Army Swears Expert Action Badge Isn't A Participation Trophy

news
David Davenport

Earlier this year, the Army announced plans for a new badge to test soldiers from military occupational specialities who don’t have a formal way to certify their skills. Under the plan, everyone — not just grunts, medics or non-infantry soldiers who see combat — can get a badge.


The Expert Action Badge is undergoing testing and is still just a concept, but that hasn’t stopped critics from speaking up at a recent town hall hosted by the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command; soldiers have also voiced their concerns in the comment sections of articles all across the internet. Many argued that the proposed badge is a participation trophy for POGs.

“Just name it the PPA. The POG Participation Award,” Kieth Stone, an Army veteran, commented on Facebook in April. “They can bust it out, and show it off to the grandchildren when they tell them the story about walking back from salsa night at the MWR, when they heard a mortar go off, that one fateful night.”

Screenshot via Facebook

But now the Army is pushing back. The service seems to be making the case that yes, yes, we heard you, we know you don’t like it, but we still want to do it, and has been conducting town halls to convince the troops.

Related: The Army Is Planning A Merit Badge For POGs »

“I know there are some thoughts out there that it’s going to be, ‘Everybody gets it,’” Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, with the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, said in a March town hall. “No. It’s not a participation trophy. The infantryman does his infantry tasks every day, but yet only about 25 percent of them get the badge when they go compete for it.”

The Expert Action Badge won’t become a reality for several years, if at all, and would require soldiers to complete 30 tasks and battle drills, in addition to five mental tasks selected by their commander, plus some “surprise extra events,” over the course of three to four weeks.

The idea of doling out badges to those who complete a course and verify their job-specific skills is nothing new in the military. In the Navy and Coast Guard nearly every sailor must meet specialty requirements for their ship or field, as Task & Purpose’s Adam Weinstein pointed out in March.

For those concerned that a new badge will devalue other badges, like the Expert Infantryman Badge, Expert Field Medical Badge, the Combat Infantryman Badge, or the Combat Action Badge, the Army brass is saying that’s not the case.

“It’s not to say one has more value than the other,” Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, with TRADOC, said. “It’s about improving individual proficiency, getting that expertise and rediscovering a culture of training your soldiers.”

Understandably, hell, predictably, a lot of trigger-pullers and frontline soldiers don’t like the idea of everyone getting a new piece of bling for their uniform, and now they’ve had a chance to voice their concerns. Whether or not the Army listens and acts on it, that’s another thing entirely.

Pictured left to right: Pedro Pascal ("Catfish"), Garrett Hedlund ("Ben"), Charlie Hunnam ("Ironhead"), and Ben Affleck ("Redfly") Photo Courtesy of Netflix

A new trailer for Netflix's Triple Frontier dropped last week, and it looks like a gritty mash-up of post-9/11 war dramas Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker and crime thrillers Narcos and The Town.

Read More Show Less
Army Sgt. Daniel Cowart gets a hug from then-Dallas Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty. Photo: Department of Defense

The Distinguished Service Cross was made for guys like Sgt. Daniel Cowart, who literally tackled and "engaged...in hand to hand combat" a man wearing a suicide vest while he was on patrol in Iraq.

So it's no wonder he's having his Silver Star upgraded to the second-highest military award.

Read More Show Less
A small unmanned aerial vehicle built by service academy cadets is shown here flying above ground. This type of small UAV was used by cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, during a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-sponsored competition at Camp Roberts, California, April 23-25, 2017. During the competition, cadets and midshipmen controlled small UAVs in "swarm" formations to guard territory on the ground at Camp Roberts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Drones have been used in conflicts across the globe and will play an even more important role in the future of warfare. But, the future of drones in combat will be different than what we have seen before.

The U.S. military can set itself apart from others by embracing autonomous drone warfare through swarming — attacking an enemy from multiple directions through dispersed and pulsing attacks. There is already work being done in this area: The U.S. military tested its own drone swarm in 2017, and the UK announced this week it would fund research into drone swarms that could potentially overwhelm enemy air defenses.

I propose we look to the amoeba, a single-celled organism, as a model for autonomous drones in swarm warfare. If we were to use the amoeba as this model, then we could mimic how the organism propels itself by changing the structure of its body with the purpose of swarming and destroying an enemy.

Read More Show Less
Soldiers from 4th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment "Dark Horse," 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, are escorted by observer controllers from the U.S. Army Operational Test Command after completing field testing of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) Sept. 24, 2018. (U.S. Army/Maj. Carson Petry)

The Army has awarded a $575 million contract to BAE Systems for the initial production of its replacement for the M113 armored personnel carriers the service has been rocking downrange since the Vietnam War.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump has formally outlined how his administration plans to stand up the Space Force as the sixth U.S. military service – if Congress approves.

On Tuesday, Trump signed a directive that calls for the Defense Department to submit a proposal to Congress that would make Space Force fall under Department of the Air Force, a senior administration official said.

Read More Show Less