Monday, September 24, 2007

More on Bronze Stars

My response to a comment on my post about Petraeus and his Bronze Star got long and I thought I'd just make it a new post.

Here's the comment.
D. L. Bailey said...
Gary,

I thank you for your service to the nation in the Navy.

What you may not know is that the Navy, because it fights at "long standoff" and nobody dares to shoot at our ships any more, has a different standard for awarding the Bronze Star for Valor. But it is always awarded for participation in combat.

The Army expects that participation to be very direct indeed, always, always under risk of life and serious injury from enemy fire.

As you know, Admiral Boorda killed himself when his wearing of a valor medal was brought into question. It is a serious thing.

It is particularly serious when a person who makes a claim of valor uses that claim for propaganda. And when the claim is untrue, this is an outrage.

The medal in question is not the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, but the "Valor Device" which indicates combat heroism.



Let's take it step at a time. First
I thank you for your service to the nation in the Navy.

Usually when somebody says this I think they're just trying to be polite, and I let it pass.

But, after reading the rest of the comment I don't think he was being polite. I think he was being patronizing. So, I won't let it pass.

I was not serving my country. My country betrayed me, Vietnam was not a threat to my country in any way. I was just taking care of myself by keeping myself alive in the best way I knew how without having to surrender my citizenship rights.
What you may not know is that the Navy, because it fights at "long standoff" and nobody dares to shoot at our ships any more, has a different standard for awarding the Bronze Star for Valor. But it is always awarded for participation in combat.

This is just condescending bullshit. The Bronze Star (with a V) is not a Navy or Army award, it's a military award, and the standards re the same for all services.

I have no idea what is meant by "long standoff". I assume he's making reference to the lack of naval guns these days, the gunships of old have been replaced by missile carrying frigates. Vietnam was mostly guns.

Crewmembers of the USS Hull were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for combat action in Feb, Mar, and May of 1968. Incoming shells came close enough to cover me with water from on explosion just off our bow.

My ship was a DD, which means guns, and it operated between Cap Lay and Tiger Island, about a mile offshore on the northern edge of the DMZ. IT was called the Gun Line and was about a mile long. There was typically two destroyers and a cruiser on station, with a couple of swift boats south of Cap Lay. No Navy vessel in the Gun Line escaped enemy fire. We didn't lose any ships, although some ships did take direct hits and lost some sailors and we did lose some boats (and crews).

I really don't need to be patronized about this.

At one point the exchange of gunfire got so intense that the barrels on our 5 inch guns literally melted and we had to transfer to plane guard duty for carriers on Yankee Station for a week until we could get a repair slot in the Subic Bay repair yards.

Our MUC (meterious unit citation) cited 7 shore-to-ship exchanges. The 8th wasn't an exchange, we just got some small arms fire from shore when we got to close to Tigar Island and we didn't return fire, we just moved away from the island.

As far as ships being in a shooting war these days, I guess you never heard of USS Cole (DDG, the G stands for guided missiles).

Our Captain was authorized a V on his Bronze Star because of direct combat, which is the same criteria as all services. A specific act is required, but it's only required that it be heroic if the act is part of a support activity rather than direct combat.
“Combat V” – is a United States military award authorized by the military services as an attachment to certain awards and decorations denoting receipt of an award by an individual for the awards specific criteria, but, additionally, is awarded in recognition of a valorous act (the “V”) performed during direct combat with an enemy force. It may also denote an accomplishment of a heroic nature in direct support of operations against an enemy force.

I don't know your background, but it may be that you were a junior officer authorized to recommend Bronze Stars for enlisted personnel and you are under the impression that the criteria you were given for such awards is an Army Wide criteria. It's not. It's a criteria for enlisted heroism. Heroism of 2 star Generals is defined in a very different way, with a very different criteria.

I'll be charitable and assume you just never really paid a lot of attention and didn't really understand that.
The Army expects that participation to be very direct indeed, always, always under risk of life and serious injury from enemy fire.

Well, duh. I'm not sure I'm clear on the concept that it's possible to not be at risk of life and serious injury when they're shooting at you. When you're taking enemy fire you're taking enemy fire and there's a serious risk.

A friend of mine, for example, was a Navy BM3 and assigned as a bouncer in an EM club at a Marine Fire Base in Vietnam. He was in the bar and hid under a table when he heard incoming mortar rounds. He still took a hit, still got a Purple Heart. No bronze star though, E4's who hide under tables don't get bronze stars. A two star general who took mortar shrapnel in his ass while he was in an Officer's Club would likely have gotten both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. His command to "shut the door" would have been considered an act of Valor. That's just the way things work.

Finally,
The medal in question is not the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, but the "Valor Device" which indicates combat heroism.

Definitions of heroic depend on pay grades.

The commendation for Petraeus's award has not been released. So the definition applied to him isn't clear cut. But heroic 2 star generals get higher ranking medals than Bronze Stars.

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