Thursday, October 15, 2015

Navy Award overhaul

Graham Scarbro nails it here.

The 2015 lieutenant with four NAMs cheapens the 1989 LT with zero, implying that service in 2015 was more valuable by virtue of the decorations awarded. Likewise, the 2015 Bronze Star for avoiding paper cuts on a NATO airfield complete with its own Dutch milkshake stand (run by pretty, blonde, Dutch twenty-somethings) cheapens the one awarded to the twenty-something infantry sergeant who braves hostile fire to complete a life-or-death mission.

This leads in to the second problem with the awards culture. Awarding ourselves all of these ribbons and medals inflates the public perception of the military. I mean, look at our leadership, they have so many decorations, they must have singlehandedly wrestled Saddam into submission! They must have exploits that rival whichever SEAL is currently claiming to have killed bin Laden! That Air Medal must have been earned on a low-level ingress over Damascus under hostile fire and definitely not by flying over Afghanistan twenty uneventful times.

Civilians are generally ignorant about awards, but they know that the MoH is an almost-holy relic in our culture, bestowed upon fewer and fewer people. The leap of logic from “Medal of Honor” to just “medal,” is not far, lending even the most mundane award an absurd gravitas in civilian consciousness.

Read the whole thing.


  1. This has been going on for a while. Back in my "baby nurse" days, I was caring for a retired WWII veteran (I'm a Navy nurse). He took a look at my ribbons (I'm also a prior enlisted Marine) and said, "I fought in the battle at Guadalcanal and I only have 4 ribbons."

    Made me feel really embarrassed and small.

    1. I hear you Mary. My OCS instructor was wounded aboard an LCS at IWO JIMA landing Marines. He served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. He earned a NAM for saving a ship from sinking in SF Bay. It was his highest award in over 40 years of service. Made me seem small.

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  3. I agree in pertinent part with what you wrote, but I'm not sure I share your sentiment regarding Air Medals. Your twenty sorties* over Afghanistan may not have encountered enemy resistance, there was no reason for you or anyone else in the crew to believe that would be the case when you left on those missions. The fact is that you all still put yourselves out there, flew missions over what is undeniably hostile territory, and more than likely on a pretty shitty/scary plane (presuming you flew on some variant of P-3). As Teddy Roosevelt said, "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..."

    *While the metric for Strike/Flight Air Medals has always been "points", the points are no longer awarded for sorties; instead, the Navy now awards points based on flight hours. Different AORs could theoretically come up with their own hours:points ratio, but 5th and 6th Fleets both award two points for every 25 combat hours flown.

    edit: words