Morale: USAF Ground Warriors Get a Medal


February12, 2007: 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.

The 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.

The 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.




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