On Monday, fifty-six members of the Army's Bravo Company, 720th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade were awarded meritorious Bronze Stars for their service in Vietnam. This company was the first military police unit in U.S. history to engage in a three-year infantry counterinsurgency mission from 1967 to 0. The awards ceremony took place on the House side of the U.S. Capitol and was attended by 35 recipients.
The Army also announced that it is conducting a major review and records search to identify other troops who may have missed out on awards and citations. The search began with screening over a million World War II records, with plans to move on to the Korean War and later conflicts. The goal is to digit all the records and make them available online, possibly for storage in the Library of Congress.
Bravo Company, known as the "Bushwhackers," took on the mission of deterring enemy attacks on Long Binh Post, the largest U.S. logistical base in Vietnam. They underwent on-the-job training in infantry tactics such as combat patrolling, setting up ambushes, and perimeter defense. The company also had its own navy, partnering with transportation personnel to operate Patrol Boats, Riverine (PBRs) and Boston whalers.
The transformation of a military police unit into an infantry company was challenging, but the Bravo Company soldiers accepted the mission and adapted to their new roles. Their service took a toll, with a total of 24 Purple Heart medals awarded, including 13 for troops killed in action.
Former Bravo Company members initially hoped for the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) or the Combat Action Badge (CAB), but they were told they lacked the required infantry military occupational specialty. However, after writing letters and receiving support from Congressman Bob Latta, the Army offered them the meritorious Bronze Star for their service, which they accepted.
The award of 56 meritorious Bronze Stars aligns with the original intent of the medal, recommended by General George C. Marshall during World War II. Marshall emphasized the importance of immediate recognition to sustain or stimulate morale among ground combat troops.
Doug Sterner, a combat engineer veteran and military awards expert, praised the Army's decision to award the Bronze Stars to Bravo Company. He believes it is never too late recognize those who have served and considers this a positive move by the military awards system.
During the ceremony, the Bravo Company members paid tribute Thomas Watson, a leader in their efforts to secure awards. Watson had already received a Bronze Star with a combat "V" device for his actions during Operation Stabilize, which exemplified the types of engagements undertaken by the military police unit.
Overall, the awards ceremony was a long-awaited recognition of the bravery and service of Bravo Company, and it provided closure and honor the surviving members.