When I first deployed to Afghanistan, there were two badges that were highly sought after: the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB), and the Combat Action Badge (CAB). In the interests of riling up those that may believe one to be superior to the other, I’m going to pair them together and talk about them as if they are the same. Ha. I am going to set the Combat Medic Badge aside because its meaning is separate and distinct from the two above. Also, I don’t have either the CAB or CIB. I’m a medic. We have our own badge. But that is another blog.
The CIB was established October 27, 1943 and was designed to recognize those Infantryman who had served in combat. There are a lot of retroactive issuance and non-availability information, as is outlined in AR 600-8-22, but I’m not going to go into those. The important three criteria must be met to receive this badge. They are:
(1) Be an infantryman satisfactorily performing infantry duties.
(2) Be assigned to an infantry unit during such time as the unit is engaged in active ground combat.
(3) Actively participate in such ground combat. Campaign or battle credit alone is not sufficient for award of the CIB.
The CAB was established May 5, 2005, but only covers the periods of this most recent conflict. It was designed to recognize the actions of those who have served in combat, but can’t be doubled up with the CIB or the Combat Medic Badge. The three criteria must be met to receive this badge. They are:
(1) It may be awarded to any Soldier.
(2) The soldier must be performing assigned duties in an area where hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay is authorized.
(3) The soldier must be personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy, and performing satisfactorily in accordance with the prescribed rules of engagement.
Now, the army has rated the CIB as a Group 1 skill badge and the CAB a Group 2, which means if you have been awarded both, then you wear your CIB above your CAB.
I refuse to believe one to be better than the other. After serving on a small base with both mortars and scouts in the same platoon and working together to accomplish the same mission, the only difference between two guys in the same team was that one was a mortarman patrolling as a rifleman, and the other was a scout doing a rifleman’s job. The mortarman receives a CIB and the scout receives a CAB. I don’t see a difference between the two badges. Your MOS doesn’t mean anything; it’s only what you do when it counts.
Here is where the criticism and debates really begin. The two most recent conflicts have created a watered-down image of these badges, leading many who have truly met all the requirements to stop wearing it, while those who barely made the minimum requirements, wear them with pride. Of course, I say the most recent two conflicts, but I don’t believe in the slightest that the previous generations had any fewer badge chasers than we have now, who are willing to fight harder to be awarded their badge, than they were willing to fight to earn it. Anyone who has been in a combat environment knows what I am referring to: that Captain hiding under his desk during an indirect fire attack, who then stands up after the attack is over and adds the dates to his template award that he had waiting for such an occasion.
I was one of those protesters, refusing to wear my badge because it had been watered-down, and because I thought it carried little meaning–until I was corrected, for two reasons. First, my refusal to wear it in the face of those who hadn’t truly earned it, only watered it down more. If you earned it, wear it. By your silent professionalism, you humble those who think that little badge makes them a better soldier. Second, it isn’t about you. It is about those who were with you. By wearing that badge, you demonstrate pride in those who you stood beside during your conflict. You never do anything alone. Have some pride in that fact.
Now here is the reason that many people forget, while being taken in by the glitz and glamor of badges, that is their original purpose–to identify skill and experience. The idea behind badges is for a commander to walk up to a formation of soldiers, who he doesn’t know, and by looking at them be able to identify their level of experience and responsibility by their rank, and also to be able to identify who his seasoned veterans are. Those who had been tested, the CIB and CAB, tell a commander that you have valuable experience and allow him to potentially utilize you for a better result.
How does this apply to Stolen Valor individuals? The same way it does with everything else. It makes them assholes. If you wear it and you didn’t earn it, you are an asshole. That is all.
For those who have worn out their joints, shed blood, and fired rounds downrange at the enemy, and as a result have been awarded one of these badges, they are a reflection of our experience and our actions when it mattered most.