The establishment of the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) was announced in a War Department Circular issued on October 27, 1943 as a sorely needed way to recognize the privations, sacrifices, and unique hardships endured by the “tip of the spear” of the United States Armed Forces: Infantrymen. With the rise in the use of Special Forces during the latter half of the 20th Century, the regulations governing the issuance of the CIB were expanded in December, 1989 to include Special Forces soldiers.

There are three overarching guidelines for the issuance of CIBs. First, it can only be awarded to enlisted personnel or officers (Colonel or below) in an Infantry or Special Forces MOS who are satisfactorily performing their assigned duties. Second, the candidate must be assigned to a unit during a time that it is actively engaged in ground combat with the enemy. Thirdly, the potential recipient must actively take part in that ground combat; simply being part of a unit that received a Campaign or Battle Credit does not automatically result in the awarding of a CIB.

But the regulations are even more specific when it comes to the ground combat requirement, in that such combat must take place during a qualifying war, operation, or conflict. Fourteen such qualifying conflicts are enumerated in the guidelines for CIB issuance, but this number is somewhat misleading because some of them are sub-divided into individual operations; the War in Iraq, for instance, is divided into Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. Complicating matters further are highly detailed codicils related to combat in the Vietnam Conflict, Laos, and Korea (DMZ), found Section 8-6(e) of the AR 600-8-22, Military Awards.

This award is closely related to the Expert Infantryman Badge, which was created at the same time. Soldiers who have earned both of these highly prized badges may wear only one at a time, with the CIB considered the higher of the two.

A 1947 policy decision authorized the retroactive award of the Bronze Star to any Soldiers who had been awarded the CIB during World War II on the grounds that both medals carried the same combat stipulations and required recommendation by a unit commander.

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