June 03, 2005


Since the end of OIF II, I have seen a lot of things happen with medals and badges and patches. I used to think it was cool when my husband collected ribbons, but now I am starting to see why Bunker said to throw 'em in a drawer and forget it. I've heard way too many stories about soldiers who deserved ribbons but didn't get them and soldiers who didn't deserve ribbons but got them. Platoon leaders and platoon sergeants spend an extraordinary amount of time not on deciding who deserves medals but working on the grammar and presentation of the citation. And I'm sure some have been approved over others just because someone's grammar was better. In just three months, I've become disillusioned with the medal process, which is sad because I think they should be something to be proud of.

I also thought the CCB was cool because I thought those who were not infantry deserved some credit too. Slowly I'm beginning to see what a mess it will be. Now it's a CAB, eligible to...um...everyone? How do you decide who is eligible? It's for anyone who engages or is engaged by the enemy; what a mess that's going to be to give out. Nearly everyone will get one, making the award virtually worthless.

Just leave well enough alone, I'm beginning to think. I liked this post from Watch Your Six (also check out the comic strip):

Didn't anyone learn from giving berets to the entire Army in order to make everyone feel "more elite?" The very act of giving the beret to everyone devalued the beret itself. If you give a badge to everyone involved in ground combat, the CIB and the new badges you make up will all be de-valued. The very act of trying to make people feel more special will make them feel less special.

We're running out of drawer space; quit giving out more things to throw in 'em.

Posted by Sarah at June 3, 2005 02:37 PM

Re: "too many stories about soldiers who deserved ribbons but didn't get them and soldiers who didn't deserve ribbons but got them."

Unfortunately this isn't a new trend. Hackworth in About Face described this similar trend in the Korean War, but I'm sure it far pre-dates that conflict. One incident (p256-257) described is of field-grade and general officers being in Hackworth's location during an enemy attack and that "The presence of a General Officer in an area that was being continually shelled was an inspiration to all troops." Of course, this 'enemy attack' was some indirect fire (usually a light shelling) and Hackworth & company were hunkered in their fortified bunkers and thus not necessarily exposed to harm. Utter B.S.

Similarly described are also incidents of awards being downgraded and worthy solders not being recognized. The awards process and the 'politics' of awards are a two-edged sword. Absolutely necessary to recognize the accomplishments of the individual soldier, but at the same time despicable.

* For what it's worth, I'd highly recommend David Hackworth's About Face. The novel describes many aspects great leadership in battle and some of the attributes that make soldiers just plain great.

Posted by: GoldenBear at June 3, 2005 07:50 PM

What about being promoted too quickly. I swear, that my bf's unit has more captains than 1LTs...

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at June 3, 2005 07:58 PM

Golden Bear is right about this not being a new thing. I think they're just coming out with more of them now because it's easier and cheaper to make the ribbons and badges than it used to be.

It's pretty sad that just about every award ends up being devalued in this way. The Army beret is one of the best examples and made me cringe when they did it. It seems like making people "feel good" is way more important to the upper command than awarding honors for the best people.

I hope, for all our sakes, the "best of the best" really love their jobs enough that they don't get too bent about whether or not they get special awards.

Posted by: Teresa at June 3, 2005 08:38 PM

Cali: Promotion to captain is a fairly automatic event at about 3.5 years in service. It's not really *that* merit based, so I'm not sure if it's quite the same thing.

The way I understand it, there are a lot of extra captains in Germany for two reasons: 1) the wait for command is about 2.5 years and 2) stop loss/move trapped a lot of lieutenants here who became captains in Iraq and haven't yet gotten to go to the career course. Since the promotions are automatic, if people are stuck in one place, all LTs will eventually become CPTs...

Posted by: Sarah at June 3, 2005 10:33 PM

I'm not quite sure how the Army works, but it is only logical that there will be more O-3s than LTs. Most officers spend no more than 4 years as a Lieutenant, but somewhere around 7-9 as a Captain.

Of course, in the USAF flying community, it seems like everyone is a Captain.

Posted by: Breaker at June 4, 2005 01:32 AM

Medals are just formality, snoopy stars, and if one thinks that you are more valued because you got them, then you need some counseling or somthing. Sometimes, they give awards based on a quota system, and it has just about always been that way. Not to say that all meritorious acts are not rewarded either. The military, after all, is a institution, and it's acting exactly like one. The same people with the EIB badges are still going to be the same people at the unemployment office somewhere down the line.

Posted by: nerdstar at June 5, 2005 06:23 AM

....and then we have the hitchhikers. The chairborne rangers who go outside the wire once or twice during an entire deployment and suck up space on a mission where they don't belong for the sole purpose of qualifying for a CIB.

Of course, those are only the missions where they can stay in the hummer only popping out to take a picture or two, back at the fob in time for a hot meal and a warm bed. They tend to avoid the missions where the soldiers trek on foot through villages or mountains, awake for hours on end with nothing between them and the enemy but a vest and some plates, finally sleeping in the snow or the mud or the sand.

I'm at the point that I wish they'd dump them all. Not because the Soldiers walk the walk don't deserve recognition, they definitely do, but because of those who abuse the system and put others at a greater risk while doing it.

It's bad enough with the CIB..what's it going to be with the CAB?

On a side note..I'm still ticked off about the beret.

Posted by: Tink at June 5, 2005 07:48 PM

If you are close enough to fire your weapon at the enemy.. or hear the sound of bullets going by..

I'd say at least the same conditions as the CIB.. MP's on convoy duty are pretty much in combat from what I've heard...

Posted by: LarryConley at June 7, 2005 02:25 AM

""It's bad enough with the CIB..what's it going to be with the CAB?

On a side note..I'm still ticked off about the beret.

Oddly.. most of the soldiers I've talked too who got them ain't too thrilled either...

Posted by: LarryConley at June 7, 2005 08:49 AM