Sunday, October 24, 2004

Master Blaster Award Denied

This article from today's Washington Post:

Army Badge Of Honor Now In Contention
Award Denied to GIs Retrained for Infantry

The Army retrained thousands of soldiers -- tankers, engineers, artillerymen -- to perform as infantry in Iraq's urban hot spots. But part of the fallout is an intense internal debate over who qualifies for the Combat Infantryman Badge, or CIB, and, more broadly, what constitutes an infantryman in a rapidly changing Army.

"There isn't anything that equals the Combat Infantryman's Badge," said retired Army Col. John M. Collins, a military historian. "That is the prize on top of the prize. It says, 'I did it. I was there and I came back.' " Only soldiers whose formal "occupational specialty" is infantry are eligible for the award "regardless of the circumstances," the requirements state.

Morning said he regrets that not only Brown but the entire company is ineligible for the badge. "In my opinion, my soldiers have earned it as much as anyone else in the theater," he said. "A lot of guys aren't going to admit it, but it would mean a lot to them. It shows that they fought as infantrymen, on the ground."

Brown himself is philosophical, but he said the criteria make little sense. "The excuses they're using aren't really legitimate excuses," he said. "This is my second deployment and I haven't been in a tank yet."

The Army has so much decoration on its uniforms that I certainly can't tell what all the stuff is, and they all look kinda like South American generals to me, but even I know a Combat Infantryman (aka Master Blaster) Badge when I see it. It means the guy has been shot at, up close and personal, and maybe even shot back. It's prestigious.

Look, if it walks like a far as I am concerned if a guy is on an infantry mission with a rifle in his hands, walking on his own two feet, and with only his shirt for protection from enemy bullets, he's an infantryman, period, and should get the pretty little blue ribbon that "real" infantryman get.

My Marine Corps eliminated the extra expense of this kind of award and unit designation patches decades ago, the cheap bastards. They feel that every Marine is a rifleman FIRST and that the shared pride of being a Marine comes before public display of unit differences.It's a lot smaller outfit than the Army and they're probably right.

Besides, whatever outfit you're in is better than any of those other rag-tag mobs of uniformed civilians and diddy-boppers that call themselves Marines but are just stealing the money, right?

Marines keep their weapons clean because they know they may very likely be called upon to use them, and ad hoc, cobbled-together outfits made up of clerks, cooks, mechanics, etc., have turned the tide in many a fight.

The Marine Corps and Navy have a ribbon called the "Combat Action Ribbon". It makes sense. You get it for being in an active combat zone if you come under fire, even if your only action was to grab the company diary and dive into the shitter to protect it. I think that's the right approach. Every man stands the same chance of getting blown away as anyone else.

In the overall scheme of the Iraq mission, the CIB flap is small potatoes, but in politics it would be called a "wedge issue": it has the potential to divide one group from another instead of promoting unity in the ranks. Gee, that sounds familiar. I hope they come to some equitable solution.

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