INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
As a 19-year-old kid, I went through the trial and tribulations of what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to make a trip to the local Air Force recruiter to see what they had to offer. After speaking with him for a while, he popped in a VHS cassette (yes, it was a while ago) of the Security Police career field. While watching this tape it had Airmen riding all terrain vehicles, patrolling in police cars and working with Military Working Dogs. While all of that was pretty cool, I was sold on one thing, the beret. I can't tell you what it was at first, but after that video, I signed on the dotted line. After going through basic and then on to technical training, it was the highlight after graduation to be awarded my blue beret.
I arrived at my first duty station, dumbfounded like most as this was the first time away from home, where I was introduced to my first chief. The chief was very straightforward when he asked me a question and I made the mistake of answering with the word "yeah". This did not go over too well as I was corrected to proceed outside to clean up the grass that was growing in between the sidewalk cracks. The area he had sent me to work was in a no-hat, no-salute area, so I removed my beret and used it to hold the grass that I was picking up. Within a matter of seconds, the Chief shot out, had me at attention and had some colorful language for me ending with "What does that beret mean to you?"
At that time, I could not answer him. Since then, I have researched the origin and meaning of the beret and would like to share the beret's history.
The following information has been extracted from the Security Forces website at the following location: http://afsf.lackland.af.mil/Heritage/History/heritage_badge.htm
The roots of the Security Police beret are often traced back to the 1041st Security Police Squadron (Test) and "Operation Safeside" during 1965-67. The mission of the Air Police was changing, and this specially trained Task Force adopted a light blue beret with a Falcon patch as their symbol. It can only be speculated as to whether the idea came from the Army Ranger beret, since the initial cadre of the 1041st SPS received its initial training at the Army Ranger School. The 1041st SPS evolved into the 82nd Combat Security Police Wing, but was deactivated in December 1969, thus bringing an end to the light blue beret with falcon emblem.
Although the beret was not an authorized uniform item for Security Police work, several local commanders authorized a dark blue beret for their units even though the official Security Police cover remained the white service cap. In the early 70's, Military Working Dog handlers assigned to the 6280th SPS, Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, wore a dark blue beret with no insignia. The other members of the unit wore fatigue caps and the "jungle boony" style hat. Again, the beret was distinguishing a specific group of specialized personnel. Other units adopted a version of the beret to distinguish their elite guards.
When Brig. Gen. Thomas Sadler was appointed Air Force Chief of Security Police and the AF/SP office with two symbol s was created in 1975, Security Police had arrived. The General 's task was to bring the Security Police into the mainstream of the Air Force and one of the tools for doing that was recognition--recognition of deeds as well as members of a distinctive and highly recognizable career field. The beret was one of the proposed uniform changes that were being considered. Although there was significant opposition to the beret initially from senior colonels and major command chiefs, the Airmen loved the idea, and that's what it's all about. Several months later, the uniform board approved the proposal, and the beret was officially being worn worldwide in 1976.
The dark blue beret of 1976 was worn with the MAJCOM crest of the appropriate MAJCOM the unit was assigned to. It continued this way for 20 years until SP and law enforcement military merged to create Security Forces in early 1997. In March 1997, the 82nd CSPW was reactivated and redesigned the 820th Security Forces Group. It provided worldwide "first in force protection" for Air Force contingencies. The 820th SFG also adopted the heraldry of the 82nd CSPW, thus explaining the falcon's revival as the emblem for the Security Forces, with the addition of the motto "Defensor Fortis" on the scroll.
While I was able to give you a brief history of the beret, I think back to the Chief's question years later and can only sum it up with one word...everything.