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February 14, 2005

'Bout time.

Someone finally listened to Chris and I. Yes, I'm sure it was us. Yep. Well, us and about a gazillion others. But hey... I guess it has yet to be designed by the Institute of Heraldry - and it's a badge, not a medal - but that level of accuracy is a lot to expect of the New York Times headline writer. The author got it right.

New York Times February 13, 2005

Army Creates Medal For Troops Who Come Under Fire

By Thom Shanker

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 - Army troops assigned to combat units that come under fire will be eligible for a new badge that recognizes their efforts separately from ribbons for all who serve in Iraq or Afghanistan or who support the Pentagon's antiterrorism missions based in the United States, a senior Army official said Saturday.

The new award, called the Close Combat Badge, was unveiled to a private conference of four-star generals convened in Washington this weekend by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, the senior official said.

Army and Pentagon officials discussed the badge on the condition that they not be identified by name.

The badge was requested by field commanders and reflects their desire to distinguish the efforts of soldiers whose units are "organized to routinely conduct close combat operations and engage in direct combat," the Army official said.

Previous decisions that created ribbons to honor military efforts in the Bush administration's global campaign against terrorism have been harshly criticized by members of Congress, veterans and even some current service members.

The Army officer said on Saturday that the new badge was, at least in part, meant to answer some of those concerns.

The first military honor created after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was called the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and frustrated some in uniform who wanted ribbons that were awarded for specific deployments in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Some leading members of Congress, in fact, accused the Bush administration of creating one generic medal to ensure that the effort to topple Saddam Hussein of Iraq would be viewed as part of the larger antiterror campaign. That effort began with the war to unseat the Taliban government in Afghanistan and rout leaders of Al Qaeda there.

Last May, legislation creating separate campaign honors for Iraq and for Afghanistan was approved by Congress, but even the new ribbons did not differentiate between front-line combat troops and those assigned to support missions.

"The previous ribbons are awarded for service - for just being physically in the theater of operations," said a Pentagon official. "There is a ribbon now for being in Afghanistan or Iraq, and also a ribbon awarded for those based in the United States who support the mission."

In contrast, the Close Combat Badge "will be presented only to eligible soldiers who are personally present and under fire while engaged in active ground combat," the Army official said.

It will not be given to members of support units attacked while performing their missions, even though supply convoys have been a regular target of the insurgency in Iraq.

In particular, the badge will be for soldiers who serve with armored, cavalry, combat engineering and field artillery units at the brigade size or smaller that come under attack and "close with and destroy the enemy with direct fires," the Army official said.

While the Army has the authority to approve and issue the badge on its own, senior Army officers were notifying members of Congress on Saturday of the decision to issue the award to combat troops.

Strategy Page has a little more light to shed on the subject.