Combat patches and such

Debate emerges over Army’s new “close combat” badge

Another subject that came up in the “town hall” meeting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfled held in Kandahar that I wanted to cover. Since I’ve been slacking on all sorts of things lately, Phil Carter at Intel Dump beat me to it.

QUESTION: Specialist Imael [sp.] from 133rd Airborne.

I’m wondering why our MPs aren’t considered for the close-combat patch?

RUMSFELD: You’re wondering what?

QUESTION: Why MPs aren’t considered for the close-combat patch.

RUMSFELD: What’s the answer?

BARNO: Our Army leadership’s decision was that the close combat badge would only be for those units that were designated to fight as infantry, in other words they were retrained to be full-time infantrymen instead of being artillerymen or engineers.

BARNO: So that initially has not been extended any beyond field artillery, armor, engineers, the general combat arms. That’s the current set of the decision at least.

RUMSFELD: But General Barno, she didn’t ask what the decision was. She asked why that was the decision. [Laughter].

There was no more information forthcoming.

While the new Close Combat Patch is an improvement that allows tankers and artillery troops to earn a decoration for combat when they’ve been pulled from their normal duties to perform infantry-like duties, there are still a lot of folks shut out.

For instance, the person who asked the questions asked specifically about MPs. For an example of what MPs do from time to time, go read the account of the Kentucky National Guard MPs that saved the day at Salman Pak a few weeks back.

Those folks do not get the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. They don’t get the Close Combat Badge.

I hope that they still get the Purple Heart if they get wounded. Or does it depend on their MOS?

This, in Murdoc’s opinion, is what we call a ‘crock’. $5 Rule.

Here’s part of what Carter had to say:

Simply, I think this is bunk. The occupational field requirement strikes me as incredibly anachronistic, given the nature of today’s non-linear, non-contiguous battlefield where units of many stripes engage in close combat. Infantry units aren’t the only ones fighting as infantry these days; neither are armor, artillery and combat engineer units that are tasked to fight as infantry. In Iraq and Afghanistan, MP units “hav[e] a high probability to routinely engage in direct combat” and are “purposefully organized to routinely conduct close combat operations and engage in direct combat” — notwithstanding the fact that Army regs and MTOEs say otherwise. Other combat support units, such as air defense artillery and non-combat engineer units, have been reorganized and retasked with combat missions. And many combat service support units have found themselves accidentally involved in direct combat, or purposefully engaged in direct combat as part of their base security or convoy operations missions. If the standard is “close combat”, then I think this badge’s criteria must be changed to reflect the ground truth in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On an MO earlier post on this subject, a commenter noted the Combat Action Ribbon that members of the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard can qualify for:

The Combat Action Ribbon is a personal decoration awarded to members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard (when operating under the control of the Navy) in the grade of captain (or colonel in the Marine Corps) and below who have actively participated in ground or surface combat.

More detailed criteria here. It doesn’t depend at all on MOS. It only matters if you’ve been in combat. Seems to me that something like this might be a good compromise if there’s too much resistance to opening up the CIB and CCB to all comers.

However, MPs are going to be engaging in a lot of real live combat in the coming years. Regardless of compromises, those MOSes need to be added to the existing badges.