1 thought on “How the military gives awards.”

  1. Besides the sad truth of that British-inspired humor at CDR Sals and also the differing standards among the services for awarding the same medal alluded to by commenters at Sals, there is also an “experience curve” that begins with the onset of hostilities and manifests itself throughout the life of the campaign. By this I mean that, initially senior commanders are desirous of signs of success to build public support for the war effort, thus awards & decorations are liberally handed out and usually one award level above that actually merited early on at the beginning of hostilities. As the conflict drags on, however, commanders become concerned that the copious award numbers are “diluting” the value of the award and the pendulum swings the other way. Awards are either down-graded from that actually merited or denied altogether. In counter-response to THIS state of affairs front-line awards & decs officers, in anticipation of the new (always informal) policy award down-grades, begin to submit recommendations for awards one level higher than justified in anticipation of the automatic down-grade, hoping thusly to achieve the proper merited outcome.

    Standards vary from conflict to conflict also. In Vietnam an Air Medal was automatically awarded for every 10 msns over N. Vietnam in the USAF (hence the old joke that each successfully completed msn was 1/10th of an Air Medal)
    and the Dist. Flying Cross–DFC–every 30 msns. These awards were made automatically w.o. regard to circumstance both due to the difficulty of verification in air warfare and assumptions about the lethal nature of the combat environment flown in. In AfPk/Iraq, by contrast, the flying environment is considered far more benign and so Air Medals are currently awarded after only every 15 msns, for example. (although I’m not really up to speed, the number may be even higher now.)

    (One thing I HAVE noticed with regard to both officer and enlisted support/staff personnel in all branches is that it’s become standard practice to receive *some* award of merit AUTOMATICALLY upon tour/assignment completion–combat zone or CONUS. In fact an entirely new class/type of medals have been struck for such awards. Such liberal *automatic* “meritorious service” awards rather than for *outstanding* *above and beyond* awards was not only unheard of in my day–it was unthinkable. I guess this only reflects the “all must have trophies” self-esteem movement mentality I witnessed manifest itself in my sons grammar schooling in the early 80s)

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