Appropriately recognizing battlefield valor is important to the force and important to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, he said in a recent interview.
The review of valor awards ordered by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter in January 2016 is important, the general said.
“It’s important to me that the award system is fair, that leaders do spend a lot of time on it, they take it seriously and they are committed to making sure that people get the right recognition,” he said.
Carter ordered the review in January 2016. The services looked at all valor awards to ensure service members who performed valorously were recognized at the appropriate level. Carter directed the military departments to review Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross and Silver Star medal recommendations made since Sept. 11, 2001.
Army Review Continues
Navy and Air Force officials have finished their reviews, while the Army is still working on its review. The Army has finished its first pass through the awards. The Awards and Decoration Board recommended eight percent of the awards be further examined for possible upgrade. A special Army awards and decorations board is examining those now.
The Navy and Marine Corps recommended the upgrade of 30 awards, including two to the Medal of Honor, and former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus presented some of them earlier this month.
The Air Force upgraded nine awards to eight individuals. In one of her last official major duties as Air Force secretary, Deborah Lee James presented two Silver Star awards last week to Air Force Col. Christopher Barnett for two separate actions in Afghanistan. Barnett, a former HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter pilot, had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor for those actions.
The service secretaries can upgrade to the Silver Star and service cross awards, but must pass any request for upgrade to the Medal of Honor through the defense secretary to the president for approval.
Dunford is pleased that the services are doing this review. “It is really important to the force that we recognize heroism when it occurs,” he said. “What we’ve seen is additional facts have come in, an additional review has taken place and some awards have been upgraded.
“What comes to me is the upgrades to the Medal of Honor, I believe I’ve seen three so far,” he said. “If we found someone who was deserving of the Medal of Honor who didn’t get it in the first go around, whatever time we’ve invested would be well worth it to make sure the individual is recognized in the manner deserved.”
Dunford remembered convening his leadership team when he was the commander of the 5th Marines Regimental Combat Team in 2003. “We had about 8,500 members of the RCT and we had the sergeants major, the executive officer and myself [conducting the review],” he said. “We went through 650 award citations while we were still in combat. We were arguing back and forth to make sure we got it right.
“I think it’s a worthy endeavor and I’m glad we did it. The time I’ve spent with it, I’m glad I did it.”