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Combat Infantryman Badge

Infantrymen must have the skill and the will-not to just participate in the close fight, but to dominate it. From World War II through Vietnam, four out of five combat deaths were sustained by infantrymen, who constituted only five percent of the US military manpower.

The Combat Infantryman Badge was approved by the Secretary of War on 7 October 1943 and announced in War Department Circular 269 dated 27 October 1943. On 8 February 1952, the Chief of Staff, Army, approved a proposal to add stars to the Combat Infantryman Badge to indicate award of the badge in separate wars. Under this change in policy, the badge was no longer limited to a one-time award, but could now be awarded to eligible individuals for each war in which they participated.

The Combat Infantryman Badge is awarded to personnel in the grade of Colonel or below with an infantry or special forces military occupational specialty who have satisfactorily performed duty while assigned as a member of an infantry/special forces unit, brigade or smaller size, during any period subsequent to 6 December 1941 when the unit was engaged in active ground combat. The policy was expanded to permit award to Command Sergeants Major of infantry battalions or brigades, effective 1 December 1967. Specific criteria for each conflict was also established. Only one award is authorized for service in Vietnam, Laos, the Dominican Republic, Korea (subsequent to 4 January 1969), El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, the Southwest Asia and Somalia, regardless of whether an individual has served in one or more of these areas. The complete criteria for each area and inclusive dates are listed in Army Regulation 600-8-22. The bar is blue, the color associated with the Infantry branch. The musket is adapted from the Infantry insignia of branch and represents the first official U.S. shoulder arm, the 1795 model Springfield Arsenal musket. It was adopted as the official Infantry branch insignia in 1924. The oak symbolizes steadfastness, strength and loyalty.

In August 1943, Lieutenant General (LTG) Leslie J. McNair's Army Ground Forces (AGF) headquarters conducted a survey of soldiers then assigned to AGF's 11 arms and services. His people discovered that, among those soldiers, the Infantry was by far the least popular branch, even with its own members. Very few Infantrymen, at the time, were happy with being in the Infantry or with their current assignments. The results of the survey were given to General George C. Marshall, the Army's Chief of Staff and an old-line Infantryman himself. General Marshall asked LTG McNair to recommend ways the Infantry's prestige could be boosted and its importance as the Army's premier combat arm could be recognized. Infantry units were doing most of the fighting and dying in all active theaters of operations and General Marshall knew the road ahead would require even greater sacrifices from the Infantry.

One of LTG McNair's proposals called for a "fighter badge" that could be awarded to Infantrymen who could meet certain standards which were to be developed by Marshall's headquarters. Marshall approved the concept but decided that instead of having one "fighter badge" there would be two individual combat badges--the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Section I, War Department Circular 209, dated October 27, 1943, spelled out the details. The circular begins by stating: The present war has demonstrated the importance of highly proficient, tough, hard, and aggressive Infantry, which can be obtained only by developing a high degree of individual all-around proficiency on the part of every Infantryman. As a means of attaining the high standards desired and to foster esprit de corps in the Infantry units, the Expert Infantryman and Combat Infantryman Badges are established for Infantry personnel.

The Expert Infantryman Badge was approved by the Secretary of War on 7 October 1943 and announced in War Department Circular 269 dated 27 October 1943. It consists of a silver and enamel badge 7/16 inch in height and 3 inches in width, consisting of an Infantry musket on a light blue bar with a silver border. The bar is blue, the color associated with the Infantry branch. The musket is adapted from the Infantry insignia of branch and represents the first official U.S. shoulder arm, 1795 model Springfield Arsenal musket. It was adopted as the official Infantry branch insignia in 1924. Personnel must meet Department of the Army established testing requirements and must possess a military occupational specialty within Career Management Field 11 (Infantry) or 18 (Special Forces), less MOS 18D.

It is interesting to note that both badges were initially considered combat badges. The EIB could be awarded to Infantrymen who either attained "the standards of proficiency established by the War Department" or satisfactorily performed "duty in action against the enemy." The CIB had stricter requirements; to be awarded to Infantrymen who had to demonstrate "exemplary conduct in action against the enemy." Today, the EIB and CIB may be awarded only to members of the United States Army.



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