Badge ruling too late for GI who fought for change
FOB SUMMERALL, Iraq — Spc. Peter Enos couldn’t believe the news.
In November 2003, four months before his scheduled deployment to Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, Enos, 24 — the unit’s senior line medic — learned he had no chance of earning the coveted Combat Medical Badge while serving in the war zone.
Since its creation in 1945, the CMB represented the pinnacle of honor for combat medics: treating patients while under enemy fire.
Enos and the rest of the 1-7 Field Artillery soldiers had already been told by their commander, Lt. Col. Kyle McClelland, that the unit would be reconfigured as an infantry task force during its one-year tour. They would put away their big guns and do exactly the same job as a grunt.
But Army Regulation 600-8-22 stated that only medics serving with infantry, armor or ground cavalry units could earn the badge. That meant every medic in the 1st ID’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team would be eligible for the award — except the ones in the 1-7 Field Artillery.
He seethed at the injustice.
“It was a very, very big thing to Enos,” 1st Lt. Chad Cole, 33, commander of the 1-7 Field Artillery medics, said later. “[He] took it upon himself to do something about it.”
Finally, on Dec. 1, he wrote an e-mail to Brig. Gen. Dorian Anderson, commander of the Army’s Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va. Enos pleaded with Anderson to let any medic assigned to a unit functioning as an infantry battalion wear the CMB.
“There are a lot of soldiers who are currently or are soon to be shorted something that they have earned, and the only thing stopping them is that they are assigned to one combat arms unit and not the other,” he wrote.
Then Enos got scared. He realized he’d committed a cardinal sin by jumping his chain of command and e-mailing a general officer directly. He told friend and fellow medic, Staff Sgt. Robert Weppelman, what he’d done.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. When something happens, it’ll happen,’” Weppelman recalled a year later.
Two weeks later, Enos got his answer. Again, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Anderson’s personal e-mail said that he had directed his staff to work a change in the award’s criteria. It carried a note from Maj. Gen. John Batiste, then the 1st ID commander, who said he, too, agreed with Enos’ suggestion.
Enos deployed to Iraq in February, happy in the knowledge that he’d helped to right a wrong — and that he hadn’t been punished for his chutzpah.
And on May 12, the 1st ID got some good news: The Army had approved the change. Now medics from artillery or engineer units operating as infantry could earn the award.
Enos, though, would never wear the Combat Medical Badge he wanted so badly.
On the night of April 9, he jumped into a Humvee and rushed from Camp Summerall to nearby Bayji, Iraq, where insurgents had attacked an Iraqi police station.
On the way, a homemade bomb blew up next to his Humvee. Enos died along with two other soldiers. He had been promoted to sergeant just a few days before his death. He left behind a wife and an infant son.
The Army turned down a 1st ID request to award Enos the CMB. After the rule change, the decision was reversed.