I attended our battalion awards ceremony last evening. I'll recount it in detail once I've signed my release from active duty paperwork...never saw anything like it in my military career. It reminded me of the old joke: "What's the difference between the US Army and the Boy Scouts? The Boy Scouts have adult leadership!"
(Updated entry: 22 Sep 10) Okay, I promised to do a Paul Harvey and provide you with The rest of the story...so here it is. During our deployment, there had been rumblings about the process of selecting end of tour awards (as in medals) for the folks in the battalion headquarters, and the agents out doing the actual work of investigations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Rumors flew around from almost Day One, as the battalion commander had decreed all award recommendations must be submitted around the second month of our deployment. (I wrote a blog post at the time, though I disguised the fact it was our unit which was ordering this rather absurd timing. Since nobody had actually done anything in-country at that point, how could anyone write a credible recommendation?) Aside from this silliness, the other rumor was that there were quotas assigned to each detachment...Only X number of soldiers could be awarded a Bronze Star, or Meritorious Service Medal. It didn't matter if the detachment had five super performers, only one or two could receive these more prestigious medals, and everyone else would receive an Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM). Out in the field offices, our leaders ignored this edict, and based their award recommendations on performance. Well, as you can predict, these recommendations were "re-done" by the battalion staff folks to conform to the quota numbers. So, when we arrived in Kuwait and assembled in a big multi-purpose room, it became clear that the rumors were indeed true. Folks who had done a superb job, many under dangerous and/or spartan conditions received ARCOMs, and so did all of the under-performing, lackadaisical, no talent fuck-ups. Morale, which was pretty much at sea level for the entire deployment, plummeted to Death Valley depths. Some folks demonstrated their utter disgust by flinging their ARCOMs across the room into a metal garbage can, which was soon ringing like one of Quasimodo's bells. Others left their medal and the accompanying certificate on the folding tables, and walked away without a backward glance. Of course the new battalion commander, who had taken over a couple of months ago and seemed like a decent sort, was utterly embarrassed by this overt display of disgruntlement. It had the same feeling to it as the scene in the WWII movie Mr. Roberts, when the ship's executive officer, finally fed up with the skipper's heavy-handed treatment of the crew, heaved the captain's potted palm over the rail into the sea.
While my own performance didn't rate a Bronze Star, and I didn't really care about what I got, I was (and still am) indeed steamed that those agents who deserved higher awards were treated so shabbily. On a personal note, a couple of us also received an Army Achievement Medal (one level below an ARCOM), thanks to a recommendation from our Team Chief, in recognition of our investigative work. That particular medal means ten times more to me than the "Everybody gets a trophy" ARCOM ever will.