Murphy's Law: October 26, 2004

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Soldiers retrained and serving temporarily as infantry in Iraq cannot be awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) under the current rules, despite the fact that they are fighting as infantry for more than the 30 days required to qualify for the CIB. The Army is now debating who should qualify for the award,  since thousands of soldiers, including tankers, engineers, and artillerymen, have been retrained to perform as infantry in Iraq. Even some infantry company commanders are in favor of expanding the award to include non-infantry troops serving as infantry. During the Vietnam war, exceptions were made.

Currently, the CIB is only awarded to Army infantry or special forces personnel  who has been personally present and under hostile fire while serving in an assigned infantry or special forces duty in a unit actively engaged in ground combat with the enemy. Soldiers who aren't infantry or special forces MOS (military occupation specialty, or job code) can't get the CIB, regardless of how well they perform under enemy fire. The commander of the 1st Cavalry Division has called for an "exception of policy" to allow non-infantry units to receive the CIB. Army brass have formed a task force to examine the issue, taking into the account the "changing name of combat." Traditionalists are reluctant to expand the criteria for awarding the badge because they are afraid it will dilute the award. 

The CIB was created in 1943 to recognize that the infantry "continually operate under the worst conditions" and sustain "the most casualties" with the least recognition. From World War II through Vietnam, four out of five combat deaths were sustained by infantrymen. However, Iraq is a different war with more casualties sustained by non-infantry in fighting to date. In addition, the armor-heavy Army needed more infantry to secure Iraq and entire companies traded in their tanks for Humvees. "Retreads" from other MOSes have seen intense close-quarters fighting in Iraqi cities and continue to rack up more than their share of Purple Hearts and other awards for merit and courage. Doug Mohney

 


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