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Medals? We don’t need no stinkin’ medals! (Air Force)
Editor’s note: This is a hot topic, and we are fortunate enough to have pieces written from the Army Perspective as well as from the Air Force point of view. This is from an Air Force Vet. For the Army take, click here.
By Gunship Load
It’s always great fun to do a class “A” inspection, isn’t it? Well, no, it isn’t. Not for the actual warfighter. At least, it never is for me. But for me the cool part about it is getting to look at everyone’s “fruit salad.” That crazy rack on the chest that’s full of color and tells a story, one that often doesn’t need any words.
For a guy who has just shown up to a unit and they do a service dress inspection, he gets a real quick look at the caliber of people in their unit. For the Air Force, we have what I call the “basic training gift pack” consisting of: Air Force Training Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, maybe the USAF Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon, and maybe a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon. Those are the ones that have been diluted to what I think are worthless. They don’t mean much when all you really did to get them is complete the AF version of basic training. But in that formation, for an operational flying squadron, you might see a Bronze Star or two, you might see a Distinguished Flying Cross, you might see a handful of Air Force Combat Action Medals, and a plethora of Air Medals. These are medals that you have to be in the battle to earn. You have actually had to leave your family at home while you deploy to some shithole somewhere and EARN THEM on or above the battlefield. You have actually been place in a situation where your life could have ended due to enemy action.
BUT NOT ANY MORE!!!!! You can now “earn” a medal that will rank between a Silver Star and a Bronze Star and never leave the “house”. The powers that be have now created the “Distinguished Warfare Medal”! Isn’t that nice? They have now made a medal for the X-Box junkies flying the Pred. But wait, there’s more… They are also already earning Air Medals, without deploying. The same medal that I have five of, they are earning from the safety of some air conditioned box while sipping on their mocha-frapachino that they picked up on the way in to work that day, and waiting for Papa John’s to show up with lunch. They are not placing themselves in any danger what so ever, except maybe carpal tunnel syndrome. Pred gets shot down? Yeah that blows ‘cause they are expensive, but all told, the operator of said pred was never in danger.
I won’t tell you that my deployments are life ending dangerous. I won’t even try to tell you that they are rough. Hell, I’m in the Air Force, or as it is often referred to, the Air Farce, or the Chair Force, et cetera. I think I have heard them all, and used several of them myself… I will never compare my trips to the sand box to those who live on and work out of a FOB, or a COB. I know I have a cushy life compared to those guys, especially because of my Infantry years. But I have at least left sovereign ground.
I’m not saying that the pred pilot and sensor operating team is not important. The imagery and intel they provide can make or break a mission. They are a very valuable asset in the fight, but this medal, I’m pretty sure ranks way too high on the tier. To me it fits into a “needs for promotion” block for an officer. It has no significant value to those who have boots on the ground or wings in the air Combat Missions under their belt.
As a whole the military has already cheapened what our Medals mean. If you can, ask your grandpa who served in WWII what it took to earn an Achievement Medal, let alone a Commendation. Recently the AF awarded two Bronze Stars to members of a Comptroller (finance) Squadron for meritorious service. Look at the unofficial “cap” that is placed on EVERY Army unit for deployment of, “only XXXX members will receive a Bronze Star, XXXXX members will receive ARCOMs.” The list can go on and on, but this medal is a punch in the face and a kick square to the sack of those of us who have left the house.
If you need a cheap piece of ribbon, and some shiny metal hanging from it to feel good about your life, perhaps you need to reevaluate that which is important to you.