After nearly a year of internal debate, the U.S. Air Force has
decided to award Combat Action medals for officer and enlisted personnel who
experienced combat on the ground. All the other services have such an award,
and polls of air force personnel indicate that 80 percent of them are in favor
of the idea.
air force has traditionally emphasized air combat. However, about ten percent
of air force personnel are basically light infantry, whose main job is protect
air bases. It's not that airbase security troops have not come under fire in
the past, it's just that this never happened often enough to make a lot of
people feel it warranted official recognition. But Iraq changed all that, with
about half the casualties being inflicted on support troops. That's triple the
rate of past wars. These new combat vterans included thousands of sailors and
airmen who volunteered to help the army out with support tasks in Iraq. The
navy and army came up with a Combat Action award for these support troops, and
the Marine Corps allowed troops hit by roadside bombs to get the marine Combat
Action Ribbon. Now all the armed services provide recognition for the road
warriors of Iraq, whose main job is to move supplies, or just move around, in
support of the combat troops, and deal with armed resistance they encounter
along the way.
air force generals, most of them pilots, finally gave in to the reality that
air force support troops faced a lot more danger during three months on the
ground in Iraq, than did air force pilots flying jets 10,000 feet overhead.
This was not easy to accept. But the fact is that the USAF dominance of the air
has increased, decade after decade, since World War II. Thus it's gotten to the
point where, if you are in the air force and want some combat action, volunteer
to run supply convoys in Iraq, and forget about all that flying stuff.