Friday, May 14, 2010
Hold fire, earn a medal
The proposal is now circulating in the Kabul headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force, a command spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
“The idea is consistent with our approach,” explained Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis. “Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians. In some situations our forces face in Afghanistan, that restraint is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those seen in combat actions.”
Soldiers are often recognized for non-combat achievement with decorations such as their service’s commendation medal. But most of the highest U.S. military decorations are for valor in combat. A medal to recognize a conscious effort to avoid a combat action would be unique.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called the idea ridiculous and dangerous.
Said Thompson, “Our troops are already doing an admirable job following the Rules of Engagement (ROE). But when the Taliban purposely uses civilians as human shields, civilian casualties are a tragic, but not uncommon result. The proposed medal will only cause the Taliban to increase their reliance on this cowardly tactic. It will encourage U.S. soldiers to do nothing in the face of danger. And it will lead to the institutionalization of inaction. We need a military that has a basis for action, not inaction.”
A four-man fire team responded as they were trained: they cleared several houses occupied by the armed insurgents. In the ensuing room-by-room, house-by-house gun battle, 8 insurgents and several civilians were killed. For their obvious heroism, the four men and Lt. Col. Chessani were rewarded with criminal courts-marital.
Continued Thompson, “We can’t have soldiers hesitating at a crucial moment when facing the enemy. It could mean their death, or the death of their comrades. Ultimately, the ‘restraint’ promoted by this award will cost American lives.”
at 12:25 PM