Army orders review of soldiers who were El Salvador advisers

September 20, 1997|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The Army's top officer has ordered a review to determine whether soldiers who served as advisers in El Salvador should be awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, a prized medal they claim has been denied them because of politics.

Gen. Dennis J. Reimer, the Army chief of staff, ordered a review by the U.S. Army Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga. In transmitting the order, the Army cited an Aug. 4 Sun article that detailed the stories of those who came under heavy fire and in some cases died helping the Salvadoran army fight Marxist insurgents.

"Fort Benning still has not completed the review," said Shari Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Total Personnel Command. "We don't have a time line on that yet."

Hundreds of Army soldiers, particularly Green Berets, served in El Salvador beginning in the 1980s and lasting until a 1992 peace accord. Twenty-one Americans died under hostile fire.

But since the 1980s, the Army has repeatedly denied the advisers the infantryman's badge.

One Army official, who asked not to be identified, said award of the badge is reserved for infantry soldiers whose mission is to engage in active combat with an armed enemy. "That was clearly not the primary purpose of those soldiers who served in El Salvador," he said.

But proponents claim that officials tried to play down the U.S. advisory role.

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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