My War by Colby Buzzell

Discussion in 'Multinational HQ' started by antiwar, Apr 3, 2006.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Hi Guys,

    I just finished reading Buzzell`s book about his time during the Iraq war during 2004, a very good read if you haven`t read it. Anyway at the end of the book he says how all his unit where awarded the ARCOM Army Commendation Medal, regardless of what they`d done in Iraq, they all got it, and that it " Was a bottom of the totem pole and doesn`t mean shit" (p396). I was wondering how often does this happen for a whole unit to be awarded the medal. What does the average Joe have to do to get it, and how come they gave it to everyone. Is Buzzell just bitter and twisted, or is this award really held in such low regard? Has it ever been awarded to any British Soldiers, for service in Iraq, like the Bronze Star has? If so what did they do to get it? He also makes referance to the issue of CIB & CMB, claiming that one of the young medics had an ND, treated the guy that he shot, and was thus awarded the CMB. Again whats the score here, Buzzell all bent out of shape or is this a genuine and regular thing? Finally he also states that more guys got the Purple Heart for being wounded by schrapel from mortars on the way to the Chow Hall, then they ever did out in the field, anyone like to pass comment on this or anything else he says? Anyway if you haven`t read his book its well worth the effort.

  2. If it is a unit commendation the whole unit gets it. One would of thought that axiomatic to even the most obtuse reader. While I couldn't be arrsed reading the book if you are wounded by enemy fire your position in action is a moot point.
    Happy to have helped
  3. Blanket awards are thrown out. Basically everyone in my unit that managed to complete a tour without screwing up got an Arcom (Army Commendation Medal): The lowest warzone-eligible merit-based award. (An attempt to award a few chaps an Arcom w/V (Valour) was downgraded to an AAM (Army Achievement Medal) which isn't supposed to be awarded in a war zone). Everyone of E-7 (Platoon sergeant) and above generally got Bronze Stars. It was generally determined by amount of time spent in theater. If you did the full year, you got your tour ribbons and a merit award. If you were there just for a short jaunt, you just got the tour ribbons.

    Before you cry 'foul', it should be noted that Bronze Stars and Arcoms for valorous actions under fire are identifiable as such just by looking at them because of the metal 'V' device, so the important ones still need to be earned, as opposed to just handed out. (I don't view the meritorious service awards as particularly important, though it does help with promotion points for enlisted soldiers)

    The Arcoms in question are not unit awards such as the Superior Unit Award or the Presidential Unit Citation. They are individual awards by name.

  4. Thats a w@nk medal system! I'm all for medals being an absolute nightmare to "Win". It p1sses me off when you see some logistics officer with about 8. & an Infantry Plt Sgt with 2.

    Medals should be won due to the part you took in the campaign. Maybe have a Star if you got involved in the fighting and a medal for remfing. The pissy little metal bar that says a date on it or "Article 5" isnt enough!
  5. I used to think the same as yourself, until I figured out how the US Army's awards system works. It actually makes sense from their point of view. We really do wear our entire military record on our chest, and you can tell a lot more about the background/service of a US soldier by looking at his awards than you can about a British soldier. As long as the various high-end/valour awards (Anything with a V or above) are still hard to get without doing something notable on the battlefield, I don't think there's very much reason to be concerned.

  6. Thats a good view Tanker, we only award for particiaption in a theatre or operation and of course for valour or outstanding achievement. Our two odd awards are Long service and Good Conduct (which officers cant get (even if they serve for 35 years!!)) and our Queens Jubilee medals which were fairly random.
  7. Cheers Guys, I agree with everything you all say. But it does raise the question that what happens to the guy or girl, that does something worthy, but not worthy enough for a medal, but more worthy than some remf who gets it for having shiney boots on parade, or other such act.

    In the UK we have stuff like the QCVS, what do you Americans have?

    Didn`t know that Officers can`t get the LSGC even if they do 35 years, but I supoose they get stuff like an OBE instead?
  8. I`ve just been thinking, doesn`t awarding an ARCOM for time sent in Iraq, kinda defeat the point of having a Campaign Medal? Just a thought?
  9. Still sounds like an ARCOM or AAM, depends on the location of the award. (You can get an Arcom in a peacetime setting as well, it's worth more than an AAM)

    You're missing the bottom line: We have a crapload more wearable awards and devices to choose from, so not only do we have counterpart awards to the ones the British Army has, which are just as hard to earn and just as rare, but we also have a selection of awards to wear which have no British wearable counterpart, because of the difference in philosophy as to just what is and is not supposed to be shown on the dress uniform.

    It is also noted that a lot of the 'informative' ribbons in the US are not actually medals: Items such as the NCO Professional Development Ribbon or Army Service Ribbon are exactly that: Ribbons, which are worn on the rack with the medals but when in full dress uniform wearing medals, they are not worn.

    To try to get the idea across, here's my Salad Bar.


    The last two awards are not medals, so would not be worn when wearing full dress blues.

    So, by looking at it, you can tell that I have never served in a branch other than the Army, when I was a reservist I was at training events outside the US, was mobilised for federal service, (A glance at my left shoulder would indicate that I still am a reservist) that service occurred post 2001, I had never been brought to wartime service before, I have completed one tour, that tour involved my working within the borders of Iraq for at least a month (As opposed to working in Operation Iraqi Freedom in a support role in Kuwait, say), looking at my right sleeve would tell you I was abroad for about a year and worked for the 1st ID, I was involved in firefights (But was not at the time either Infantry or a combat medic), wasn't injured, didn't do anything heroic enough to earn a valour award, but did a relatively tough combat zone job rather well. As an aside, I also was stupid enough to repeatedly jump out of a foreign aircraft, and the fact that I have no American wings indicates that I earned them when in service with a foreign army.

    You just don't get that level of fidelity on most countries' uniforms. Whether or not it's a good thing, you can debate, but just saying that the US throws medals at people without the same level of value to those medals is inaccurate. It's just a different perspective on what should or should not be visible.

  10. Not necessarily. If you didn't do your job well enough, or otherwise didn't justify the merit award (eg you almost started WWIII by your incompetence) or weren't in theater for long enough to deserve it, you wouldn't get the Arcom, though you could still be eligible for the "I was there" award.

  11. Cheers CT, thats very interesting!!!

    What did you get your BSM for? I assume that the bayonet badge is for being in the fire fights you mentioned? I also assume that its like the none infantry or medical version of there CIB/CMB?

    Have a quick scan at Tony Blair`s thread link. If these guys had been American Soldiers, what would if anything they have got for this incident?

    Again really cool talking to you!!!!

    Are those wings British?
  12. Citation says 'Exceptionally Meritorious Service'

    Something that most foreigners haven't figured out (and my better half, when she opened the case, and saw the medal: I hadn't told her I had received it) is that there's a world of difference between a BSM and a BSM/V. You see a chap wearing a BSM, you know he did a good job in a reasonably difficult set of circumstances over an extended period of time in a war zone. Being in the line of fire is not a requirement.

    You see a chap with a little metal 'V' (Much like the 'M' on the Reserve Components Medal on my rack) on the ribbon, which is much rarer, you know it was earned for valourous actions in a specific engagement under fire, which were considered more remarkable than merited an ARCOM/V but less than would merit a Silver Star. By way of example, the only BSM/V submission that I know of in our unit was our fire support NCO (Actually a Specialist, not an NCO), who while manning a .50 cal up top a HMMWV was shot in the arm, but continued to fight. As he was getting seen to by the medic after the fight was over, they took fire again, he hopped back in the turret and manned the .50 again with his one arm. Higher decided that was BSM/V standard and submitted for it. (Rumour has it that the Bde Commander decided to upgrade it to Silver Star, but I'm not sure of that). (I got the above information second-hand)

    This history of the Combat Action Badge (AKA Kock and Ball) is long, and rooted in controversy. The CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge) was originated back in WWII, basically to give the infantry troops a bit of bling and to get more people to volunteer for what was considered a rather dangerous and unappealing job. The CMB came along shortly therafter, they serve with the infantry after all. The idea is that it is to acknowledge those people who saw action on the front lines, as opposed to say, an artilleryman who still is involved in the the fighting. (And so that you know to respect the fact that the man you're talking to has 'seen the elephant', as the phrase goes)

    There is, of course, another branch which makes its living on the front lines: The tankers (And cavalry, sub-branch). They have been clamouring for a Combat Tanker's Badge for decades. Not as if the Sherman/Grant crewmen didn't take a few knocks in WWII/Korea, after all. Whilst various designs were submitted, the tankers never had enough clout to get the badge authorised. Heck, they had so little clout that in the late 70s, they even lost the black beret to the light infantry types. (Rangers). Since no other branches tended to roam near the front lines, the tankers received no support. The issue became somewhat dead, resurfacing every few years. (As an aside, we had unofficial awards of CTBs, I use it as a tie-clip.). It got even more interesting when you had mixed units. Let's say a tank battalion's mortar platoon is engaged in a firefight. The mortarmen are all 11-series (infantrymen) but the Platoon Leader is usually a tanker. Although all are in the same place at the same time, doing the same thing, the mortarmen get CIBs, the tanker gets nothing.

    It only cropped up again in Iraq, when the Army suddenly discovered it didn't have enough infantry. So they grabbed lots of artillerymen, tankers, MPs, and Engineers, took away their tracks, gave them HMMWVs or M113s, and said 'Congratulations. You are now Motor Infantry (Provisional). Or Dragoons, as they later called the T W A Ts. (Tanker Without A Tank), and they set them to work.

    So now you have a provisional infantry battalion of tankers, or whatnot, doing exactly the same job as the regular infantry battalion next door. Bashing down doors, cordons, searches, route clearance, firefights, the works. Yet since the requirement for a CIB is that you be an 11-series soldier, the crunchies next door would get the CIB for their uniform signifying the exact same thing that the tankers didn't get anything for. As you can imagine, there were some calls of 'foul play'

    The Infantry, being a rather greedy bunch, strongly objected to the 'dilution' of the CIB which would be caused by the Army handing them out to everyone who did their job. Their point of view was 'If you really want a CIB, then sign on for an 11-series MOS, go to Benning, do the Infantry course, sleep in the mud, all that good infantry stuff. The combat bit at the end is just the final hurdle in the course to get the badge.' I guess there is some point to it, especially if one considers the existance of the Expert Infantryman Badge, which is replaced by the CIB when you earn it.

    All the other branches, however, thought this was just not baseball. They're doing the same bloody job where it counts: In combat, why shouldn't they get something? The Tankers, of course, see an opportunity. "Let's have combat badges for all branches then. Combat tankers badge for us, combat artilleryman's badge and so on." This very quickly could get out of hand. The Combat Cook's Badge? Combat Helicopter Mechanic's Badge? (OK, the latter would fall under Aviation, the former under AG or some such, but you get the idea)

    Finally, the Army decided "Fine. Look. Here's what we'll do. We'll invent this new thing, that all you Mobile Stoplights, Redlegs, DATs, Engineers who have been re-roled into infantry can be eligible for. If you get involved in a firefight, and if you're pretending to be infantry, you can get this new thing we'll call the CAB"

    It was originally going to be called the Close Combat Badge, to differentiate it from the Navy/Marine Combat Action Ribbon, which basically could mean anything from "I was in a bayonet duel" to "I was cook on a submarine which fired a Tomahawk Missile", until, my guess, someone pointed out that in WWII, Germany had this badge called the Close Combat Badge, which also had a wreath, a bayonet and a grenade on it. And incidently, it was a lot tougher to earn.

    Not entirely sure. I'd probably need to see the submission. From the link, I can't tell if the award is made for service, or for actions. Since the distinction between a BSM and a BSM/V is lost on most non-US military types, I can't even be sure that the absence of the "with V" in the linked thread actually means it's a service award and not a valour award.

    Dutch, actually. Though I did get them with the Association of British Military Parachutists, on their annual jaunt to Texel.

    Hence I said 'Full dress blues' as oppsed to just 'dress blues'. Not an official distinction, I know. I generally prefer the look of the ribbons over the medals, but will be wearing the medals at my wedding. We'll also be wearing them at funerals, when we switch over from the greens for the job.

  13. S'pose it's rather more decorative than a bar code tattooed on your forehead and it cuts down on the Walt factor considerably.

    Middle Ribbon, bottom row- did earning that one involve standing on a parade float in San Fran wearing only black leather hotpants, a droopy 'tache and baby oil? :D
  14. Oddly enough, it is commonly referred to as the Gay Pride ribbon.

    Every serviceman who was ever in the Army, even if they are now Air Force, Navy, Marine or Coast Guard, gets to wear it.