Our broken awards system

Teufel

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This is a branch COA post: I think our awards system is very broken and I will post some articles to spark some debate.

From Owen West (Force Recon platoon commander and Bing West's son): http://www.slate.com/id/2107438/

"The current medal gap actually has three dimensions. First, the different services have different criteria for the same medals. Second, support staff are rewarded more generously than are soldiers on the front lines. Third, officers receive medals that are superior to those given to the enlisted ranks.
Start with the variance among the military branches. The Air Force awarded 2,425 Bronze Stars and 21 Silver Stars from March 2002 to August 2004 for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Twenty-seven airmen were killed in combat during that time, making the Air Force's ratio of top-level ground-combat medals to fatalities 91-to-1. (This figure doesn't include medals awarded for airborne bravery.) As of July 31, 2004, the Army had awarded 17,498 Bronze Stars and 133 Silver Stars in Operation Iraqi Freedom, while 636 soldiers have died, an awards ratio of 27-to-1. And the Marine Corps has awarded just 701 Bronze Stars, 12 Silver Stars, and six Navy Crosses (the Navy's second-highest award) for combat in Iraq, while 264 Marines died—a ratio of less than 3-to-1. Is the Marine Corps too stingy or are the other services too liberal?"

"Compounding this problem are rules that let support staff win prestigious medals out of proportion to the risks they incur. While the Silver Star is awarded only for heroic achievement under fire, one category of Bronze Star—known as the BS, given for meritorious service in a combat zone—is technically open to those serving miles from the front lines."
 

LimaOscarSierraTango

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I was hoping there was more to this. I agree 100% that the system is broken.

I think it's bullshit that we handed out 5 Bronze Stars to Sr NCOs and Officers that sat in the TOC drinking coffee all day, ordering pogie bait, and watching tv while the people that may have actually earned them picked up ARCOMs. Ok, no one from my Company actually did anything to earn a BS on that deployment, but there was a few lower enlisted that should have received MSMs for the hard work they did to keep the company running smooth since Sr leadership was lacking. I also think some medals are handed out too easily. It's a Good Ole Boy thing, and a load of crap. I didn't think it was fair that BN told our people that E-4s and below don't earn awards higher than ARCOMs, so don't bother submitting them.

Personally, I am not big on awards. The recognition is nice, but I don't like to be in the spotlight and I am there to do a job. I am not there to try and earn medals.
 

Th3 Maelstr0m

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I agree completely. ive seen plenty of guys get Commendation Medals & NAMs with combat v's & never been in a firefight or never did anything remotely close to what their citation reads while an enlisted guy i served with got only got a NAM (they didnt even give him a combat v) for (among other things) being engaged 3 times (each time from multiple locations) in one patrol, and each time directing his squad's fire, resulting in at least 3 enemy KIA. That same guy watched his squad leader get a NAM for training Iraqi police, leading 150 patrols, finding an IED, and fortifying their COP. The problem was that the squad leader did absolutely none of this, my buddy did. The squad leader would not even send up sitreps b/c he thought his voice sounded weird on the radio. the squad leader would try to stop every day in the same spot on a patrol for a smoke break. but b/c it we were ten enlisted guys manning a COP with the high rank being Cpl (the squad leader), the BC thought he was king ding-a-ling.
I have seen the same problem limaoscarsierratango speaks of with the Commendation Medals. When my platoon commander recommended my buddie's NAM (w/ no v) get bumped up to a higher medal, his CO said that the BT is does not consider Commendation Medals to anyone under the rank of E6.
On the flip side, I have seen some support guys attached to us grunts and put some of the grunts to shame in work ethic, but the platoon sergeant was not about to put in for a "p.o.g" to get a NAM before his grunts, even if they did nothing to earn one. this was unfortunate and disgraceful.
While I too was never big on awards (most of my friends who have won the bigger medals say the same), I do think that my buddies who have done great things should be recognized, even if they prefer to remain "another face in the crowd." its good for morale and every now and then the lowly grunts need to know someone notices the exceptional ones. Enlisted often get jipped on awards while their officers get showered in them.
Of course, I am not saying that some officers dont deserve them. Cpt. Bryan Stann (a CO in my old battalion) earned his Silver Star and then some. As did my BC Lt. Col. Desgrosseilliers in Fallujah. My platoon commander in my second deployment, however, who could not grasp the idea even the most basic idea of avenues of approach, did not do anything to earn his Commendation Medal.
Sorry for the long post, but ive personally seen a lot of my fellow Marines screwed over on meritorious promotions and awards (as im sure we all have), so this subject hits home.
 

Ajax

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It has been broken for longer than OIF and OEF. For example, my first award in the military was submitted as an ARCOM. It made it up to Division before being downgraded to an AAM. Reason: I was a PFC. This rank = merit system has carried over to the combat zone. It highlights a larger problem with our military force overall. That problem being that largely, our military treats the combat arena as a garrison rather than a combat mission. There is no easy fix for this. As long as people treat the military as a career, there will be career progression checklists. Can that person be blamed? I don't know.

The current, "check the block" system is bad for morale, both for those serving and those who have served. It cheapens the actions of those who put their lives on the line and face the enemy. The argument could be made that without the targeting officer in the JOC, the guy on the ground would never find that enemy. Maybe. But maybe that officer in the TOC needs to do something outstanding in his time behind the desk to get that award rather than just do his job. The guy that put the package together that took out #2 in Pakistan? BSM. The guy before him? ARCOM, maybe. And what about support? The guys in combat have a hard time staying mission capable without support, right? Everyone should get an equal shake when it comes time for recognition, right? No. They shouldn't. This is a volunteer force. A volunteer force in which you are allowed to pick your job. If you want a medal, pick up a gun and and a ruck, and get out there. If you chose to serve your country as the best postal inspector you can be, then be happy with your uniform, paycheck, benefits, and the relative safety and comfort your position awards you. That is your chosen lot in life. If you do something outstanding, like find a mail bomb, no one will raise an eyebrow while the Man puts a medal on your chest. This applies to any support job. An average support person should not look like a third world dictator in his/her DA photo. An 11B/0311/etc with multiple tours in multiple theaters should. And the medals on his chest should match the worry lines on his face.

There are those who don't care about awards, for whom the service to their country and the person on their left and right is enough. I believe that this is the correct attitude. I also believe that these are the people that should be awarded, whether they want it or not. Several years ago, one of my teammates told our AOB commander that he didn't want his BSM. The Major told him simply, "It's not for you. It's for your family." It wasn't till I was home and my family saw the ribbons and medals that I understood what he was talking about. It gives them something tangible to be proud of, to talk about with their friends, "Yeah, my son just came back from Afghanistan. They gave him a Bronze Star." I'm not saying that everyone who goes over should get a BSM. But those who deserve it, should not reject it.

As far as the disparity between services, I believe the Marines are a little too stingy, the Army is a little too freehanded, and the Air Force is just fucking ridiculous (ground pounders excluded).
 

digrar

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View attachment 11514

Mark Donaldson VC. He's been in since 2002, deployed 3 times, Iraq, East Timor and Afghanistan, he's got 5 medals (I'm not sure why he isn't wearing the Iraq Medal, I'd have thought he was entitled), 2 unit citations (he is entitled to wear the unit citation for gallantry for ever and the meritorious unit citation while he is on the posted strength of SASR) the Infantry Combat Badge and the Army Individual Readiness Notice badge.
I'd say we're at the other extreme, but still broken and we have the same dramas, unless you're like Donno VC and go above and beyond, as a OR or JNCO you're not likely to get a medal unless you're a Company Commander/Warrant Officer or above.
 

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Teufel

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There are those who don't care about awards, for whom the service to their country and the person on their left and right is enough. I believe that this is the correct attitude. I also believe that these are the people that should be awarded, whether they want it or not. Several years ago, one of my teammates told our AOB commander that he didn't want his BSM. The Major told him simply, "It's not for you. It's for your family." It wasn't till I was home and my family saw the ribbons and medals that I understood what he was talking about. It gives them something tangible to be proud of, to talk about with their friends, "Yeah, my son just came back from Afghanistan. They gave him a Bronze Star." I'm not saying that everyone who goes over should get a BSM. But those who deserve it, should not reject it.

I will post more when I get back from work but until I do, check this out: http://northshorejournal.org/lance-corporal-dominic-d-esquibel
In a rare gesture, Marine Cpl. Dominic Esquibel declined the Navy Cross he earned on Nov. 25, 2004, as a scout sniper. On that day, he destroyed two enemy machine gun nests and saved two of five Marines who lay wounded in a Fallujah courtyard. Marine Lt. Col. Curtis Hill says Esquibel turned down the award "for personal reasons." My friend was in 1/8 with Esquibel and he just didn't want the medal so they ended up not giving it to him.
 

Viper1

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Just my own personal experience. I put in four guys for an ARCOM with V device for actions in OIF in 2006 when I was a 2LT, three 11Bs and a Medic. I ran the write-ups through the 1SG, the CO, the CSM, and the S1 to make sure they were well-written. I gave copies to everyone in their CoC and bragged to the BC and S3 about their actions a couple times so I could have their support and put it all in the patrol debrief as well for the S2's SA. They got approved a month later (why it takes that long bothers me). When they were awarded, the CO and 1SG commented how they hadn't seen a write up for an ARCOM for Valor in a long time. I credit my first Platoon Sergeant for educating me on the system and getting me smart on it. I had no idea an ARCOM w V existed before he got hold of me.

Pushing the paperwork helped in this instance. Never got to award anything higher. Just my :2cents:
 

RetPara

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WELL DONE VIPER1!!!!!!

Son Tay Raiders got ARCOM w\V's. It will actually do more for them also. It will stand out that they did something and had leaders that took some extra steps to ensure they were recognized properly.....
 
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7point62

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The system has indeed been broken for many years. I can cite a half-dozen examples offhand but won't because they will just piss you off and we all have similar outrageous stories. Nothing new here, really, although I applaud Owen West for resurrecting it (not to mention the respect I have for his Dad, who I consider a brother-in-arms); To sum it up, it isn't fair and never has been. At the 6th Marine Regimental HQ at Camp Lejeune they used to have the corridors decorated with framed MOH citations...and if you strolled down the hall and read them one by one you'd inevitably come to the conclusion that the higher the rank the less you had to risk to get one.

A few years before I had actually been ordered one night to take a visiting 1st Lt out on a KT and "get him his CAR."
 

Diamondback 2/2

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The way the system works “now” I put really no weight behind any of the awards. Okay maybe the CMH but the rest its really hard to know what the guy did and if he really did it.

I was put in for a silver star on my first deployment (I did not agree with it) but what ever, never got one and at the end of our deployment we had a Battalion award ceremony. Some 1st LT was awarded a silver star and as they read of the citation of hat he did, I was like WTF he did not do that, my PL turned around “while at attention in Btn formation and said that was the award he had put in for me.

Every PSG and up in the chain of command received a Bronze Star minimum and any of the soldiers who were put in for an award for bravery or valor received a ARCOM with V. The rest received an ARCOM as a service award. It was the same on my last deployment…

While in the WTU for medical treatment I have seen more people awarded the Purple Heart for a concussion then for an actual “bleeding wound”. I was approached and asked if I wanted a Purple Heart for some documented injuries I had from the first trip, and was looked at funny when I cussed them out about it.

The system is totally fucked in the Army…
 

car

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My boss and I had this discussion often, as we sat on our asses in the TOC, in Baghdad, drinking coffee......in the end, we both agreed that we should do away with awards. Even though Napolean (I think) said something to the effect that, it's amazing what men (and women (sic)) will do for a small piece of cloth on their chests.....Soldiers don't fight for awards. We fight for what we believe to be right, for what we swore to do, and for the folks on our left and right.

A friend found an award write-up in the back of my car, under my golf clubs. "C, why is your Bronze Star citation back here with your golf clubs?"

'Nuff said.
 

Diamondback 2/2

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I don’t think awards should be done away with completely, but do believe there needs to be a change made.

Personally people who don’t leave the wire IMO should not be aloud to receive the same award as people who do. Officers and NCO should not receive a higher award then the enlisted soldiers simply b/c the held a position. Direct combat awards such as CMB,CIB,CAB should not be awarded for things like mortar attacks and car bombings, it should only be for those who fought the enemy.

Campaign, meritorious and good conduct awards, should remain, but not be restricted by rank or position.
 

AWP

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To put things into a bit of a historical perspective, go look into LBJ's Silver Star from WWII. About the only itews correct on the write-up were taking off and landing. Awards are largely a political process anymore.Sure, some are earned, but there's enough garbage out there that I think you can no longer take an award at face value.
 

Hitman2/3

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The award system is rediculous in the Marine Corps. I remember we got ambushed at a road block at night. The birds say the road was clear, it wasn't. Anyway our plt was on point for the Company when we got hit. Machine guns RPGs AKs the works, tracer flying all over the place rounds slaping off the ground RPGs like they had an automatic launcher. So we try to reverse out to get off the X but we can't because the rest of the company was behind us. Our plt cmdr got out of his vehicle returned fire ran Back two vehicles from his to get them to back the hell up, then headed to the lead vehicle of our plt, still returning fire, began directing the vehicles to turn around. He did all of this in the middle of the night with little room for our HMMWV to manuver, and you know what he got? Not even a pat on the back. And why? Because the Company CO didn't like him or our Plt Sgt.

Oh but wait, our Air officer got a bronze star for calling in airstrikes, none of them critical none of them life saving and one of them damn near criminal. But what can you do? It's like it already been said the system is broke. It kills me that a Sgt will get a Bronze Star for carrying two Marines to saftey out of a mind field after being wounded his self, and then a Capt on the same deployment gets the same award for bringing in X amount of supplies and keeping accountability of gear. WTF.
 

LongTabSigO

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I'm sure if we pulled the Army Times for Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Fox, Tsunami Relief, etc etc etc, the only thing different in the articles regarding awards policy are names, places, and dates. Anyone who's ever written (or tried to write) a policy for anything knows it is impossible to cover every situation. For example, let's make it a policy that only valor awards count for promotion. Is the problem solved? In some minds yes; in others, it would be considered unfair. On one hand, there will be "gate keepers" that required three or more bullet punctures for an AAM; on the other extreme will be commanders who pass them out like samples.

Service awards are for just that - service. Nothing wrong with recognizing performance and if there is support within the write up, what's it harm? The fault lies in granting awards normally associated solely with combat valor to used also as service awards. It also stems from a promotion system that does not distinguish combat service but rather requires a number of "merit badges" to make one competitive. Make a joint, across all services, blanket awards policy and you MIGHT hit the 40% satisfaction rate.

Lets be honest - if commanders started cutting way back on awards, there'd be a hue and cry about how those (expletive) officers/rat bastards/perfumed princes/princesses are (expletive)ing troops. There would be all manner of garment rending about how it's unfair, etc etc.
 
S

Smurf

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Look at a citation for a Silver Star today and then look at one for a Service Cross or CMH- they're the same. It's total bullshit for everyone of you guys.
 

Scotth

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I'm sure if we pulled the Army Times for Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Fox, Tsunami Relief, etc etc etc, the only thing different in the articles regarding awards policy are names, places, and dates. Anyone who's ever written (or tried to write) a policy for anything knows it is impossible to cover every situation. For example, let's make it a policy that only valor awards count for promotion. Is the problem solved? In some minds yes; in others, it would be considered unfair. On one hand, there will be "gate keepers" that required three or more bullet punctures for an AAM; on the other extreme will be commanders who pass them out like samples.

Service awards are for just that - service. Nothing wrong with recognizing performance and if there is support within the write up, what's it harm? The fault lies in granting awards normally associated solely with combat valor to used also as service awards. It also stems from a promotion system that does not distinguish combat service but rather requires a number of "merit badges" to make one competitive. Make a joint, across all services, blanket awards policy and you MIGHT hit the 40% satisfaction rate.

Lets be honest - if commanders started cutting way back on awards, there'd be a hue and cry about how those (expletive) officers/rat bastards/perfumed princes/princesses are (expletive)ing troops. There would be all manner of garment rending about how it's unfair, etc etc.

Good post overall and I really have to agree with the highlighted area being an issue I never understood.
 

Teufel

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I'm sure if we pulled the Army Times for Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Fox, Tsunami Relief, etc etc etc, the only thing different in the articles regarding awards policy are names, places, and dates. Anyone who's ever written (or tried to write) a policy for anything knows it is impossible to cover every situation. For example, let's make it a policy that only valor awards count for promotion. Is the problem solved? In some minds yes; in others, it would be considered unfair. On one hand, there will be "gate keepers" that required three or more bullet punctures for an AAM; on the other extreme will be commanders who pass them out like samples.

Service awards are for just that - service. Nothing wrong with recognizing performance and if there is support within the write up, what's it harm? The fault lies in granting awards normally associated solely with combat valor to used also as service awards. It also stems from a promotion system that does not distinguish combat service but rather requires a number of "merit badges" to make one competitive. Make a joint, across all services, blanket awards policy and you MIGHT hit the 40% satisfaction rate.

Lets be honest - if commanders started cutting way back on awards, there'd be a hue and cry about how those (expletive) officers/rat bastards/perfumed princes/princesses are (expletive)ing troops. There would be all manner of garment rending about how it's unfair, etc etc.

In my opinion, medals were created to improve morale (mostly with regard to the ENLISTED troops) and serve three main purposes:

1. Medals reward. Medals reward personnel who perform meritorious or valorous acts. Thanks for baking those 300 cookies/pulling that guy out the kill zone, you did a good job.

2. Medals recognize. Medals highlight an individual and his actions as something worth emulating. This NCO baked 300 cookies/pulled another trooper out of the kill zone, you should all aspire to be as brave/Martha Stewart as he is.

3. Medals reassure. Our nation asks young men and women to perform actions that often times are counter to their moral upbringing. You have a young joe who has been told all his life "thou shalt not kill". He deploys overseas, gets in an ambush and by the time the smoke clears he has killed twenty enemy fighters. http://doctorbulldog.wordpress.com/2008/11/25/20-shots-20-kills/ He thinks back to his upbringing and wonders if he has done the right thing. To assure him that his actions were morally correct, we pin a medal on his chest to show him that not only is it morally okay to kill 20 enemy fighters, we are rewarding him for it, we want him to do it again and we want everyone else to aspire to be like him too.

Here is the problem. In our current system it takes far too long to approve awards, especially combat awards. There is so much nit picking, second guessing and CSI type investigation BS that it is common (at least in the Marine Corps) for valor awards to take a year or more to process. Silver Stars and up take two or more years. Why? Because awards languish at every level of the chain of command. Awards should be scrutinized at battalion (because these boards know the individuals involved in the actions, they should be familiar with the events that took place and they are familiar with the general optempo, enemy sit etc). Once the award gets to the awarding authority, they should scrutinize heavily as well because they see tons of awards and have a baseline to compare that award to. Everyone inbetween really only needs to ensure grammatical and format accuracy because they have no idea what happened other than what is written down on paper. Receive and forward on. This would flatten the process considerably.

Two: There are far far more meritorious and valor awards given to officers and senior SNCOs than valor awards given to junior enlisted. Some of these are deserving but most seem to be given for showing up and this dilutes the awards system. I don't think many junior enlisted have any faith in the awards system and don't give a lot of weight to awards given to officers and senior SNCOs. The awards manual says awards are given for actions performed above and beyond the call of duty. If you are a company commander much more is expected of you than a squad leader. It is demoralizing when you have a Marine who went above and beyond get a NAM with V and the adjutant (Major) who gets a Bronze Star for processing a thousand PCRs. The bronze star has been terribly diluted by the amount of meritorious bronze stars that have been awarded. Personally I think that valor awards and meritorious awards should be completely separate. Valor awards equivalent to the achievement and commendation medals should be created. The Bronze Star should only be given out for valor. If you want to give a guy a valor medal for an end of tour award it should not be 90% merit and 10% valor to sneak a v device through.
 
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7point62

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Another example of what you've written, T. I know two former soldiers who both recieved the Bronze Star. The first for grabbing a machine gun and holding off the enemy when his vehicle was ambushed and everybody in the vehicle KIA except him...and then getting shot in the neck and left for dead. And the second, an Army public information NCO who got the Bronze for being a Buckeye because the CO was also a Buckeye. In the former case, the man deserved a Silver, IMHO, and in the latter case the CO asked the man if he'd like a Bronze Star.

I know both these guys. To be fair, the guy who got the meritorius Bronze is open and honest about it, but the medal is percieved by the general public as being an award for bravery. I wonder how many meritorious Bronze Star recipients have misrepresented the circumstances.

I got put in for a Bronze w/V and never got it. As did two other guys with me. I still have the letter from my company XO. I included it in my docs to PB when I was being vetted for Shadowspear. Doesn't mean squat to me, but there are people out there who got the Bronze for "efficient administrative work" who are making like they're Audie Murphy.
 

Diamondback 2/2

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The original award the “Purple Heart” was a merit badge designed to be awarded to the common soldier for meritorious actions. This was enacted b/c of General George Washington’s use of battlefield promotions of soldier who performed meritorious in combat. The Revolutionary government could not afford to pay for all of the promotions that Gen Washington was giving, so they chose to award them a badge of merit instead.

Since then it has gone retarded.


Here is the problem. In our current system it takes far too long to approve awards, especially combat awards. There is so much nit picking, second guessing and CSI type investigation BS that it is common (at least in the Marine Corps) for valor awards to take a year or more to process. Silver Stars and up take two or more years. Why? Because awards languish at every level of the chain of command. Awards should be scrutinized at battalion (because these boards know the individuals involved in the actions, they should be familiar with the events that took place and they are familiar with the general optempo, enemy sit etc). Once the award gets to the awarding authority, they should scrutinize heavily as well because they see tons of awards and have a baseline to compare that award to. Everyone inbetween really only needs to ensure grammatical and format accuracy because they have no idea what happened other than what is written down on paper. Receive and forward on. This would flatten the process considerably.

Two: There are far far more meritorious and valor awards given to officers and senior SNCOs than valor awards given to junior enlisted. Some of these are deserving but most seem to be given for showing up and this dilutes the awards system. I don't think many junior enlisted have any faith in the awards system and don't give a lot of weight to awards given to officers and senior SNCOs. The awards manual says awards are given for actions performed above and beyond the call of duty. If you are a company commander much more is expected of you than a squad leader. It is demoralizing when you have a Marine who went above and beyond get a NAM with V and the adjutant (Major) who gets a Bronze Star for processing a thousand PCRs. The bronze star has been terribly diluted by the amount of meritorious bronze stars that have been awarded. Personally I think that valor awards and meritorious awards should be completely separate. Valor awards equivalent to the achievement and commendation medals should be created. The Bronze Star should only be given out for valor. If you want to give a guy a valor medal for an end of tour award it should not be 90% merit and 10% valor to sneak a v device through.

I agree 100%
 
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