Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by Just_A_Mom, Mar 25, 2009.
I found this intriguing.
Oh, I'm gonna open a bucket of worms here, because I have a definite opinion on this topic...
I've been in the AF for 25 1/2 years so far and you know what? I'm okay with this award rate being lower.
Because in the past 25+ years, we (the collective military forces of the USA) had been OVERLY silly with medals and ribbons. It's almost become similar to "political correctness" that EVERYONE has to receive a medal or ribbon almost every year or two. Doesn't matter for what, it just has to be.
The first examples of this silliness I saw during Desert Shield/Storm (DS). What do I define as silliness? NOT BRAVERY. That's self-explanatory.
However...during DS...a pilot in a fighter squadron could count on the following:
a. IF they were a "4-ship lead" then they could plan on a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) after 20 combat missions. An Air Medal was after every 10 sorties. And during Desert Shield, every 10 missions "guarding the Kingdom" got you an Aerial Achievement Medal. If you did the entire deployment of say 6 months and flew the "normal" number of sorties, you came home with "typically" about 3 Air Medals, 3 Aerial Achievement Medals, and possibly 1 Distinguished Flying Cross. Add to that the "Liberation of Kuwait Medals from both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait" if you were in Saudi or nearby, and you collected 5 decorations NOT counting the assorted "accessories" such as:
1. Southwest Asia Service Medal (SWASM)
2. Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon
3. Organizational Excellence Award Ribbon
4. Potentially an Overseas "Short Tour" ribbon, Joint Unit Organizational Award ribbon, etc.
b. IF you were a regular "non fighter" type, then you collected ALMOST the exact same medals/ribbons with the exception being the DFC. My wife was flying KC-135's at the time and she came home with
1. Air Medal
2. Aerial Achievement Medal
3. BOTH Kuwait Liberation Medals
4. SWASM w/2 Stars
5. AF Outstanding Unit Award ribbon with Combat "V" device
6. AF Organizational Excellence Award ribbon
c. IF you were a "staff pogue" and you were there for 6 months...if you were a MAJOR or above you pretty much counted on getting
1. Bronze Star Medal
2. BOTH Kuwait Liberation Medals
3. SWASM w/2 Stars
4. AF Outstanding Unit Award ribbon with Combat "V" device
5. AF Organizational Excellence Award ribbon
I realize this is getting long but do you get the picture? It was ridiculous!
And in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, it's gotten to be just the same: medals and ribbons are passed out like candy. At one base I'm personally familiar with, the decoration paperwork is part of the outprocessing checklist: "list the number of sorties you flew and what medals you are eligible for (there's a list showing what it takes to get which medal), sign here, here, and here, and they'll be awarded to you upon further processing." And for what? For being there for 120 days and flying and doing my job, nothing else?
But I digress...
NOW...bravery, valor; that's an entirely different subject. Those decorations (the BIG three are the Silver Star, AF/NAVY/Distinguished Service Crosses, Medal of Honor) have NOT been "bastardized" from what I've seen. Individuals recommended for decorations for valor are HIGHLY scrutinized, reviewed, evaluated, and reviewed again. "They" do NOT want to minimize or trivialize these awards. FYI...if you see someone with a DFC, Bronze Star, or Commendation Medal with a "V" on the ribbon; these were awarded for COMBAT VALOR and are deserving of great respect.
So...am I surprised that the "powers that be" have made it "more difficult/rare" to see an award of the two highest decorations the military has? NO, not at all; in fact, it's high time. These awards should be for the FINEST, most LAUDABLE acts of self-sacrifice/valor/bravery that can be seen. They should be the exception, not the rule.
When I was a young boy and I saw a member of the military with a Silver Star or above, I was always intrigued and awed: those were SERIOUS medals and meant a great deal! I'm 3d generation military; as kids we learned what those were and what they meant: respect was given to total strangers simply because of the ribbon on their uniform.
So...I'm not surprised and not disappointed. While I am 100% in favor of honoring valor, bravery, heroism, I want it to be well documented, with no doubt whatsoever, so that NO recipient of any decoration for valor/heroism/bravery can EVER be questioned by anyone.
These folks are to be put upon a pedestal.
I am with Fleiger on this, the MOH and Silver Star should be different. I even think the Bronze Star is being awarded to frequently now. Those medals have a deep meaning and they should be fully documented.
On a DIFFERENT Window to this house. If you look at the death toll; it is quite low. I know people want to mention the 4,000+ mark; but that doesn't even compare to all other conflicts. As such; maybe LESS of our soldiers/airmen/sailors are being in a position to warrant a MOH, PH, SS, etc... And personally; as someone who was involved with 5 "conflicts"; I like seeing LESS HARM and therefor LESS MEDALS. later... mike....
I have read several books by and about former MOH winners and have also been troubled by the small number that have been awarded since 2001, and especially that they have all been posthumous. I have no military backgound (other than my son being a candidate), but my gut feeling as a citizen tells me that this is not a coincidence and most definitely political. When reading about past winners, one thing most (if not all) of them have in common is that they killed people (sometimes a lot) in the course of the brave action which earned them the medal. I have noticed that several of the 5 winners recieved it for falling on grenades to save the lives of their comrades. No less brave, perhaps even more so, but definitley not as inflammatory to the very vocal (until recently, that is) anti-war protesters as actually killing a member of one of those cute clubs they have over there like the Taliban and Al-Queada. I think unfortunately this could be a case of the former administration trying not to bring any more attention to the fact that our soldiers were actually doing what they were sent over there to do (ie--kill the enemy) during the years when the war was said to be unpopular and not going well.
I don't think its political. I work closely with an MOH recipient and I asked him what the process is to "recommend, etc.," one for the MOH. I was amazed at HOW MUCH is required. Two witnesses, documentation, etc...etc...etc...
And then the review at DOD...it's SECRET. DOD wants NO outside influence, politics, etc., involved in the process. They want that to be as "pure" as it can be. Of course there can/will always be bias, etc., but the goal is a clean process.
In addition, MOH winners don't always have to kill folks. Fred Ferguson, the gent I get to work with, received his for saving lives as a helo pilot in 'Nam. He was not alone. Also realize, we in the military are NOT going to "keep an earned decoration" away from a person because they did something that the public didn't like. If a person has earned a Silver Star, Air Force Cross, or the Medal of Honor, they're going to receive it. Public opinion be damned. A great case in point: the MOH's awarded to minority members from WWII that had more than likely been "downgraded" due to their race. The wrong was righted, albeit MUCH later than it should have been.
No, I truly think it's simply that the "powers that be" are being EXTRA careful about awarding decorations and avoiding "gradeflation." That's all.
Just my 2 cents worth.
Well, I will admit that some of the awards given are given too easily...yet the "top tier" medals seem very rare.
I've heard some amazing stories comming out of Afghanistan and Iraq...
On the other hand, I noticed the certificate for the Bronze Star the desk of an AOC at the academy. Well, I read through the citation, and from what it stated, the guy was a very good manager for several months. I sat there thinking, "Wait, this guy got the Bronze Star for doing his job well?" Now, I'm a fan of "military bling," but only when it has been earned...and being a good manager/director doesn't rate a Bronze Star, IMO. Perhaps I'm just the new guy in town, but really?! The Bronze Star for doing a good job while deployed?!
Well, this is where the military made a mistake; not with the AOC, but with the decoration award criteria.
If you check the criteria for the Bronze Star...it was created to be an award below the Silver Star...and is to be awarded in combat for valor with a "V" device on the ribbon.
HOWEVER...it is also to replace the Meritorious Service Medal for service in a combat zone. SO...duty that would normally merit the award of the MSM in peacetime, in a combat zone will merit a Bronze Star WITHOUT the "V" device.
That's how the gov't wrote the reg. And it's not been changed. SO take a look at the back of the medal. It says: "For Heroic or Meritorious Service"
I had once came into a base camp that didn't belong to us. Another branch of service, and there was an award ceremony taking place.
We snuck a peek and watched for a while. I saw a young Specialist, probably very good at what he does, but I was shocked to see that he was being given a Bronze Star for rendering first aid to an injured comrad, who was hurt in an accident on the base.
I had to ask, did I hear that right? He wasn't rendering first aid while under fire? No, he left his post and provided aid, that was it.
I thought it was too much for sure. You're expected to give aid to your comrads when they are injured.... aren't you??
But in the same token, I've seen guys that really deserved an award and didn't get it. I knew Marines who rated the Purple Heart and didn't get it because they were treated by a Corpsman instead of the MD. I also knew a Sergeant who ran into a mortar barrage and carried people out, and didn't even get a certificate. Guess he shouldn't have pissed the Major off the day before Those were his words at the time.
I think the whole concept of the awarding of medals has changed over the years. Up through Vietnam, we relied on the draft and sent everyone home after the conflict. Retention was not the concern that it is now. “Service’ medals are awarded now more to reward above average performance in the hopes of retaining these personnel.
The Air Force and Naval Aviation have the old Air Medal issue. Since they are awarded mostly, by definition, for simply ‘being there’, they are indeed handed out like candy, mostly to officers. To keep the enlisted happy and not to skew the ratio of officer awards to enlisted awards, probably the enlisted in these communities receive more than their fair share of medals.
I think, as the article alluded, the change in warfare has caused a decrease in the medals awarded for valor. Capturing and holding real estate presented many more prolonged opportunities to show heroism. More unknowns, more squad mates getting into ‘trouble’. More need for heroics. Therefore, this, in the past, has been the incentive for awarding medals, to promote these actions, not long-term retention.
Hit-and-run surgical well-rehearsed and executed strikes on both sides where, if things don’t go as advertised, the expectation is to to fall back and regroup, just does not present the opportunities for heroism as did the taking of Hamburger Hill for example.
Therefore, my theory is that we will see more ‘candy’ being handed out simply for morale and to reward those we want to retain and less medals for heroism in the future. I would hate to see the criteria for awarding medals for heroism lessened just to maintain a quota. And, while I don’t think politics plays a role, I think there is probably much more scrutiny now just to avoid possible embarrassment.
A Measly Five Medals of Honors
Please read my post on this subject at The Moderate Voice, "Mr. President: The Medal of Honor, A Measly Five?"
Major Dorian de Wind
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