Sunday, April 03, 2005

Badges? We don't need no steenking badges . . .

For the first time since World War II, the Army is creating a new combat badge. The new badge, which will be known as the Close Combat Badge, joins the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Combat Medic's Badge, otherwise known respectively as the CIB and CMB. The new badge will recognize members of other combat arms branches (armour, artillery, cavalry) who "close with and destroy the enemy using direct fire."

Those of you who have served in a combat arms MOS are no doubt divided into two camps about this. Infantrymen are probably terribly disgruntled, while tankers, cavalrymen and field artillerists are no doubt cheering. Most of the rest of you probably wonder what the big deal is.

So you know, in the infantry and in Special Forces, many people consider the CIB to be the most meaningful badge there is - some would say the only meaningful badge there is. That probably seems a little odd from the outside looking in. Most badges and tabs, like the Special Forces or Ranger Tab, or even the Parachutist Badge ("airborne wings") or Expert Infantryman Badge, require a good bit of hard work to achieve. The CIB is different, though. You don't really have to do anything to get it but stand there - and not run away, of course.

There are basically three requirements for award of the CIB: The soldier must be an infantryman satisfactorily performing infantry duties, must be assigned to an infantry unit during such time as the unit is engaged in active ground combat, and must actively participate in such ground combat. From the reg: A recipient must be personally present and under hostile fire while serving in an assigned infantry or special forces primary duty, in a unit actively engaged in ground combat with the enemy.

The CIB was created as a unique honor to recognize the combat infantryman, who usually has the dirtiest job in any war. I think that a lot of infantrymen will be a bit distressed by the new award. For the last four major wars we've fought(WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm), there's been pressure to create a badge analogous to the CIB for the other combat arms, and it hasn't happened until now. The new award, by the way, is only retroactive to Sept 11, 2001, so that the tankers from World War II or the armoured cav from Vietnam won't be getting it in the mail.

So why now? An argument could be made that the changing nature of insurgent war make operations of other combat arms more "infantry-like", and thus deserving of an award. I suspect, though, that it has more to do with morale and retention than anything else.

Badges and awards are a big deal to a soldier - they're visible signs of achievement and distinction. If "spreading the wealth" and making more soldiers eligible for a combat badge inspires some of those soldiers to stay in the army, I think the senior leadership would be all for it.

That's probably also the reasoning behind the new Sapper Tab. Once upon a time, the only tab (a piece of embroidered cloth worn on the left shoulder) was the Ranger Tab, awarded for completion of Ranger school. Special Forces soldiers who completed the "Q" course wore the full flash (the cloth shield shaped insignia on the beret.) SF soldiers who weren't fully qualified wore a rectangular strip cut from the full flash on their beret, and were known as "candy stripers."

Then, in the early '80s, the powers that be decided that the Q course was sufficiently rigorous that soldiers who were graduates but who, for whatever reason, were no longer assigned to Special Forces units, should still be recognized. So the Special Forces Tab was created, and candy stripers were done away with. That was it for 50 some odd years. Now, graduates of the Sapper Leaders Course are also eligible for a tab, and members of other combat arms for a combat badge.

And, why not - the young men out there fighting the war certainly deserve recognition for their service and exceptional effort. And if it does help keep experienced soldiers in the army, and especially in combat arms, then it's a good idea. But expect some muted muttering from the infantry and from graduates of SF and Ranger school about how the prestige of their awards are being diluted by the army's new inclusiveness.

(Want to know more about the CIB?)

14 Comments:

Anonymous Kristy said...

Your blog is great. You have a really enjoyable writing style.

Could I ask a question that isn't related to the topic at hand? I'd like to know what "locked and loaded" means.

Thanks,

Kristy

5:34 PM  
Anonymous MKL said...

Still nothing for MPs???

8:19 PM  
Blogger Synova said...

I think that anyone who actually takes it to the enemy directly ought to get some sort of particular recognition. I don't know what the infantry badge looks like but absolutely I can see how it would be the most important award a person could have.

I've got a little ribbon to say I served during Desert Storm (AF) and I don't know if everyone got one or if it was because I was at a FOB. Probably everyone got one since I wasn't remotely near the Middle East. It would be a shame, really, if people sent to Saudi or Iraq didn't get something more, and people who actually saw combat got something that *clearly* differentiated from what I have. It's *important*.

I don't know if other people should get the same badge, but they ought to get something that says to anyone who sees it that they engaged in war on that most intimate level.

1:56 AM  
Blogger Yankee Tech in Germany said...

I dont see this as a good thing, as a mater of fact I think it is a very bad thing. For the most part Tankers are in a TANK when fighting the enemy, not much danger from RPG/Small arms fire in a 75 Ton TANK! Also for the most part Arty is out of reach of most RPG/Small Arms fire and our (read US ARMY/Marine/Navy) counter-battery fire is so good, that it is God like. Why should they now get a badge, when Signal soldiers that are with the Infantry units do not get anything. And they are in the same situations with a heavy radio on there backs. Whats next a CREMFB (Combat Rear Echelon M***** F***** Badge) for just being in the theater during the conflict?

If you want a CIB, re-class as an 11b and earn it. Otherwise soldier up and move out.

11:34 AM  
Blogger KeithM, Indy said...

Kristy - "locked and loaded" is a term used to indicate your weapons bolt is closed on a live round.

Regarding this new badge, from my read of the release, it sounds like this is a CIB for non combat/S.F. Sounds like the same rules apply as for a CIB, but to a different set of soldiers.

In other words a tanker would be outside of his tank, doing the job of the infantry.

Personally I think anyone who gets shot at, and shoots back deserves the highest praise we can give them.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Major Mike said...

I guess being from the Marine Corps I am not a big badge/tab guy. We do have the Combat Action Ribbon which recognizes the individual for having met certain criteria with regards to engaging the enemy, but all of toady's forces have performed extremely well, and even the REMFs have done their part. But because they do not engage the enemy, they will never be eligible for combat decorations. I say, clean up the uniforms, let the ribbons and medals do the talking.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

Keith,

It indicates that my weapons bolt is closed on a live round, eh? Um...ok. I was hoping for an explanation in English, but I think I can puzzle that out.

Thanks very much. :-)

Kristy

12:05 AM  
Blogger Synova said...

A bolt action, IIRC, would be on a single shot rifle. There is a knob on the side and you have to move it to open the opening to put a bullet inside. Then you slide the "bolt" closed and it pushes the bullet into the right spot inside the rifle and closes the opening. Very like one of those latches on a bathroom stall... the round kind not the flat kind. Slid all the way closed the little knob locks down into a notch so it can't open again without being lifted.

A "live round" is just a bullet. The hollow casing holds the gun powder and the bullet is stuck on the end of it. When the powder explodes the bullet goes out the barrel and the casing stays. Which is why, I suppose, that people say "live round" instead of bullet, since a live round has a bullet, casing, and explosive.

Sorry if this is way too simplified. If it helps at all, I called a "magazine" a "clip" once in front of the wrong person. ;-)

Anyway, you'd think they'd say "loaded and locked" instead of "locked and loaded" huh?

3:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kristy,
It means that whatever wepon you have is ready to fire.
unkawill

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the 1st SGT announced that a new list of CIB elgibles was posted on the B Board outside his hootch, all of us newbies hustled over to make sure we were on it. This was followed by a trip to the Vietnamese tailor who sold us the cloth badges and sewed 'em on. And about that fast. We didn't stop being newbies, but it was a step along the way.
At the time, we thought the criterion for this award was a month paddling around in the boonies -which is about how it worked out for me.
Joined the USMC and had to replace it with a ribbon -I was surprised how much that bothered me, given my bad feelings (at the time) towards the Army.
I can tell you, the CIB is the first thing I look for on any soldier's uniform.
This badge stuff is like the Air Force, which has a badge for every MOS. From three feet away, they all look the same -and all a dinosaur like me respects is pilots wings, anyway.
Believe the CIB originated as a half-assed solution to morale problems caused by the inordinately high losses among the infantry in the European Theater in WW II. Believe the odds were about 4 to 1 in favor of being killed or wounded if you were real infantry.
The guys that came home wearing the badge after that had seen the elephant.
Don't know how I'll feel about the other combat badges. Since I can't recognize any of the I wuz there stuff since Gulf War I, probably won't even know it's there.
One thing about the CIB -it's a big, gaudy piece of tin -really hits you over the head which is perfect for the old style grunt.
Said way too much, as usual. Great writing on your part, as usual.
V/R JW

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

Synova,

That's a great explanation and really helps me to visualize the process. And yes, the order of the phrase does seem to be wrong.

I also appreciate the bonus explanation about live rounds and bullets. Never would have occured to me that there was a difference. At some point you'll have to give me a lesson on magazines and clips. The meaning that I assign to those words is probably a bit different than what you have in mind. :-)

Unkwilla,

I knew someone around here had to speak English! :-) I've heard the expression over the years, and I kind of thought it might just mean "I'm good to go" in general as opposed to having a more specific military meaning.

Thanks so much,

Kristy

12:19 AM  
Blogger six said...

a snippet from my comments on the same topic:
didn't anyone learn from giving berets to the entire Army in order to make everyone feel "more elite?" The very act of giving the beret to everyone devalued the beret itself. If you give a badge to everyone involved in ground combat, the CIB and the new badges you make up will all be de-valued. The very act of trying to make people feel more special will make them feel less special.

1:08 AM  
Anonymous Razor said...

To be precise, smokeless powder, as used in firearms cartridges, is not an explosive, but a fast-burning powder that creates high-pressure gas, which builds up within the sealed casing until it has enough force to push the bullet off the casing and down the barrel. Smokeless powder (and, for that matter, black powder) is specifically not categorized as an explosive just for this reason.

12:57 AM  
Blogger The Laws that govern Life said...

Reading your blog is like a letter from home. And i thank you.

First of all - Kristy should ignore this response since it could only confuse her.

And now - i’m facinated by the response that Kristy has generated.
( ahhhh a damsel in destress – an i got the answer )
the answer to a Green Beret’s prayer.

and reading the ‘answers’ she generated - i find that all these years I’d got it wrong?????

Cause i gotta confess – to me – Lock and Load meant (and in it’s proper order too)
LOCK your weapons by locking the Safety selector ON.
LOAD your weapons by inserting the magazine or clip and either release the bolt or pull the charging handle thereby chambering the round.
Now you are “locked and loaded”
(safety LOCKED bullet LOADED)
and then it was BRASS time

the kicker is that i know this was how we were instructing our G’s when we set up their transition firing ranges. Did us teachers have it wrong?

But then again – i was just the ditty-dah-dah-ditty guy in my team. So wadda i kno.

5:48 PM  

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