Awards and Ribbons
by Gary Lusterman

   With all the flack on the awards position of Sill Bunch I've had cause for
   reflection on what our "salad bars" were and are.

   Civilians see someone in military dress uniform and somehow expect anyone
   who is senior in rank to have a lot of pretty "things" on his chest. As a
   youngster, I did, but it took the comment of an ROTC instruction to give me
   an inkling of what they really meant. He stood in awe of another who wore
   the badge of a Master Parachutist.

   Those "things" we so carefully place, adjust, and readjust on our dress
   uniforms is the equivalent of a field 201 file for a knowledgeable
   serviceman. There are badges to denote special qualifications, ribbons
   denoting overseas service and combat campaigns. There are ribbons denoting
   awards to units who engaged in exceptional combat service. There are the
   ribbons, representing medals denoting distinguished or exceptional service
   by the individual serviceman and finally, the most prized of all, ribbons
   (representing medals) denoting bravery and valor in combat. Each had its
   carefully designated place and position when worn and seldom would one ever
   consider wearing something that was not rightfully earned and justified.

   The Viet Nam era (not just Nam) changed that. I think it started with the
   National Defense ribbon. The WW's and Korean times were gone and the new
   soldiers didn't have all the pretty goodies to adorn their uniforms.
   Therein started the idea of having something to wear.

   I remember back at Bragg in the mid-seventies, those of us who had time in
   'Nam got tired of being inspected by Officers and even Team Sergeants who
   didn't have all the nice stuff to wear (and didn't know how things were
   worn)and started wearing only unit citations, CIB's and jump wings on our
   class A's. We knew who we were and didn't need these non-combat turkeys
   telling us (usually wrongly) how to wear our awards and decorations.

   I CRS (maybe Kelly) but a new CG took over and mandated that for the next
   payday formation ALL awards and decorations would be worn. With all the
   losses that "Group" had taken with the 5th leaving VN and the cat fights
   for slots at Bragg, it was shocking to see how many of the experienced men
   had gotten tired of the pinecone details and left for senior leadership
   positions in conventional units. His comments which drifted down to the
   teams afterwards amounted to "there's your experience; let's use it to
   build Post-Vietnam Special Forces."

   Since there were more men that didn't go to VN than did, the Army had to
   come up with something for the newbies to wear: didn't look like any new
   wars in the near future. They gave us "finished basic training" ribbons,
   NCO School level ribbons, served in peacetime ribbons; can't remember what
   else. We already had marksmanship badges with shingles for every weapon
   imaginable as well as hand grenades! What the whole thing did was degrade a
   system whose real purpose was to recognize the combat and combat support
   soldier: the guys that actually fought the battles, got dirty and stank,
   got hurt and often died. I also think it created the mentality that pretty
   doodads were more important than real accomplishments.

   That kind of mentality shows up with the wannabes who wear unauthorized
   decorations but worse, shows up in people like that navy captain who really
   doesn't seem bothered by a man misrepresenting himself as one who genuinely
   fought for his country.

   I personally believe that everyone on this list, and off, who struggles to
   publicly identify and put down those who dishonor our uniforms by either
   wearing unearned accoutrements or ALLOWS the wearing of such, are doing a
   tremendous service to all who really have risked their all for our country.

   That navy captain is no better than Bunch.

   Keep up the good work!

   Lusterman - Maybe designing a ribbon for identifying wanabes - with
   campaign stars for each one