ARLINGTON, Va. — After 60 years of debate, Army officials have finally decided to create a badge for non-infantry soldiers that recognizes their direct participation in ground combat.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker presented the new Close Combat Badge, or CCB, to a cadre of senior officers Friday, during a regularly scheduled meeting of four-star Army generals, according to Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army personnel spokesman.

The new badge will be the equivalent of the Army’s Combat Infantry Badge, which was created in 1943.

The CIB, in the form of a rifle surrounded by a wreath, is reserved for infantry and Special Forces soldiers only.

The Close Combat Badge will be awarded to soldiers with military occupational specialties in armor, the cavalry, combat engineering, and field artillery. Officers must have a branch or specialty recognized in Army regulations as “having a high probability to routinely engage in direct combat.”

The CCB will be presented only to soldiers who are engaged in active ground combat, moving to contact and destroy the enemy with direct fire.

All soldiers are allowed to wear their unit patch on their right shoulder as a “combat patch” if the military operation lasted more than 30 days. There is no in-theater requirement.

While prestigious, however, the wear of this unit patch as a combat designator does not necessarily indicate that the wearer was involved in direct ground fighting.

That is the purpose of the Combat Infantry Badge and a Combat Medical Badge, which is reserved for Army, Navy and Air Force medics. These were the only two Army symbols that indicate that the wearer has come under direct enemy fire.

Combat badges are different from military medals. Medals and the ribbons that represent them are worn only on a soldier’s mess dress and Class “A” and “B” uniforms, never on battle dress uniforms.

But the badges, which are rectangular pieces of metal when worn on the dress or Class “A” and “B” uniforms, are also worn as a fabric patch above the left-hand breast pocket of the BDUs — acting as a “visual recognition of close combat” whenever a soldier is in uniform, Hilferty said.

The creation of the new Close Combat Badge closes a debate that soldiers have been “talking about since the 1940s,” when the CIB was established, Hilferty said in a Monday telephone interview.

Soldiers and their leaders have argued over the years that the infantry and Special Forces are not the only two branches of the Army that get into firefights.

The Army has periodically reviewed the criteria for the Combat Infantry Badge, but it wasn’t until the conventional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan turned into insurgencies that the non-infantry soldiers’ point of view gained increased momentum.

So, at the request of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, last year Schoomaker approved the creation of a task force to look at creating a new combat badge to widen the pool of soldiers recognized for their actions under fire, Hilferty said.

More details about the new Close Combat Badge, including its design and the procedure for soldiers to request the award, will be unveiled later this week, Hilferty said.

Army officials said they are hoping that Lt. Gen. Franklin L. “Buster” Hagenbeck, the Army’s chief of personnel, will personally announce those details.

A March administrative message will follow that formally outlines the exact rules and regulations, officials said.

The new badge should be available this fall through unit supply and also for purchase in military clothing sales stores.

Proposed criteria for the Army’s new Close Combat Badge

Who is eligible?: Colonel or below for officers; all enlisted soldiers are eligible.

Enlisted soldiers must have a Military Occupational Specialty in Armor or Cavalry (CMF 19), Artillery (CMF 13), or Combat Engineer (CMF 12).

Officers must have a branch or specialty officially recognized in Army Regulation 611-1 as “having a high probability to routinely engage in direct combat."

Soldiers must be:

Assigned or attached to an Army brigade or smaller unit that is purposely organized to routinely conduct close combat operations and engage in direct combat, in accordance with existing Army rules and policy.Under fire while engaged in active ground combat, to moving into contact and destroy the enemy with direct fire.Battle or campaign participation is not sufficient to qualify for this award; the unit must have been in active ground combat.

Additional eligible personnel:

If all other criteria are met, eligibility may include other services and foreign soldiers assigned to Army units of brigade and below.Effective date: Sept. 11, 2001 (retroactive)

Note: As of Feb. 14, this criterion was “pre-decisional,” meaning that it has not yet been fully approved by Army or Defense Department officials.

Source: U.S. Army

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