When Domestic Politics and Medals Collide

Posted on: October 5th, 2014 by Will Rodriguez 8 Comments

Didn’t make a big splash in the news which is no surprise but until very recently troops deployed to fight ISIS in the current no end date “No Name” operations in Iraq and Syria were not authorized recognition for their service.  The Iraq Campaign Medal is limited to troops that served there from 2003 to 2011.  They couldn’t get the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary or Service medals either, which are limited to combat operations.  Seems giving combat medals to “advisors” might undermine the canard we aren’t in combat in Iraq or Syria.  I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around how planning, directing or dropping bombs now is different than doing it in any other conflict we’ve been in for the last couple of decades.  I can’t mentally get there and if I do the wife will likely be calling the guys in the white suits.

The lack of a name is also an issue frankly ignored by the main stream media.  The administration doesn’t want a name as it would help focus the discussion on whether we are engaged in combat, war or kinetic diplomacy. Part of the reason troops cannot be recognized for their service is the lack of an operational name.  I’ve suggested my own:

Operation Here We Go Again
Operation Deja vu
Operation Back in Iraq
Operation Ayatollah Assist
Operation RF II (Nor Rat F—, Residual Force)
Operation No Boots
Operation Mission Accomplished
Operation JV
Operation Diminished & Destroyed
Operation Surgical Strike
Operation Red Line
Operation Inauguration Day
Operation No Combat Troops
Operation Obamacare
Operation ISIL (I Saw Iraq Last)

Well two days after the initial report and in the tradition of Olympic level mental gymnastics (and no doubt in response to congressional attention) Operation “No Name” will continue to be anonymous but the service of those troops deployed will be recognized under the Operation Enduring Freedom moniker and be eligible for the  Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.  “Troops deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom are eligible for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal,” Army Maj. James Brindle, a Defense Department spokesman, said Thursday.

The lack of effort to name the current operation stands in stark contrast to efforts to fight Ebola called Operation United Assistance or the deployment of troops to train in Eastern Europe called Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The inmates are in charge of the asylum…

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • YankeePapa

    .
    …This happened to our advisers in El Salvador during their civil war.  No medals, no CIBs.. etc.  Not a war… right?  Our advisers forbidden to carry anything in the field heavier than a pistol… (Great when the local troops run out on you and all the bad guys have AKs…)  One photog got picture of adviser with M-16 and his career was toast…

    .
    …Many years later some medals were quietly given out… One officer who really distinguished himself was disqualified because in order to survive he had to lead a counterattack… By definition a counterattack is a type of defensive action… sometimes only way to break up an enemy attack… but the Pentagon did not see it that way… Anything not 100% defensive deemed “naughty…” no medals.  
    .
    …Near the end of the First Indochina War a number of French soldiers volunteered to parachute into Dien Bien Phu even though the garrison could not hold out long.  Troops dropping at night… might land beyond the wire in enemy controlled area… (perimeter had shrunk drastically) in the middle of the wire… in burning areas… onto rubble… minefields…  Most could expect to be killed, wounded, captured or injured in the drops…  To make it really special… almost none of these men had ever jumped… no training… just strap on chute… few minutes briefing… and out the door and into the flames…

    .
    …There were a number of French and Colonial parachute battalions at Dien Bien Phu.  Months after the garrison fell… when the survivors (of combat and the prison camps) were released… the para battalion commanders requested that Army HQ authorize a waiver to award jump wings to those actually dropped into the firestorm…  
    .
    …High ranking gold-braided twits in air conditioned offices flatly refused.  The regulations specified five training jumps… and the “mere fact” of dropping into combat without training was not considered a special circumstance worthy of authorizing a waiver.
    .
    -YP-

  • Luddite4Change

    This should not come as a surprise, especially once the administration used the OEF AUMF as its legal basis for action.

    The GWOT-E has been authorized for OEF in Syria since 2004, and the GWOT-E was re-authorized for Iraq in late 2010.

    http://prhome.defense.gov/Portals/52/Documents/RFM/MPP/OEPM/Docs/GWOT-E%20Medal%20-%20Approved%20AOEs%20for%20Ops%20-%202013%2009%2027.pdf

    I’m actually quite surprised that the administration even when this far (not like they had a choice).  As during the other recent time they took military action without Congressional approval, or invoking the War Powers act by calling Libya “not a combat activity” they didn’t bother to issue an appropriate DOD Campaign, Expeditionary, or Service Medal.  DOD did, of course, authorize acceptance of the NATO medal, but that was the only time that a foreign award was accepted without the simultaneous issue of a US medal.

    But, this also ignores what I see as the bigger issue, now that we are (at least) flying aircraft over Syria.  The lack of a combat zone classification for Syria and its airspace.  (For those who don’t know the full history, we are still using the Iraq combat zone established in 1991 for Desert Storm.  Syria was an ally and located in EUCOM’s footprint, so was left out of the combat zone.)

    Without a combat zone or “DOD in direct support of operations in the combat zone) determination, if a service member is killed within Syria, their family will be saddled with a tax burden that won’t apply to those whose loved ones are killed inside the combat zone.

    The other issue, IMHO, is that we just several months ago shut of the HF/IDP authorization for locations were we are now flying active combat missions.  If we think ISIS et al is a threat to Americans in Europe and are now moving to restrict the wear of the uniform by service members off post, does that raise the threat level in these formerly HF/IDP countries enough to restart the entitlement?

    I’ll also note that DOD cut off HF/IDP to Liberia at the same time, and while the you can’t say its a hostile fire location, I think a good case can be made that it meets the threshold of “Imminent danger”.

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …BTW… As if POTUS wasn’t feeling picked on already re ISIS…
    .
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/carter-obama-waited-too-long-to-fight-isis/ar-BB89WXW
    .
    -YP-

  • Luddite4Change

    That’s gotta leave a mark.

  • YankeePapa
  • Michael_mike

    YankeePapa  Along with the “sympathetic” foe Iranians, the Turkish-Kurdish problem make up a complicated web. But I can’t blame the Turks for crying out to get rid of Assad for good, it’s no surprise that he did not declare all of its CW stocks.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11147681/gas-Syria-Sigrid-Kaag-Samantha-Power-Isil-Isis-chlorine.html

  • YankeePapa 
    Pretty good article explaining why the Turks are dragging their feet.  http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/10/07/fiddling_while_kobani_burns_turkey_islamic_state?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=*Situation%20Report&utm_campaign=SitRep1008
    In short…
    It’s in the Turks interest for the popular Kurdish Guerrilla group defending Kobani to lose and get taken down a peg.  (This is in line with my previous observation that the Turks nave an issue with an independent Kurdistan.)

    The Turk’s inaction is a lever to get the US to commit to a “no fly” zone and maybe put the US on the road of physically committing to Assad’s ouster and nit just talk about it.  

    I’d add to the mix that expecting the Turks to put troops on the ground while we don’t isn’t setting the example and the region had no faith in our credibility to stay the course.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …Thanks.  And yup… the truce with the Turkish Kurds looks to be disintegrating…  Nineteen dead in violent protests so far.  One scenario that should concern the Turkish leadership is winding up in a war with *both* the Kurds and ISIS…
    .
    …Turkey haggled with the U.S. prior to Gulf War Two and got what it wanted to permit U.S. forces to move into Iraq from Turkey… At the last minute they changed their mind.  
    .
    …Memories of the old Ottoman Empire are long in that part of the world and while Turkey may indeed want to lead the parade… a fair number of the neighbors are not too eager to follow…  Political cartoon from the region from some years back…
    .
    http://johnlknight.blogspot.com/2007/06/on-officers-uniform-turkish-army.html
    .
    -YP-