Photo credit to HRC Homepage (army.mil)
I know what you're thinking and you're right. There is a big problem with Soldiers not getting the awards they deserve just because they are a certain rank or because the command climate is horrible. Check out how to justify an award in the Army where I go over the reason why this happens and the best way to get around it.
I am not talking about those special circumstances. I absolutely believe that awards are not rank based and should be given to those who deserve them with less scrutiny from those who engage themselves in discriminative practices. That does not mean that it is not good to downgrade or grant a no award due memo for certain members and here is why: competition and inflation.
When there are large quantities of people that have the same awards, it downgrades the award itself through inflation just like money. When this happens, it becomes harder for a board or program to use that award to identify people who have truly outstanding and meritorious achievements. The AAM is a great example. Outside of junior enlisted Soldier of the Month (SOM) boards or promotion boards, I have not come across leaders that use it as a way to rank personnel in any sort of OML whether that is a competition, for a position, or for promotion.
How many Soldiers have you come across that literally did the absolute basics of what the Army required them to do, often leaving others to pick up the slack and cover down? What about the Soldier that has serious Army Values violations? What happens when they PCS or ETS? In many cases, I have observed that command still expects something to be written up for the Soldier, which is correct. In most of these cases though, I see the section use the basic PCS or ETS template and throw together a quick and unjustified award for service and achievements that would not be classified as meritorious. On a case by case basis, the section should be determining if a no award due memo would be more appropriate for the circumstance.
The fact is that most people receive an AAM or ARCOM for PCS or ETS which reduces the value when using it as an award. The same thing goes for the units that complete a field exercise and you hear "I want two achievement awards per section for this exercise by _____(date)". This form of recognition can be outstanding and effective in building morale. The problem here is that some leaders take this very seriously and may identify that no one in their section went above and beyond in displaying a meritorious achievement or service. So they just submit a name for the person that they like the most or for whoever messed up the least instead. I've seen it happen that someone who did something outstanding being recognized within the same group that has a person they know didn't do anything worth recognition. This kills their morale and can make them feel like the award isn't worth much.
You may have seen or experienced this with achievement awards or possibly even a badge. Many a story exist that talk about the CAB or CMB being blanket awarded to someone or a group of people that really stretched the wording or exploited the grey area in the eligibility criteria for the badge just so they could get their "right of passage" while deployed. If you received yours for doing something that put your life at risk and then you see someone who got one for just being on the Forward Operating Base (FOB) when IDF hit, how would that make you feel about the badge itself? How would you look at the badge when you see it on others? Would you be wondering if it was a blanket award that wasn't even justified?
This is the problem with giving out so many awards and the reason why it is just downright good to downgrade, deny, or write a no award due justification for certain case by case scenarios. Some people really abuse this thought process and make it hard for anyone to be recognized appropriately. Do your best to know the regulatory guidance and eligibility criteria for these awards and fight for your Soldiers.
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