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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Combat Medevac Badge Advances in Congress

MILITARY

A combat badge honoring crewmembers of medical rescue helicopters cleared a hurdle in Congress in May when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill.

The bill includes a provision to authorize the Combat Medevac Badge, which is opposed by the U.S. Army. The provision was first introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. as an amendment to the 2006 defense authorization bill. Rep. Tim Holden, D-Pa., re-introduced the amendment to the Fiscal 2008 bill.

That bill now goes into a conference committee to iron out differences between it and the Senate version of the defense authorization act. It remains to be seen whether the badge provision will survive.

Last year, members of the Vietnam Veterans Assn. presented the badge to soldiers posthumously. "Soldiers families told me it meant more to them to get this medal than one from the military," said John Travers of the association. Travers flew Bell Helicopter UH-1s for the Army in Vietnam and Sikorsky Aircraft UH-60s after that. He retired as a chief warrant officer 5 after 33 years.

If passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, the bill would authorize the badge to be awarded to service members who served as medevac pilots and crewmembers. Today, the Combat Infantry Badge is awarded to infantry soldiers who engaged in ground combat against enemy forces. The Combat Medical Badge is awarded to medical personnel assigned to a unit that engaged in ground combat. In both instances, the service member must have been present and under fire during combat to receive the badge.

Holden’s amendment would make eligible for the badge anyone who served in combat as a pilot or crewmember of a medevac unit on June 25, 1950 or thereafter.

In an official response, the Army said it has "long debated how to best recognize" every soldier’s contribution to the service and the nation. "Trying to categorize and acknowledge every soldier’s action or contribution in the form of a badge, ribbon or medal represents a challenge."

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