Plans are underway to give the underwater special operations warfare school on the northern tip of Fleming Key a dose of Army green.
Army Green Berets at the Special Forces Underwater Operations School have long heard Key West residents refer to their campus as "the Navy SEAL" base.
"The feeling was that people mistakenly refer to us with Navy SEALs and though we're part of the same Special Operations Command, we just wanted to better promote that we're Army and what we do here," said Maj. Houston Sheets.
With that in mind, workers will begin painting the currently drab white, 50-foot dive tower with the words "U.S. Army" as well as the Green Berets' symbol and the school's logo: A diver's mask flanked by two sharks set over two daggers.
For years residents have been confused about who works on the base, what they do and what branch oversees operations. The Navy's strong presence in Key West and the often misused term "Special Forces" are likely factors in the confusion.
"Special Forces" is singular to the Army and refers only to that branch's Green Berets. The media often uses it incorrectly to refer to any elite military unit, such as the SEALs. "Special Operations Forces" is the correct term for all elite military units such as the SEALs, the Air Force 24th Special Tactics Squadron, or the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment to name a few.
Adding to the confusion, is that Special Operations Forces members in the Navy, Marines and Air Force do go through the Key West course, which teaches emergency surfacing and how to leave and enter submarines as well as other stealthy techniques.
According to Army data, one in three students wash out of the course, which is considered one of the most physically and mentally demanding schools in the Army.
The Green Beret instructors want the newly painted dive tower to serve as their version of the Navy's iconic Fly Navy building on Trumbo Point in Key West.
"We tried to get locals, but the Army ended up going with a vendor out of northern Florida," said base commander Maj. Craig Milliron. "We should start seeing work being done very soon."
Army Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, director of force management and development for U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, proposed painting the tower during his visit to Key West last year. Sacolick is a 1987 graduate of the Fleming Key school.
"We hope this sheds more light on what we do here in Key West," Sheets said.