blue Beret encampment. This was a one-week, non-interrupted training session. It began with a hike from Dubuque to Bellevue that included a one-night layover at Massey Station. The week's training encompassed wilderness survival, civil defense operations, first aid, search & rescue techniques, communications, leadership, drill & ceremony, and flight-line training. At the conclusion of the third session, blue berets were given to those who satisfactorily completed the course. From this emerged the title "Iowa Wing Blue Berets" .The first Blue Beret reunion was held at Ledges State Park in October of 1969. It was by open invitation to anyone within the Region. During the reunion, Chaplain Aydt presented a design for a patch. The design depicted an eight-ball with a blue beret perched on top. The design represented the seven wings and Region headquarters within North Central Region. As well, the idea that the Blue Berets were "behind the 8-ball" whenever called out for a mission. Thus the 8-ball was born.

The planning committee met several times to plan for the next encampment. During the meetings, the committee decided that Blue Beret should have a more professional name. After serious deliberation, The activity officially became known as the North Central Region Special Service Corps. with the nickname remaining the Blue Berets. Upon this news, the letters "NCRSSC" were added to the beret on the 8-ball.


EXPANSION-1970's


The age of polyester, disco, roller derby's and the CB-Trucker counter-culture. Many Point Scout Reservation, MN. was the scene of the 1970 NCRSSC encampment. During the two weeks in that early June, training was expanded to include land navigation, physical activity and leadership skills. Two hundred + cadets and twenty-five Senior members from six wings within the North Central Region and the Virginia Wing attended the encampment. The following June of 1971, the NCRSSC held a two week encampment at Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. This particular year saw the addition of training in helicopter rescue techniques. For the first time, a separate flight was established for those who had previously earned their berets. Advanced training was given to cadets. This flight was the forerunner of the Blue Beret II program in 1985. As the 1970's progressed, the encampments got larger and Blue Beret's popularity grew bigger.


THE HIGH WATER MARK-1980's

Break dancing was created, heavy-metal rockers looked suspiciously like girls, Pac Man was the rave and Ronald Reagan was president. 1981 was the foreshadow of changes to come in Blue Beret. For starters, the encampment held at Fort McCoy, near Sparta, WI. For the very first time. Also, the training shifted from ground search & rescue to general emergency services. The move to Fort McCoy started a 2-phase system of training. Phase I, conducted at Fort McCoy, entailed classroom learning and demonstrations. Phase II, conducted at the EAA Airshow in Oshkosh, was provide candidates a chance for practical application of what they learned. Training and experience... a good deal all the way around. The environment of a military installation was used to bolster the Phase I training hence the move to Fort McCoy. The move also saw the addition of command & control and convoy movement to the training
curriculum. Duties performed at the EAA Airshow included aircraft command & control and aircraft movement. Encampment personnel were divided into separate teams (i.e. aircraft parking, tailing, flightline, etc.). Cadets pulled KP & CQ duty in camp, performed field maneuvers, acted as security & maintained crowd control, and participated in REDCAP missions. REDCAP missions entailed checking the airfield for aircraft that did not closeout their flight plan, aircraft reported as missing, and activated Emergency Locating Transmitters. Over the course of the encampment, cadets and Senior members parked 10,000 aircraft and participated in 10 REDCAP missions. Sixty cadets and four Senior members successfully completed training that year.

1982 saw our first international visitor. A British air cadet, sponsored by Col Cass, joined the encampment as a guest. Tragedy struck when Lt Col John Peterson/Blue Beret Deputy Commander, died during his trip home from the encampment. Blue Berets were deeply affected by the loss.

1983 brought another first. Ten cadets and two senior escorts from the air cadet corps. of Canada traveled down to participate in our encampment. Also, Col Dennis Kumm assumed the duties as Blue Beret Deputy Commander.

1984 & 1985 - Blue Beret moved from Fort McCoy to Volk Field ANGB. The move was used to promote a more Air Force oriented environment to the Phase I portion of the encampment. The training received at Volk Field remained the same as years before. At the EAA Airshow, Blue Beret manned a rescue boat out on Lake Winnebago dubbed "SEACAP". Also, five cadets and two Senior escorts of the British air cadets participated in the encampment for the very first time. Blue Beret was definitely making great strides. Col Cass, founder of Blue Beret, was selected as National Commander and promoted to Brig. General. At the end of the National Board meeting in Atlanta, Ga. Col Kumm was named successor to BGen Cass as Blue Beret Commander.

Due to the immense popularity gained over the years, Blue Beret became a national special activity. From that point on, it became the Civil Air Patrol Special Service Corps. The encampment saw an attendance of two hundred + cadets and thirty-five Senior members. During the course of the encampment, Blue Beret was tasked with guarding the British Airways Concorde and credited with saving the lives of two people severely injured by a run-a-way plane while in their tent. Another advanced training program was started under the direction of Capt John Shump. The program was called Blue Beret II. The training conducted involved advanced courses in leadership; emergency services, wilderness survival, and served as a training aid for staff members wishing to become cadre for the Beret program. This was the first year that Blue Beret itself went abroad. Hosted by the Kent Wing/Royal Training Corps. ten cadets and three Senior members traveled to Kent, England. While there, they participated in sightseeing, glider flying and learned about the British air cadets & way of life. It was a banner year for Blue Beret in 1986. It also signaled the beginning of the end. The encampment saw its largest attendance on record, 300 + cadets. Blue Beret was apart of the National Emergency Assistance Program (N.E.A.T.) along with the Pennsylvania Rangers and Washington Challengers. Blue Beret the hardest program going in C.A.P., even harder than Pararescue Orientation Course. There were multiple ranger-type programs operating during this period. Blue Beret also garner several accolades. They parked over 20,000 aircraft the opening weekend of EAA '86. There was, at the time, considered the largest Airshow in the world. Berets once again came to the rescue. Beret II cadets were credited with saving a woman who had her arm amputated by a spinning prop. SEACAP was credited with four saves when they fished out the survivors of a downed aircraft in Lake Winnebago. Unfortunately, this year was the last run of the Blue Beret II program. Behind the scenes, trouble was starting to brew. From previous years, complaints and animosities were about to come to a head. Most of this was generated by bad politics, "junior Rambos" running rampant, and steadily developing myths being regarded as fact. The winds of change had come...

1987 saw Blue Beret spending the duration of the two week encampment at Oshkosh. Blue Beret discontinued conducting Phase I at Volk Field, citing problems in securing support & training facilities from the Air Force and the hellish logistics of convoying an entire encampment across the greater width of Wisconsin. National Headquarters started taking a more active role in the going-ons of the encampment. Lt Col Blascovich/North East Region appeared on the scene as an advisor and go-between for National Headquarters. The systematic dismantling of Beret had begun. The first to go was the uniforms were worn. The Beret cadre was no longer allowed to wear their Beret dress blues or jungle fatigues. SEACAP was credited with saving five more people from Lake Winnebago that year. The cadet commander, Cadet Adam Corrado/NY. Wing, was presented with his Spaatz Award by Dick Rutan and Gina Yeager.

Blue Beret took possession of its new buildings on their permanent and present compound in Oshkosh in 1988. An end to an era was starting to draw to a close. The program was no longer in the green army tents as the years before. SEACAP operations were terminated and turned over to the Coast Guard Auxiliary. At present, the boat sits in a salvage yard in Beaver Dam, WI. Beret cadre were ordered to remove their St. Alban crosses from there berets and were ordered not to speak of any of the Beret traditions and values to the candidates. The cadre could no longer impose push-ups on the cadets because National Headquarters viewed it as a form of "hazing".

But no one could ever take away the pride we all felt in our hearts, "Once a Beret, Always a Beret".

The death rattle of the Blue Berets was finally heard in 1989. The powers-to-be had finally succeeded in dismantling the 22 year old program. All identifiable traces of the program were wiped out and the cadet and Senior staff's morale was at an all time low. The Berets could no longer impose maintain & enforce discipline over its candidates and control of the encampment rested solely in the hands of National headquarters. Blue Beret had started as a search & rescue and survival course, and was dwindled to a flightline training course. It was the opinion of many a Beret the program was done for good.


NEW BEGINNINGS- 1990's


Grudge is normal, America is fighting the war on drugs, and everyone is trying to read George Bush's lips. A proxy form of the program carried on from 1990 to 1995 as the "Civil Air Patrol EAA Oshkosh" (CEO) Activity. Cadets wore the blue jumpsuit and baseball cap. They were given and opportunity to "park planes, see the Airshow, and have fun". Not so surprisingly, the cadet attendance rates plummeted.

In 1996, There was a surge of interest in bringing back the Blue Beret program. To add fuel to the fire, the EAA was pressuring the C.A.P. to bring back "them Blue Berets". EAA was extremely unhappy with the CAP's performance after the termination of Blue Beret. The quality of service was mediocre at best and couldn't produce the number of bodies needed to support the EAA. The program was reinstated as a national special activity and given its new and current name, National Blue Beret. The Air Force ran the program until the end of the 1998 activity. It is reported that C.A.P. will assume control again in 1999. However, there was a lingering disenchantment that the Berets felt they were given their berets and not earned them.

As of this writing, due to an overwhelming response from new Berets and old alike, the activity is starting to flourish. There is a renewed interest in the return of the old traditions and values. There have been observed changes for the better at the 1998 activity and the signs are encouraging. At present, efforts are afoot in working to restore Blue Beret back to a search & rescue and survival school.



"THE MISSION COMES FIRST!"

These were the original nine blue berets from Minnesota Wing. This was the Minnesota group of the graduating class of the first multi wing blue beret encampment in Belview Iowa in 1969.  Prior to that it was Iowa wing only.  Rocky Bliss

BLUEBRT.jpg (25952 bytes)

Front Row:  Greg Schofield; Ron Deike;  Charles (Chuck) Brown; George Vollmer;  & Joe Simertz

The Back row: Rodney Lindberg (his father helped raised the first flag over Iwo Jima);  Me: R. Nathan (Rocky) Bliss; Jim Walz; Andy (Ace) Lindberg

 
The Blue Beret Emblem

At present, the "8 ball" patch is used to denoted participation in the Blue Beret Activity. This was not always the case. The 8-ball was originally the Blue Beret mascot.

It was designed when the program was the Iowa Wing Special Service Corps. Chaplain Aydt presented it at the 1969 Blue Beret Reunion, after a patch design was requested. The 8-ball with the beret was created to represent the 7 wings in the North Central Region and Region HQ, Also that the Blue Berets were always "behind the 8-ball" at search & rescue missions.

The 8-ball mascot was used for several years and then fell into hiatus. In 1987, Capt. Ken Gleich (MO. Wing) resurrected the 8-ball as the Blue Beret emblem.

The original patch

 

Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes) The Blue Beret Flashes Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes)


Here's a quick brief on the beret flashes Blue Beret has worn. A beret flash is a patch that is worn on the beret, parallel to the bottom edge of the beret and centered over the left eye. Normally a beret crest or rank insignia is worn in the center. The U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) was the first American military force to wear the beret. The Special Forces created the beret flash to denote what Special Forces Group you were assigned to (i.e. 1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.). Blue Beret used flashes to denote training received or tenure in the program. The flashes are listed as follows:

Senior Staff: The original flash was light gray in color with a dark blue inner border. In 1985, this design was scrapped for a red flash with a red-white-blue stripe the ran at a 45 degree angle starting at the top left. This flash was awarded to senior member Berets that attended 2 or more encampments as staff.

Beret II: The flash for senior staff was red with a blue border. This was awarded to senior member Berets that graduated from Beret II or served a Beret II command element. Only 3 have been awarded to date. The flash for cadet graduates of Beret II was red with a blue stripe that ran down at a 45 degree angle starting at the top left. Only a small number of these were awarded and all are extremely rare.

Proposed: In 1987, National Headquarters changed the regulation on berets. Prior to this, there were literally scads of programs in CAP that issued berets for a myriad of reasons. Headquarters proposed that only the "Big 3" involved in the National Emergency Assistance Program (Blue Beret, PA. Rangers, Washington Challengers) could wear berets. The regulation stated that all three would wear the dark blue beret. The graduates would be identified by colored flashes respective of their programs. Blue for Blue Beret, Red for PA. Rangers and orange for Challengers. The reason behind this was prior to the regulation change, Headquarters authorized the wearing of the blue
beret for Blue Beret, red beret for PA. Rangers and orange beret for WA. Challengers. In reality, PA Rangers do not and never did award berets for Hawk Mountain and Challengers wore blue berets. In 1997, A new beret flash was proposed for Blue Beret. It was a blue circle with a black border. This would be worn to denote graduation from Blue Beret and the crest awarded to the honor graduates of the activity.

Formerly, the protocol for wear of the flash consisted of senior members wearing the full-sized rank on the flash and the crest off to the viewer's right. Cadets wore the crest on the flash and miniature rank off to the viewer's right.

Currently, Only the crest is worn on the Beret with no flash.

Senior Staff Beret Flash Original Senior Staff Beret Flash-Old

Blue Beret Senior Staff Flashes

(L) 1985-1989 --- (R) Prior to '85-Original


Beret II-Senior Beret Flash Beret II-Cadet Beret Flash

Blue Beret II Flashes

(L) Senior --- (R) Cadet

National Blue Beret
shoulder patch,
partially embroidered on felt
National Blue Beret
shoulder patch,
fully embroidered
National Blue Beret, 1995
Staff beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Alpha Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Bravo Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Charlie Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Delta Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Echo Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Foxtrot Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Golf Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Hotel Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
India Flight beret flash
National Blue Beret, 1995
Juliet Flight beret flash

Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes) Blue Beret II Program Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes)

Sometime around 1984-85, the Blue Beret II Program was established. This program was designed to give returning Berets more options in training. Prior to this concept, Cadet cadre could either work as staff (i.e. flight commander, first sergeant, etc.) or advance team which set up the phase II camp at Oshkosh.

Beret II was a program that offered strictly advanced ground search and rescue techniques. The course of instruction included advanced wilderness survival, rappelling & rope work, advanced ELT search & DF work, ground search with aircraft support, and basic instructor training.

The original staff for Beret II consisted of Maj John Shump, Commander, 1LT Greg Bachar,  and 1Lt Mitch Berry, Executive Officer. The Beret II's were rarely ever seen in camp due to the nature of their training. Another interesting aspect to the Beret II program was that they did not do any support work for the EAA Fly-In. Beret II was a more physically demanding course than Blue Beret. Beret II ran from 1984-1986. A Beret II graduate could be identified by his beret flash (see flash section).

 

Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes) Blue Beret Uniforms Albans_Cross.jpg (1913 bytes)

During the Blue Beret encampments prior to the activity's closure in 1989, there were several uniforms worn during Beret's tenure at Volk Field and EAA Oshkosh, Wisconsin. These uniforms are as follows:

-Fatigue Uniform: The standard CAP field uniform before the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU's) was the OD green fatigues. Beret cadre wore the beret and an ultramarine blue ascot and spit-shined combat or jump boots with the green fatigues while performing staff duties during the encampment. This was a common site around the camp.

-Tropical Utilities: This particular uniform was most popular with the Blue Berets. The OD tropical fatigue uniform, or better known as the "jungle fatigues", gained popularity because of their predominant use in Vietnam. Mostly there versatility and the fact that they were lighter, cooler and had more pockets than regular fatigues. Most of all, they were "different".

-Dress Uniform: The dress was the standard CAP class "B" (summer short sleeve blues) worn with the beret, ribbons, an ultramarine blue ascot, blue shoulder cord with one silver tip, chrome whistle with chain, and spit-shined combat or jump boots with the trousers bloused. This uniform was only worn at the Blue Beret Activity.

 

CAP-EAA OSHKOSH (CEO) PATCH

CAP-EAA Oshkosh (CEO)

A great looking Patch, Not a very popular Program.

This is Not an Official WebSite & does not reflect the views or opinions of the U.S. Air Force, Civil Air Patrol or the National Blue Beret Program.

LINKS OR REFERENCES TO INDIVIDUALS OR COMPANIES DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN ENDORSEMENT OF ANY INFORMATION, PRODUCT OR SERVICE YOU MAY RECEIVE FROM SUCH SOURCES.  PER CAPR 110-1.


If you have pictures, information, or graphics to add to this page, please e-mail them to me. Thanks, Lt Col Ted Lohr, Webmaster

Back to the Blue Beret Page

e-mail:

Lt Col Ted Lohr

SSgt Chris Yaroch

B.B.A.T.W.

Please note:

  • I don't have any info or contact with Nat. HQ about applications

  • I DO NOT have any information about the current program

  • Please DO NOT ask me any questions about the current NBB program

Copyright firearsn 1997-2012.
Last revised: 29 December 2011.