The Department of Defense is reversing a decision not to award certain medals to soldiers fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) on the ground in the Middle East following pressure from Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Huelskamp said Friday.
“I was shocked that the Obama Administration intended to show such disrespect to our brave soldiers,” Huelskamp said in a statement. “However, after our letter and likely pressure from numerous other sources, I am pleased that Obama has apparently and abruptly reversed course and is recognizing the military action in the Iraq and Syrian region for what it is – a combat mission.
“It should go without saying that our President and Military commanders have an obligation to our brave soldiers to define the mission they are risking life and limb for and reward them for their service. I look forward to honoring our valiant men and women of the Big Red One at Fort Riley.”
At issue was a decision not to award military “advisers” Global War on Terror Expeditionary or Service medals, rendered because the new deployment was not deemed a combat mission by the Obama administration.
Several hundred of the soldiers being deployed to fight ISIS are from the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley Kansas, who Huelskamp’s office says are going to be deployed to the Iraq-Syria region after the Casing Ceremony on Oct. 8.
Huelskamp wrote to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Thursday expressing his disapproval of the administration’s decision, asking that it be reversed.
“It has been reported that until the military action in Iraq receives a formal military campaign designation or name, men and women on the ground in Iraq remain ineligible for certain medals,” Huelskamp wrote to Hagel. “It would seem that a deployed force of greater than 500 is no longer there in strictly an advisory role. The men and women on the ground in Iraq are daily placing their lives in danger. To continue to insist that our soldiers are only in Iraq in an ‘advisory’ role discredits the sacrifices they are making to serve our country and misrepresents their role to the American public.”
Huelskamp’s office notes that it received an initial response that the decision to withhold medals from American military forces being deployed to the region would be reviewed next week, but then news broke that the Obama administration reversed its decision shortly thereafter.