Saturday, March 26, 2005

Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges

A famous quote by Napoleon is that "men will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon." Soldiers certainly don't get paid enough to put their lives on the line in direct-fire combat, so for some the reason is at least partly for the prestige and awards.
Traditionally, the only combat badge that soldiers get (other than the patch on their right sleeve) has been reserved for infantrymen - the Combat Infantry Badge or CIB. The Infantry's job is to close with and destroy the enemy, so they tend to get more baubles and trinkets for having the roughest job. (correction: There are two traditional combat badges. Medics in combat get the Combat Medic Badge)
The Army has recently decided to give something called the "Close Combat Badge" to Combat Arms troops other than Infantry. David Green has an interesting idea about combat badges over at Reverse Retna from the Sandlot
His idea is that that the Army should award seperate badges for each segment of the Army (Infantry, the Rest of Combat Arms, Combat Support, Combat Service Support). Not being an Infantryman myself, I still disagree with making any more badges than the CIB / CMB. Didn't anyone learn from giving berets to the entire Army in order to make everyone feel "more elite?" The very act of giving the beret to everyone devalued the beret itself. If you give a badge to everyone involved in ground combat, the CIB and the new badges you make up will all be de-valued. The very act of trying to make people feel more special will make them feel less special.
Here's a funny comic that illustrates my point.
(History Nerd Note: In WWII, Germany only awarded a close combat badge to soldiers who distinguished themselves in hand to hand combat. The badge itself had a bayonet and a grenade on it)
update 25MAY05: the US Army changed the name and then approved the final design for the Combat Action Badge. It, too, has a bayonet and a grenade on it just like the Nazi German badge did. Funny how history repeats itself...