U.S service members who’ve been sent to operate along the Mexico border will receive a military award reserved for troops who did not involve in any kind of combat.
U.S. troops who have deployed to the border to assist U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since last April to receive the Armed Forces Service Medal. Details about the decision were included in a Marine Corps administrative message in response to authorization from the Defense Department.
“The Under Secretary of Defense has authorized the Armed Forces Service Medal to service members who have provided support to CBP, starting from April 7, 2018 [until the date to be determined],” said Army Lt Col. Chris Mitchell, a Defense Department spokesman at the Pentagon.
Troops must have operated within 100 nautical miles — roughly 115 miles — from the international border within Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California, according to the Marine Corps administrative message. Those operating in San Antonia, where the mission headquarters is located, are also eligible, along with troops at sea who are within 24 nautical miles of the coast.
Ofcourse the move faced controversy. Critics have slammed the decision to send the thousands of active-duty troops to the border ahead of the 2018 elections as a political stunt that has pulled units away from their normal training and missions. but the Pentagon said it would deploy 2,100 more active duty and National Guard troops to the border, joining some 4,500 already deployed to the border.
In February, Trump declared the situation on the U.S-Mexico border a national emergency in an effort to secure funding from congress to build a wall along the U.S. southern border, last month, the Supreme Court ruled the president could use $2.5 billion in Pentagon money to construct a wall there.
The Armed Forces Service Medal was created by President Bill Clinton in 1996 through an executive order. The award — which has green, blue and yellow ribbon and a bronze medal featuring a torch similar to the one held by the Statue of Liberty — was previously given to troops who operated along the border under President George W. Bush. It has also been awarded to troops who have deployed to Bosnia, Haiti and West Africa on humanitarian or Peacekeeping missions.
The back of the medal features the eagle found on the Defense Department seal, a wreath and an inscription that reads “In pursuit of democracy.”
The medal is approved only for operations “in which on other United States service medal is approved,” according to the Defense Department. It’s awarded to service members who, as a unit, participate in a U.S military operation “deemed to be significant activity and who encountered no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action.”
It’s considered the non-combat equivalent of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal in order of precedence.