News Analysis

Army reinstates medal for troops hunting ISIS in Iraq as drone attacks surge

The medal was reinstituted in August, before drone and rocket attacks against U.S. troops there surged.
Patty Nieberg Avatar
Army medal

The Department of Defense recently reinstated a campaign medal for troops serving in Iraq but not, apparently, because of the recent upswing in drone and rocket attacks on bases there.

The Pentagon confirmed to Task & Purpose Tuesday that troops in Iraq are now again able to receive the Operation Inherent Resolve medal after a hiatus. The medal was unavailable to U.S. troops in Iraq, according to Pentagon spokesperson Nicole Schwegman, “due to Iraq no longer being classified as a combat mission.”

Officials did not immediately say when Iraq-based troops had been cut off for the medal, but the U.S. formally announced it had “completed its transition to a non-combat mission” on Dec. 9, 2021 and would pivot its focus on advising and assisting Iraqi forces.

Iraq troops were made eligible again on August 24, according to a U.S. Central Command memo provided to Task & Purpose. However, those deployed to Syria on counter-ISIS missions never lost their eligibility.

The medal is a campaign ribbon, given to a wide range of troops for participation in Operation Inherent Resolve. Launched in 2014, Inherent Reserve is the Pentagon’s name for U.S. operations against ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria, which have included tens of thousands of air strikes, ground raids by special forces and missions with coalition forces. In August, CENTCOM and Iraqi security forces conducted 28 operations, killing seven ISIS operatives killed and taking 25 into custody.

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Notably, the timing of the restored medal means Iraq troops were again eligible for the award before the surge in drone attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.  

The new policy extends medal eligibility for troops who meet the criteria between Jan. 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2024. 

The new policy comes amid 27 attacks in recent weeks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria. More than 20 troops have been injured and 19 were diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury, according to the Pentagon. The spike comes after the U.S. pledged its support and sent weapons, artillery and personnel to help advise Israel in its counter mission against Hamas for the Oct 7 terrorist attacks.

Award qualifications include troops based in Iraq or Syria that fly missions over those countries, and/or serve in contiguous waters for 30 days, whether consecutive or nonconsecutive; or were engaged in armed combat or participated in an operation or on official duties and were killed, injured or medically evacuated from the area. 

Aircrew troops gain one day of eligibility for “each day they fly into, out of, within, or over the AOE,” according to the memo.

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