What Big Stars You Have, General

One of my work colleagues, a serving officer, noticed something odd last night in General David Petraeus’ turn as Super Bowl coin flipper:  Rather giant-sized stars on his beret:

 General David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, looks on from the field prior to Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Getty Images)

General David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, looks on from the field prior to Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Getty Images)

I’ve had difficulty locating similar shots of other 4-stars, since most tend to be photographed either sans headgear or wearing a soft cap or service cap.   But, for example, this 2-year-old photo of Petraeus’ CENTCOM predecessor, John Abizaid, shows four stars fitting almost entirely within the beret’s flash:

Has the Army come up with bigger rank insignia for its general officers?  Or is Petraeus going George Patton on us?

UPDATE: A helpful commenter points out that,

“General officers are authorized three different sizes of stars–5/8″, 3/4″ and full 1” … Most GO’s choose the smaller insignia because, as you point out, the larger stars look outsized when you get enough of them.  I think it’s more common to see Brigadier Generals and Lieutenant Generals with the full-sized stars.  But General Petraeus is certainly within regulation.

At least it’s easy to know what the man’s rank is at a distance, something that’s not true of senior NCOs with recent uniform iterations.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    I’m not sure I’m worried, until we see him wearing those outsde the venue of the Super Bowl… where, after all, everything’s larger.

  2. Eneils Bailey says:

    As with Patton, most Generals get to do what Generals want to do.

    Over the decades, a number of high ranking Generals did not go to the the local base clothing store to outfit themselves.

    MacArthur and Eisenhower were two, in my lifetime, that strayed from the norm.

  3. sam says:

    Or is Petraeus going George Patton on us?

    I’ll reserve judgement until I see the ivory-handled side-arm.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    Does this mean he’s going to start carrying ivory-handled revolvers soon?

  5. Eneils Bailey says:

    Does this mean he’s going to start carrying ivory-handled revolvers soon?

    He could carry a sawed-off shotgun and it would not trouble me.

  6. James Joyner says:

    I’m not sure I’m worried, until we see him wearing those outsde the venue of the Super Bowl

    Looking through the daylife.com archives, he seems to have adopted these for everyday use.

  7. Bithead says:

    Looking through the daylife.com archives, he seems to have adopted these for everyday use.

    In that case, the question becomes, Patton, or McArthur?

  8. Eneils Bailey says:

    Does this mean he’s going to start carrying ivory-handled revolvers soon?

    Yeah, and that is nit-picky.

    And for those of you that find this offensive; get an an appointment with him, walk into his office, strip them off his beret, and tell him to get into a proper uniform.

    I’ll send flowers to your services at Arlington.

  9. JKB says:

    We keep hearing about the decline in recruitment standards. Perhaps the eyesight standards have declined to the extent the rank insignia size has to compensate.

  10. Eneils Bailey says:

    We keep hearing about the decline in recruitment standards. Perhaps the eyesight standards have declined to the extent the rank insignia size has to compensate.

    Don’t know if that is true. I tend to doubt it.

    I do know that as long as you don’t apply and are not accepted it keep the standards elevated.

  11. Anderson says:

    It’s bad enough that the man has to wear that silly-ass beret in the first place, rather than a proper officer’s cap. What a way to go down in the history books.

    (Though I think it does reduce the odds of a general’s being elected president in future. Imagine Ike in that gay-ass beret. ‘Nuff said.)

  12. PD Shaw says:

    I have to admit it struck me as odd to see the General at this kind of festivity.

  13. CR says:

    General officers are authorized three different sizes of stars–5/8″, 3/4″ and full 1″.
    Army Regulation 670-1.

    Most GO’s choose the smaller insignia because, as you point out, the larger stars look outsized when you get enough of them. I think it’s more common to see Brigadier Generals and Lieutenant Generals with the full-sized stars. But General Petraeus is certainly within regulation.

  14. Eneils Bailey says:

    Anderson,

    In all seriousness, I suggest you walk up to any United States Military Officer or enlisted man and suggest that the beret is a gay-ass cap!!!

    They will make you President…President of the local ….the local freak ass show…

    They will have you bending over and crying…crying for your mama…

  15. JKB says:

    Eneils,

    You need to work on that sense of humor. It was a joke, son.

    Thanks for your personal attack but I’m past recruitment age. Did my 20 already, not in the Army should that worry you.

  16. Eneils Bailey says:

    It was a joke, son.

    It was no joke to me, boy.

    You say what you mean, and you mean what you say….

    I take my service and the people I serviced with, quite seriously..

  17. markm says:

    rather than a proper officer’s cap

    SIX HUNDRED AND NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS….sumbitch. What are the odds it’s made here in the USandA??.

    Makes a fella wonder what they get for a handful of the 1 inch stars…or the whole uniform. Sheesh.

  18. Eneils Bailey says:

    SIX HUNDRED AND NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS….sumbitch. What are the odds it’s made here in the USandA??.

    No, that could be the amount of money that changed hands on the the night you were conceived.

    Makes a fella wonder what they get for a handful of the 1 inch stars…or the whole uniform. Sheesh

    You could piss away $10,000.00 at Brooks Brothers and come nowhere close to looking as good as the General in his uniform.

  19. Anderson says:

    Eneils, the general is wearing that beret because he has to. If the Army required him to actually submit to anal intercourse, he would surely do it out of love for his country. An analogy that probably has occurred to him very recently.

    Only someone insecure about his own gay-ass longings could take offense.

    Regardless, the service beret is OBJECTIVELY gay-ass.

    — Anyone know how Petraeus landed Super Bowl tickets, btw? Were they a gift?

    — Let’s hope the MacArthur analogy doesn’t bear out. What a histrionic phony that guy was. Would’ve been great had he stayed, oh, captain or thereabouts.

  20. Eneils Bailey says:

    Anderson,

    You took my comments to a different level…

    Shows your absolute ignorance of the military standards and civilian behavior.

    If the Army required him to actually submit to anal intercourse,

    I doubt that he has been required to attend social functions with you.

    Only someone insecure about his own gay-ass longings could take offense.

    Well, why did you get mad?

    Regardless, the service beret is OBJECTIVELY gay-ass.

    And those silk panties you wear are manly?

  21. Eneils Bailey says:

    Anderson,
    This has been fun.
    Got to go out tonight and meet some family for dinner.
    Love and Kisses, see you tomorrow.
    Thanks,
    Eneils

  22. Wayne says:

    Hate to jump in such a lame gripe but unless it has change recently Army Generals may prescribe his or her own uniform.

    “It does not apply to generals of the Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army, or former Chiefs of Staff of the Army, each
    of whom may prescribe his or her own uniform.”

    http://usmilitary.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.usapa.army.mil/pdffiles/r670%5F1.pdf

    Also the Beret is authorize and often worn by both officers and enlisted withthe Class A and B uniforms. I am not a big fan of the berets although they are O.K. with dress uniforms. Give me the BDU\DCU\ACU cap any day.

  23. markm says:

    SIX HUNDRED AND NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS….sumbitch. What are the odds it’s made here in the USandA??.

    No, that could be the amount of money that changed hands on the the night you were conceived.

    Uh oh..somebody doubled down on their douchebag medication. So is that “No” it’s not made in the USandA or “No” to the other question I didn’t ask?.

  24. Drew says:

    Moving past silk panties……..

    With what this guy has accomplished, he can wear 5 inch stars for all I care.

    I know it isn’t the military way…….but did anyone notice any other hype last night?

  25. steve s says:

    FYI:

    I never served anywhere under Petraeus. I don’t know squat about the guy. But a friend of mine was in the 82nd in the late 1990’s (He even consulted on the Tom Clancey book Airborne) and he hates the guy. Said Petraeus was using the 82nd as a stepping stone, didn’t care about the unit, and always made decisions based on how the politics would work out for him.

    Like I said, I don’t know anything about the guy. But there are some people who served under him who don’t think he’s so great. FWIW.

  26. bob in fla says:

    Well, steves, you or your friend stuck your foot in it. Petreaus was commander of the 101st Airborne, not the 82nd.

    Also, a not too well known story. An enlisted man accidentally shot Petreaus, seriously wounding him in the chest, at the rifle range at FT Campbell. Rather than give the GI a court marshal, he signed the orders for him to attend Ranger School. That Ranger went on to serve honorably in Iraq. Petreaus has a deserved reputation of giving second chances to his people.

    I don’t know the man either, but I thought I’d pass that along.

  27. steve s says:

    Like I said, I don’t personally know anything about the guy, bob. But I did look it up when you suggested otherwise. Here’s this from Wikipedia:

    During 1993—94, Petraeus continued his long association with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as the division’s Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (plans, operations and training) and installation Director of Plans, Training, and Mobilization (DPTM). In 1995, he was assigned to the United Nations Mission in Haiti Military Staff as its Chief Operations Officer during Operation Uphold Democracy. His next command, from 1995—97, was the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, centered on the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. At that post, his brigade’s training cycle at Fort Polk’s Joint Readiness Training Center for low-intensity warfare was chronicled by novelist and military enthusiast Tom Clancy in his book Airborne. From 1997-99 Petraeus served in the Pentagon as Executive Assistant to the Director of the Joint Staff and then to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Henry Shelton, who described Petraeus as “a high-energy individual who likes to lead from the front, in any field he is going into.”[34] In 1999, as a brigadier general, Petraeus returned to the 82nd, serving as the assistant division commander for operations and then, briefly, as acting commanding general. During his time with the 82nd, he deployed to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring, the continuous rotation of combat forces through Kuwait during the decade after the Gulf War.

    So you’re right that he did have a relationship with the 101st, but he also was in charge of the 82nd to some degree. BTW where are you in Fla? I’m about 35 miles north of Gainesville, on 441.

  28. steve s says:

    Being in Fla again, btw, is a huge culture shock, after 12 years living in NC around the colleges Shaw, Meredith, Peace, NCCU, NCSU, Duke, UNC etc. I hope you’re below the ‘bubba belt’. I’m not. My first week back here, I had to listen to townsfolk complaining about white girls marryin’ “coloreds”. It’s like I went from San Francisco to the Ozarks.

  29. CR says:

    Hate to jump in such a lame gripe but unless it has change recently Army Generals may prescribe his or her own uniform.

    “It does not apply to generals of the Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army, or former Chiefs of Staff of the Army, each
    of whom may prescribe his or her own uniform.”

    “General of the Army” refers to a 5-star General, a rank that’s very rare in the peacetime Army. Omar Bradley was the last 5-star. General Petraeus is an Army General, but not a General of the Army. Generals of 1 to 4 stars rarely take advantage of their rank to make their own dress code.

  30. Maggie Mama says:

    I don’t care what size stars he is currently sporting on his berret stateside. I doubt you will be seeing them if he’s in the field touring Iraq or Afghanistan.

  31. Wayne says:

    CR
    Read it again it says “generals of the Army” not the “General of the Army”.

  32. CR says:

    Wayne –

    Yes, but neither the fact that it’s plural nor the fact that it’s not capitalized means that it refers to 1- to 4- star generals. It’s plural because there can be more than one 5-star general (we just haven’t had any in a while) and it’s not capitalized because military ranks are not capitalized when used to refer to non-specific persons (military personnel often get this wrong–I am very guilty of it.) If you read through 670-1 you’ll note that it consistently does not capitalize ranks when used in the middle of sentences to refer to non-specific officers. General of the Army is often misused as a construction, but 670-1 uses it correctly here.

    You may also note that section 28-9.a (page 209) uses precisely the same construction to distinguish 5-star generals from other general officers.

    28—9. Branch insignia—authority for
    a. General officers.
    (1) The Chief of Staff, former Chiefs of Staff, and generals of the Army (five star) may prescribe their branch
    insignia.
    (2) All other general officers may wear branch insignia at their option. If they choose this option, general officers
    will wear the branch insignia for the position to which they are appointed, or for their duty assignment.

    If it referred to all generals, there would be no need to add the “of the Army,” as the regulation is an Army manual. Further, there would be no need to specifically indicate the Chief of Staff of the Army under the same proviso if this referred to all generals–the Chief of Staff of the Army definitely falls into the category of general. By doing so, the regulation makes an allowance for the senior uniformed general in the Army, granting him a privilege normally reserved for 5-star generals.

    Finally, AR 670-1 is full of regulations for the uniforms of general officers, many quite specific. While some general officers may, very rarely, overlook or choose to ignore these regulations, and can certainly afford to, they don’t have carte blanche to design their own uniforms unless and until they get their fifth star or become the Army Chief of Staff.