Military Photo: New Close Combat Badge

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The U.S. Army Close Combat Badge

Posted: 05/01/2005
After years of effort by the other combat arms, the army has relented and created a �Close Combat Badge� (CCB) for troops in armored, cavalry, combat engineering and field artillery units. Since World War II, the infantry have been eligible for the �Combat Infantry Badge� (CIB) if they serve in an infantry unit, as infantry, in a combat zone, for at least 30 days. Holders of the CIB are much respected in the army. This is because the CIB indicates someone who has not just seen a little combat, but has spent time in the combat zone. The CIB represents having gone through sustained combat, the day after day of getting shot at and living very rough indeed. Sustained combat is a recent development, seen on a wide scale for the first time during World War I (1914-18). This continued during World War II. Sustained combat not only increased the chance of getting killed or wounded, but also gave us more combat fatigue.

Troops in armored, cavalry, combat engineering and field artillery units, overall, suffer only a fraction of the casualties infantrymen do. But these other �combat arms� do get hammered much more than everyone else in the army. Even during World War II, 75 percent of the people in the army never heard a shot fired in anger. But the non-infantry combat units sometimes see more intense combat than the infantry, such as when combat engineers get out in front of the infantry to clear minefields and obstacles during a major attack. But overall, the infantry have always suffered most of the casualties (about 80 percent in the last century.) But that has been slowly changing. In Iraq, the infantry have taken less than half the casualties. And many artillery and armor units have been temporarily reassigned (after some refresher training) to infantry duties (mainly patrolling.) This is nothing new. During World War II, tanks often served with infantry units. When a tank got hit, most of the crew usually survived, and got out of the vehicle uninjured. They were then expected to "fight as infantry", at least until a new tank was available for them or their damaged tank was repaired. Artillerymen keep their infantry skills up to date, and regularly set up defensive positions when they are in the field. In World War II, artillery units sometimes got hit by enemy infantry, or enemy artillery. Despite all this, these men have never been eligible for the CIB.

That changes with the introduction of the CCB, and troops will be wearing the CCB by the end of the year.

When the CCB was announced, there were a lot of protests from the army troops who had been in combat and would NOT be getting the CCB. These included those who run convoys through hostile territory and get involved in fighting. The Military Police (MP) units that escort convoys, and have long been present in combat zones (and getting killed as a result) were never included among the combat arms. In past conflicts, truck drivers and MPs have been in combat zones and been involved in combat. But, again, never to the degree of the infantry, or, except in rare situations, the other combat arms. Moreover, the convoy battles use tactics that tries to avoid close combat. Troops are taught to step on the gas if they come under fire, although if forced to stop, they are also taught how to get out and shoot at the enemy. But overall, most of the firefights over there involve American infantry, doing what they were trained to do.

In the end, the army agreed to award the badge to all those who had been in combat. This will include Special Forces troops who are not infantry, but have been in combat. Not awarding a combat badge to these troops has been a matter of dispute for decades.



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