July 27, 2006:
The unique nature of the war in Iraq has caused many changes to the way American armed forces officially recognize that someone has been in combat. The latest wrinkle in that area is a small change to U.S. Navy requirements for someone to be eligible for the Combat Action Ribbon (CAR). Until the recent change, sailors (usually assigned to marine units as medics, or "corpsmen") were not eligible for a CAR if only a roadside bomb went off. But if some nearby hostile fired off a few rounds, then the sailor could get a CAR. Now sailors and marines qualify for the CAR if they get hit with a roadside bomb. This change is retroactive to October 7, 2001. Marines were the first to change their rules, but noted that the navy did not change theirs. This was not good, because the medics rushed to the scene of any explosion, to treat the wounded, despite the risk of a second explosion going off. Even the brass noted corpsmen with Purple Hearts (for getting wounded), but no CAR. So, after some agitation, the rules finally got changed. It's happened before, because the navy has long provided most support functions for the marines. Sailors, besides corpsmen, often serve in marine units. While these sailors wear marine combat uniforms, they are still sailors and operate under regulations drawn up for sailors, not marines.