The Department of Defense resurrected a campaign medal for service in Iraq amid a renewal of threats against U.S. troops in the Middle East.
The Pentagon reinstated the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal in August for qualified troops serving in Iraq, according to a memo signed by then-Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros. The memo, which was obtained by Military Times, states the reauthorization of the medal for eligible service members is retroactive to January 1 and goes through December 31, 2024.
Nicole Schwegman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense, said U.S. Central Command requested the change “due to Iraq no longer being classified as a combat mission.”
Established in 2016, the decoration covered service in both Iraq and Syria, but criteria for the medal changed last year, limiting it to troops with deployments to Syria alone.
While Schwegman said the reinstatement of the medal for troops in Iraq was not initiated by the recent escalation of drone attacks there, American troops in the Middle East are still seeing an increase in hostile incidents.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier today about the Pentagon’s efforts to counter such activities and the rising tensions in the region.
“Our personnel have come under repeated attack in recent days by Iranian-backed militia groups. These attacks must stop,” he said. “At the president’s direction, U.S. forces have conducted precision self-defense strikes on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s IRGC and its affiliates. If Iranian-backed groups continue to attack U.S. forces, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people.”
Approximately 2,500 American personnel serve in Iraq and another 900 in Syria, while a growing number of service members and American assets are moving to the Middle East as fighting intensifies between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media