No specific significance was given to USAF Beret uniform justification and approval for CCT beret color that I have been able to locate. Nobody in the Combat Control specialty has offered any suggestion of the color significance to me when I asked either. BTW the color of the CCT beret is scarlet (a brilliant red) Pararescue beret color is maroon (a darker brownish red).
The pararescue beret justification and approval (1966) specifically states the color was selected because of medical duties and life saving qualifications.
Originally, Combat Controllers wore a blue beret and then switched to the current scarlet color under some unfortunate circumstances. I'm not sure if any symbolism went into the original beret and this excerpt from Marion's Brothers in Beretsmakes it sound like not a lot of symbolic thought went into the current scarlet beret.
"the Air Force leadership allowed combat controllers’ coveted navy blue beret to be granted to a second, much larger career field. The beret thereby lost its uniqueness and appeal. In 1974–75 Brig Gen Thomas Sadler commanded the airlift wing at Charleston AFB, where he was impressed with the sharp look of the combat controllers in their berets and bloused boots. After Charleston, Sadler went to the Pentagon as the Air Force’s chief of security police (SP). Wanting to improve the look and esprit of the SP career field, he granted permission for the SPs to wear a beret—the same navy blue beret the combat controllers wore.
Rex Wollmann graduated from Combat Control School in the spring of 1978. His class was awarded the traditional navy blue beret, but his may have been the last class to receive it. In the mid-1970s, CCT morale plummeted by the fact that by sharing the same colored beret with Air Force SPs, most people on base mistook them for “cops” rather than combat controllers.
Wayne Norrad and fellow cadre members Mike Steinbeck, Steve Horvath, Ron Holder, and John Lebold were assigned to the Combat Control School at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, from 1976–79. Nearby, in Cabot, Arkansas, the Bancroft factory produced berets. The CCT staff at HQ MAC directed Norrad to buy several different colored berets and send them to the CCT Division at Scott AFB, Illinois. The scarlet red beret was selected by both the school cadre and HQ MAC. Combat controllers switched to the scarlet beret in 1978 and it remains their distinctive headgear today"
HQ Air Force and/or the Air Force uniform board never approved Combat Control's wear of the Dark Blue beret. So there was no granting the color away from one group to another. CCT's wear of the beret was nothing more than local commander authority prior to 1975. No justification was ever submitted into official channels to a MAJCOM commander or HQ Air Force, or the Air Force uniform board for CCT to wear a beret or even a specific color of beret. No special symbolism went into choice to wear the Dark Blue beret as such symbolism was never submitted, if it ever exited to submit.
A Habit of Heroism <--check out the jump wings on the beret with the service uniform. Both the color of the beret and the pararescue beret crest was approved by HQ Air Force effective 1 June 1966. Due to the time needed to get the PJ beret crest manufactured and available, interim authority was given to wear jump wings on the beret. Maroon was the requested color as it best represented the medical duties and lifesaving qualifications of all pararescuemen.
Symbolism in the USAF in general is pretty inconsistent. We tend to have recurring images (like arrows, birds, lightning, wings, etc) but each use will have its own unique meaning behind it given by whoever drafted the design. If you check out the Institute of Heraldry (currently down for maintenance) or other collections of unit history, you'll find a lot of different meanings behind the same symbols.
There is more meaning in the CCT flash than the beret color. I've been told by controllers (sorry I don't have anything official to support this so it could all be hearsay) that the lightning bolt symbolizes both the speed of being the "first there" (motto of CCT) and the ability to call in power from the sky (airstrikes). The 8-point compass rose signifies guiding air power where it needs to go (airstrikes, air traffic control), and the globe background signifies their worldwide reach.
Symbols can be fun and are hallmarks of heritage. The PJ/CCT/SOWT communities all have unique (but often intertwining) histories and heritages with their own unique flavor. I'm interested to see what symbols and parts of heritage continue forward with the AFSPECWAR realignment.
The flash symbolism is disclosed in a document I attached to a previous post. There is mention color gray might have had something to do with E&E. I have found nothing suggesting color gray being connected to E&E in any conflict. E&E was prevalent during WWII due to typical aircrew being able to blend in with the civilian population, but rare in in subsequent conflicts due to inability to blend in as being a member of the local population. CCT didn't have much, if any, involvement with E&E nets or operations. The lightening bolt symbolizes communications (operating a radio). First There was used because other desired motto First there last out was already in use.
Reading the document I attached in a previous post which was written by the CCT officer directly involved at the time decisions were made would alleviate putting out misinformation.
Reference: "I'm interested to see what symbols and parts of heritage continue forward with the AFSPECWAR realignment."
If AFSOC's combat air advisor Brown Beret is any indicator, some revision rewriting of history. Within the attached press release is the assertion: " President John F. Kennedy awarded the Green Beret to the U.S. Army Special Forces before it was officially authorized. The Combat Aviation Advisors community had the honor of presenting the first brown beret prototype to the current Command in Chief, President Donald J. Trump, thus paying homage to the tradition of this distinctive headgear." No such tradition exists as the only distinctives beret uniform approval having a President's direct or indirect involvement is the U.S. Army Special Forces beret uniform. No U.S. President was presented any other beret prototype during the approval process or the beret as homage immediately after it was approved and authorized for wear.
Furthermore, some clarification required rewrite of original press releases and release of new press releases to clarify the new Brown Beret is authorized at MAJCOM level (AFSOC) and is not new Air Force approved distinctive uniform. Also press releases emphasized Army's decision for its advisors be authorized to wear brown beret had no connection or influence on AF choice of color. This simply means the Brown Beret is a duty uniform while assigned to perform duties within a specific unit and AFSOC isn't using Army's new beret as a means of opportunity convenience to get a new beret for its advisors.
Of interesting note: The lightning bolts refelect WW II Campaign credits. Reference CAA Leaflet
I wasn't trying to challenge the historical intent of the flash, I just wanted to share some of the current meanings attributed to it.
Symbols can change meaning over time. Maybe the modern combat controllers are misinformed, maybe their symbols are evolving as the community is. The USAF in general isn't very good at maintaining heritage, given that the overall culture puts a high emphasis on the current mission and looking to the future. For better or worse, some things are lost and added because of this perspective.
"SIGNIFICANCE The Lightning Bolt represents the communications aspect of the Combat Control Team and also portrays the quick reaction of the teams to meet a world-wide challenge. The Parachute Canopy is indicative of the primary form of deployment. The Compass Rose represents the world-wide deployments of the teams and the ability to navigate by land. The Blue Background represents Combat Control's air mission as a proud member of the United States Air Force. The Silver Background is a token to our reliance on aircraft."
Since we're on the topic of symbolism and you brought up the new CAA beret, I thought you'd be interested in the attached copy of the proposal letter to President Trump that explains all of the meaning behind the beret. A CAA shared it on a facebook conversation not long after the approval. Pretty interesting stuff.
Plenty of press releases and other sources of info echo the symbolism contained in the letter to President Trump. I don't have any issue with the symbolism or the approval/disapproval of the beret.
Presidential level involvement in the justification and approval happened only one time before way back in during 1961 (more than 55 years ago). Furthermore, the circumstance and situation had significant differences as President Kennedy specifically, his administration and State Department was focused on developing unconventional warfare/special operations capabilities.
Although President Trump is pro military or military friendly what he has put interest into developing is nowhere close to what was being pursued by President Kennedy.
My WTF concern is suggesting or asserting tradition that doesn't exist.
I'm familiar with the lightening bolt quick reaction to meet a world wide challenge. However the quick reaction need was and is to provide communication between the ground and aircraft. Further the thunderbolt, a single discharge of lightning is derived from the idea that lightning was a bolt thrown to earth by a god. The CCT utilization was and remains to get something from the air, whether the aircraft is overhead to land, airdrop supplies and/or assault forces. or to do CAS. They do this by being the communications capability. On a side note Army units weren't authorized radios with the frequencies necessary to talk to aircraft and aircrews, which forced a reliance on the Air Force to support the Army with this communications capability. Although quick reaction is a requirement, this requirement wasn't specific or limited to combat control.
It's more than coincidence the TACP beret flash/crest also utilizes a lighting bolt for air to ground to air communications capability requirements.
The meaning of official heraldry symbolism used on emblems is difficult to change as they are expected to conform to some sort of generic graphic recognizable activity that represents a primary or historical mission. Emblems used as crests, flash, or special type of badge on the beret either represent the mission of the unit, the mission of the occupation (rare) or both.
Another CCT written history discloses: The lighting bolt striking diagonally across the center is symbolic of both the team's expert communication skills and rapidity of action. Communications skills is the common agreement among all CCT written histories. Also use of lighting bolt in Air Traffic control unit and organization patches go back to WWII.
Military heraldry symbolism is generally unit or organization specialty oriented. The TACP 1983 request for their beret crest discloses "The lightening bolt is a standard heraldry symbol for communications, which is the backbone of the Tactical Air Control Party." CCT like TACP must be able to communicate otherwise the capability expected is impossible to provide.
This strengthens lighting bolt being more strongly connected to command and control communications, more so than the speed of being first there because who is first there in a zone or area of operations is seldom determined by speed. Rapidity of action (the quality of reacting or moving) has weak connection to provide capability purpose for being in a zone or area of operations which is to communicate information with aircraft and aircrews flying about above the zone or area of operations.
The disclosure of how the Vietnam era CCT flash originates clearly discloses coordination through Air Force channels was intentionally avoided and it wasn't connected with any effort to formalize wear of a beret. Without copies of the source documents submitted into official Air Force channels what the symbolism represents is open to debate.
I do have copies of the Pararescue distinctive Beret uniform request submitted to the Air Staff by the commander of the Military Airlift Command, dated 24 February 1966 and the final approval decision made by HQ AF dated 1 June 1966. The staff coordination paper trail is detailed. The Pararescue beret crest and motto is derived from the Air Rescue Service guardian angel emblem and motto that was approved effective 3 June 1953. The beret crest is connected to traditional unit and organization heraldry. The preference for the marron color is directly connected to the RED (heraldic GULES) as it best represented the medical duties and lifesaving qualifications of all pararescuemen.
Several dissenting arguments appear in the HQ Air Force Staff coordination done to get the beret uniform approved for pararescue. The primary disagreement positions put forth were: (1) Approval would be inconsistent with long standing Air Force one team, one force policy. (2) Approval would significantly undermine the integrity of the Air Force’s plain, yet distinctive, service uniform policy. (3) Such concession will lead to further concessions which would quickly dilute whatever desirable effect distinctive uniforms have by making such uniforms common-place and confusing or meaningless to the general public without constant publicity.
A recommendation in the final approval coordination stated that wear of the maroon beret be limited to utility uniforms and specifically advises this limited wear approval would conform to the wear restrictions which govern the ‘Aussie’ hat worn by Air Commando personnel while sustaining the integrity of the air Force’s plain, yet distinctive, service uniform policy.