Congress has ordered the Defense Department to consider a proposal to retroactively award the Combat Action Badge to soldiers who engaged in actual combat dating back to Dec. 7, 1941.
Though legislation extending award eligibility back to World War II failed to make it into the final version of the 2015 Defense bill, lawmakers told the Pentagon that "the retroactive award of the Army Combat Action Badge" should be considered in its ongoing review of DoD awards programs.
The Combat Action Badge, authorized for soldiers in combat who are not eligible for the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge, was established in 2005 to recognize that many troops – regardless of their specialty – were coming under fire and engaging the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Florida, has filed legislation for retroactive CAB authorization for several years, even making it tax-neutral by requiring those who might be approved for the medal to purchase it directly from the supplier.
The House adopted his bills but the Senate has balked.
"I've never gotten a good explanation for why the Senate is so opposed to it. There is no cost to the taxpayer associated with the badge and these men and women have clearly earned the recognition," Nugent said Thursday.
"If there's a good reason not to do this, I certainly don't know what that reason is."
Lawmakers included the directive to the Pentagon in a joint explanatory statement it attached to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.
The Combat Infantryman Badge dates to World War II and has been awarded to soldiers bearing the infantry MOS in all subsequent wars and campaigns.
The Combat Medical Badge also came out of World War II, initially for medical personnel from any service branch who, while assigned to an Army infantry unit, carried out their duties while under fire.
In 1989, eligibility was extended to Special Forces troops with an 18D -- Special Operations Medical Sergeant – MOS, and two years later, to medical personnel assigned or attached to armor and ground cavalry units brigade-sized and smaller.
After the 9/11 attacks, CMB eligibility was extended again to medical personnel assigned, attached or under operational control of any brigade-size or smaller combat arms unit excluding aviation.
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on March 21 ordered a review of all Defense Department awards and decorations programs to ensure the military provides "avenues to appropriately recognize the service, sacrifices and actions of our service members."
Hagel's decision was prompted in part by a DoD review, ordered by Congress in 2002, into whether past recipients of high-level valor awards may have been denied the Medal of Honor because of discrimination against their Hispanic-American and Jewish-American heritage.
That review resulted in a March 18, 2014, White House ceremony at which 24 Army soldiers were awarded the nation's highest honor, including eight from the Vietnam War, nine from Korea and seven from World War II.
Twenty-one of the medals were bestowed posthumously.
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