Since the establishment of the Combat Medical Badge on January 29, 1945, its eligibility requirements have undergone several significant revisions. Five years after it was established, for instance, the regulations for the one-time award were changed so that it could be awarded to the same recipient for each qualifying warfare period they took part in, with stars being added to the badge for subsequent awards.

As it was originally written, the CMB could be awarded to members of the U.S. Army Medical Department (Colonel or below), Navy Medical Department (Captain and below) and the USAF Medical Service (Colonel or below) who are assigned or attached to an infantry unit at the brigade level or lower during any time that the infantry unit was engaged in actual combat during a qualifying period. Simply receiving credit for battle participation is not considered enough to qualify the unit as having taken part in combat: it must have been in actual contact with the enemy.

Over the years, there have been some misperceptions about what type of duty qualified an eligible military member for the award. It was not meant to be a “blanket” award handed out to any and all medical personnel assigned to a unit serving in a combat zone. The Department of the Army has made it clear that the medical personnel must be (a) personally present and (b) under fire to qualify for the CMB. This requirement was taken so seriously during the Vietnam-era fighting that the officials recommending personnel for the CMB had to note the time, type, level of combat, and location (using six-digit coordinates) where the action took place.

From 1989 to 2005, Special Forces personnel with MOS 18D (Special Forces Medical Sergeant) were eligible for the CMB if they performed medical duties while assigned/attached to a Special Forces unit provided they themselves came under fire. In 1991, eligibility was extended tothose serving with brigade-sized and smaller armor and ground-cavalry units, and ten years later aviation units (similarly brigades and smaller) were added to the lists of units with which eligible personnel could serve and earn the CMB.

In all, regulations set forth over fourteen operations and campaigns that eligible medical personnel may have been involved that, assuming they met all the other conditions of combat and satisfactory medical performance, would qualify them for the CMB. This is in addition to special provisions provided for actions in the Vietnam Conflict, Laos, and in Korea while serving in the Demilitarized Zone.

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