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The Military Needs To Get A Handle On Its Awards Process
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man who led Allied forces to victory in Europe during World War II, had 10 ribbons on his uniform when he left the military after nearly 34 years of commissioned service. I checked into the visitors’ quarters on an Air Force base awhile back, and the 20-something check-in clerk had more ribbons than that.
Something has gone seriously awry in our awards process. While each of the services will justify its policies on a case-by-case basis, collectively there is a problem. If you were to walk around a typical base and didn’t know the meanings of the ribbons, you would either think that every service member is Audie Murphy, or that the military is a grown-up version of summer camp, where everyone gets participation ribbons. The second is closer to the truth.
Participation ribbons are where a lot of the excess comes in. Campaign medals honor serving in major campaigns and expeditions. Whether you fought at Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, that service is worth commemorating. Somewhere along the line, things got out of hand. I have two National Defense Service medals, and while I appreciated my first as a nice starter kit to keep my uniform from being completely blank when I joined, it’s not as if I swell with pride wearing it. The reason I don’t is because everybody gets one.
The point of an award is to show serving with some type of distinction, not just serving. A few years back, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal joined the National Defense Service Medal in the pantheon of uselessness. It’s given to everyone serving in the military during the “War on Terror,” which one might think was already covered by the National Defense Service Medal, but apparently one medal wasn’t enough. Now everyone in the military has two medals for successfully breathing.
If we first eliminate every award given for just showing up other than campaign awards, a lot of the problem stops right there. Awards such as the Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the NCO Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Air Force Training Ribbon should be cast in the dustbin of history. Same for all of the special duty ribbons for recruiters, drill instructors, honor guards, and the rest throughout the services. You did your job. That’s what your paycheck commemorates. Why does that need a special ribbon?
Some people like the idea of looking at someone’s ribbon stack and knowing everywhere he or she has been. That’s what talking to people is for. We should honor serving abroad in combat theaters — that’s what military service is about, after all, but we don’t need to wear our entire personnel files on our chests.
Of course, the military also has issues with personal awards. The personal awards system is so convoluted that the only time anyone notices another’s personal awards is by their absence.
“Ooh, he’s done two tours and doesn’t have a personal award? Who’d he piss off?”
It’s hard to rein in on a unit level — as in arms control, if not everyone does it at the same time, you only end up hurting your own people. Haphazardly applied quota systems tend to make awards a matter of timing, just like budgets. At some points in an awards cycle, you need to walk on water to earn an award. At others, it may just require fogging a mirror.
This requires a Department of Defense-wide response. We need to dispense with end-of-tour awards. Your reward for a solid tour should be a solid fitness/efficiency report. Awards should be for discrete actions over a defined period of time — i.e., “impact” awards. If you really are a rock star, you will have had at least one particular task you shined at during a tour.
We can also phase out duplicative individual service and joint awards. Each service has its own individual medals for its lower awards, e.g., Navy and Marine Corps/Air Force/Army Achievement medals. There are also “joint” versions of these for serving in joint commands. The DoD should create uniform standards for these and institute a “Military Achievement Medal,” “Military Commendation Medal,” etc. To avoid “stack” creep during the transition, anyone who already has an individual service medal would receive his Military Commendation Medal as a device on his existing service award.
These medals are also awarded on wildly different difficulty scales. The lowest achievement medal is given for things ranging all the way from finding a piece of unsafe equipment to rewarding a entire four-year tour. We need to get used to using letters of commendation, meritorious masts, and letters of appreciation presented in formations and put in personnel files as rewards for day-to-day excellence and save the medals for the truly outstanding.
The services have generally been better at maintaining the integrity of combat awards. However, some rudder steers will help ensure that those who go above and beyond in combat operations receive the recognition they deserve. The Bronze Star in particular has become a fixture of controversy, because when given with a Combat Distinguishing Device, or “V,” it rewards valor in combat, while without, it rewards meritorious service in a combat theater. Let’s simplify that and award it only for actions in actual combat. Actions in a combat theater not involving contact with the enemy should receive a Meritorious Service Medal or similar award.
Additionally, the services have been inconsistent both internally and between themselves at awarding the two top awards: the Medal of Honor and the respective service crosses. For example, the Army is alleged to have downgraded a soldier's recommendation for the Medal of Honor to a Silver Star due to possible non-related misconduct. Once these high-level awards pass a colonel’s desk, they need to go to a DoD-wide joint awards board. These awards are too hallowed to be given easily or denied capriciously.
De-escalating the awards arms race will better recognize the truly outstanding while not making senior personnel look like third-world dictators.
Former Marine Commandant tells Trump that pardoning troops accused of war crimes 'relinquishes the moral high ground'
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Associated Materials. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Associated Materials Incorporated is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Associated Materials, a residential and commercial siding and window manufacturer based in Ohio, employs people from a variety of backgrounds. The company gives them an opportunity to work hard and grow within the organization. For Tim Betsinger, Elizabeth Dennis, and Tanika Carroll, all military veterans with wide-ranging experience, Associated Materials has provided a work environment similar to the military and a company culture that feels more like family than work.
President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."