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US troops deployed to US-Mexico border to receive Armed Forces Service Medal

Armed Forces Service Medal (Steve White/U.S. Air Force)
August 20, 2019

The Pentagon has issued approval to award the Armed Forces Service Medal to military service members who have or will assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the southern U.S. border from 2018 and beyond.

Service members are eligible to receive the medal if they were deployed within a distance of approximately 115 miles from the Mexico border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California since April 2018 when the mission began, and will extend until its conclusion, according to the Marine Corps administrative message, as reported by Military.com on Monday.

“The Under Secretary of Defense has authorized the Armed Forces Service Medal to service members who have provided support to CBP, starting from April 7, 2018 [until a date to be determined],” Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a Defense Department spokesman, told Military.com.

Troops who are deployed to mission headquarters in San Antonio are eligible, as well as those deployed at sea near the coast.

The medal is approved only for operations “in which no other United States service medal is approved,” according to Code of Federal Regulations. It’s awarded to service members who, as a unit, participate in a U.S. military operation “deemed to be a significant activity and who encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action.”

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Troops on Mexico border since April 2018

President Donald Trump announced in April of last year that active-duty, Reserve and National Guard forces would start deploying to the border due to what he called an “invasion” due to the overwhelming numbers of Central American migrants attempting to enter the country.

The deployment of active-duty troops to the Mexico border has been deemed necessary by some observers, and criticized by others.

The former commandant of the Marine Corps said that the deployments have “pulled units away from their normal training and missions,” and border deployments had decreased the size of at least one training exercise,  Military.com noted.

The commandant said that at least one training exercise was downsized as a result of the border deployments.

The Armed Forces Service Medal

The medal – created by President Bill Clinton in 1996 through an executive order — is “considered the ‘non-combat equivalent’ of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and falls immediately before the Humanitarian Service Medal in order of precedence,” Military.com noted.

“The award — which has a green, blue and yellow ribbon and a bronze medal featuring a torch similar to the one held by the Statue of Liberty – was previously given to troops who operated along the border under President George W. Bush,” reports Military.com.

On the rear of the medal, an eagle overlays the Department of Defense seal, along with a wreath and the inscription “In pursuit of democracy.”

“It has also been awarded to troops who have deployed to Bosnia, Haiti and West Africa on humanitarian or peacekeeping missions,” the report states.