September 22, 2006:
The U.S. Navy is offering special recognition, and benefits, for sailors who volunteer to serve tours of duty, in Iraq and Afghanistan, with army and marine units. Some 10,000 sailors have already served as IAs (individual augmentees). Since this takes them away from the usual cycle of training and sea duty, which is needed to advance in rank, the navy will credit some of the combat zone time as sea duty, and make it easier for the IAs to keep up with getting promotions and training in their specialty. There will also be a special badge awarded to those sailors who have served with the ground troops as IAs. The sailors usually serve in support roles, but when this includes a lot of time on the road, it often turns into combat. The navy bomb disposal experts are particularly appreciated, as are the sailors that man gunboats on the rivers. The army and marines needed the extra manpower on the ground, and appreciated the sailors who came to help out.