WASHINGTON (Army News Service) – The Combat Pin for Civilian Service may be the Army’s first war-zone recognition award for civilians.
The Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers (USACE) began giving civilians the pin at ceremonies in Baghdad this spring.
Civilians have supported Soldiers on America’s battlefields all the way back to the camp followers of the Revolutionary War and Molly Pitcher’s historic turn with her husband’s artillery crew.
But Iraq is different. There, civilian volunteers from USACE wear the same uniform, endure the same heat, eat the same dust, duck the same mortar rounds, ride the same vehicles, run the same gauntlet between the Green Zone and the Baghdad Airport, and travel in the same Red Zones as the Soldiers they support. Some have been shot at by snipers, caught in firefights and injured by roadside bombs.
Until USACE authorized the award, there was nothing to honor civilians like ribbons or patches that distinguish Soldiers who serve in war zones.
“The idea was that Corps (of Engineers) employees who receive the pin would wear it at work in the United States,” said Kelly Brown, deputy director of programs in the Great Lakes and Ohio River division. Brown, who recently returned from duty in Iraq, developed the idea as a morale-booster for civilians.
“When you see the pin, you know the person volunteered in Iraq and that you share similar experiences. Those without the pin might question the wearer, who could then share their experiences,” Brown said. “It’ll give those considering an assignment in Iraq information they might not otherwise receive.”
Corps of Engineers employees serving in Iraq for more than 60 days will receive the award, which comes with a certificate. Future plans include retroactively awarding the CPCS to USACE civilians who volunteered in Iraq.
The pin is a miniature version of the GRD coin and logo, designed by Jan Fitzgerald, an artist with the Visual Information Branch of the Humphreys Engineer Center Support Activity. The lapel pin is not authorized for wear on the desert combat uniform, but may be worn with any civilian clothing.
Brown came up with the idea for the CPCS lapel pin while attending a town hall meeting in Iraq when Brig. Gen. Thomas Bostick, GRD commander, mentioned he was looking for morale-boosting ideas. Bostick was responsive to Brown’s idea and passed it onto to Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Gutierrez, GRD command sergeant major, to implement.
“Army regulations and policies do not authorize the wear of the combat patch by our dedicated civilians,” Gutierrez said. “Many of our civilians served in combat in the past and now proudly wear the uniform again as they serve our country and the Iraqi people.”
Gutierrez said it was extremely difficult to ask civilians in uniform to remove their combat patches.
“I could feel their disappointment as they graciously complied and stripped the one item of clothing that linked them to their experiences and former units,” he said. “As an alternative, Kelly’s idea replaces the combat patch and recognizes the wartime service of our civilians.”
Brown was awarded his CPCS pin before leaving Iraq in April.
Tom Janiewicz and Marty Lowe of the Transatlantic Programs Center helped Gutierrez purchase a supply of the pins.
“Marty did a great job expediting the process,” Gutierrez said. “Without his help this would have been impossible.”
(Tate serves as editor of Engineer Update.)