By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 5, 2005
Any Army soldier who has seen active combat while in Iraq or Afghanistan may now receive a new "Combat Action Badge," making tens of thousands of soldiers who are not in the infantry ranks -- including women -- eligible for a combat award for the first time.
The new award, which the Army announced yesterday, means that the thousands of soldiers who are exposed to enemy action but are not officially in combat roles can earn a prestigious badge for being involved in the fight. Army officials said the badge was designed to honor soldiers such as military police, truck drivers and fuel specialists who face perilous situations while doing their jobs in the ongoing wars.
"It recognizes that in the current realities of the battlefield, an insurgency, any soldier could be subject to a combat situation," said Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman. "It's going to be a tremendous morale booster to soldiers."
The Army has not designed or chosen colors for the badge, which would be worn above the left pocket of a soldier's dress uniform. The badges should begin appearing in military clothing stores by the end of the summer.
The badge is the first non-medical combat distinction to honor women who are caught in battle during U.S. wars, largely because women are not assigned to frontline combat duties.
The war in Iraq has demonstrated that any soldier -- from a cook to a driver to an infantryman -- can be exposed to insurgent attacks, and the Army is seeking to honor anyone who "is personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy."
Curtin said the award is retroactive to Sept. 18, 2001, the date President Bush authorized the wars against terrorism, and applies to all soldiers around the world who are assigned to an area where hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay is authorized, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.