CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The Afghanistan Campaign Medal, normally awarded to personnel serving for a period of 30 consecutive days within the borders of Afghanistan, will soon be awarded to Marines of the 1st Intelligence Battalion for serving within the borders of their air-conditioned Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility on Camp Pendleton.
"Over in Afghanistan, they're working around the clock to produce accurate, quality intelligence reporting," asserts Private First Class Caleb Pogston, an 0231 Intelligence Analyst. "Unfortunately, the volume of products they need to produce over in the 'Stan far surpasses the amount they can complete, so they rely on us to take up the slack and fulfill their reporting requirements."
Reach-back support is a relatively new concept in the U.S. military. In the intelligence community, it allows forward-deployed units to utilize their garrison counterparts to augment their intelligence gathering and reporting, resulting in a higher product output than just what the forward unit would yield.
Because their role in garrison is nearly the same as the role of their analytical counterparts in a combat zone more than 10,000 miles away, Headquarters Marine Corps decided to award the Afghanistan Campaign Medal to any Marine within the 1st Intelligence Battalion's Reach-Back Element for their role in Operation Enduring Freedom.
"We're essentially forward deployed. That's why our company first sergeant makes us wear our desert utilities to work every day, sleeves down," Pogston told Duffel Blog, momentarily pausing to take a sip from his lukewarm Coors Lite. "To get us into that combat mindset."
Some Marines from the Battalion feel that the medal is completely unwarranted, while others feel it is completely justified.
"We're pretty much just like the Marines that are in Afghanistan right now, OK?" insists Staff Sgt. Barney Township, who is overjoyed to finally get an in-grade deployment to make him competitive for selection and promotion, while also earning his third ribbon. "We work 12 hour shifts four days a week, we only analyze Afghanistan products, and we can't consume alcohol after work — only during our three day weekends."
Unfortunately, a loud knock on Township's door cut the interview short. "Sorry, the interview's over, that's my Domino's Pizza."
At press time, Headquarters Marine Corps was also considering awarding the Reach-Back Element the NATO-ISAF medal, for occasionally logging in to their CENTRIX accounts.