Army Combat Action Badge Overview

In today’ post, my goal is to educate you about the Army Combat Action Badge. I’m a big fan of military awards, badges, and military history.

The Army Combat Action Badge, or CAB, is a relatively new award that was approved in 2005. Similar in nature to the CIB (Combat Infantry Badge), the CAB is intended for Soldiers who “personally engage, or are engaged by the enemy” in areas where hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay is authorized.

The idea of the CAB, however, is not that new. Since 1943, when the CIB was introduced, other branches have been arguing for their very own badges. For a long time, Soldiers often wore their own “make shift” awards that were unofficial and worn in violation of the uniform standards. From 1943, the years in Vietnam up until the Global War on Terrorism, the Army was never able to gain enough momentum to create a badge to recognize Soldiers in contact that were not Infantrymen. Proudly, the Armor community began to re-ignite the issue as we pushed into Iraq.

Army Combat Action Badge

Many tank crewmen saw direct-fire contact from their tanks and then began to kick in doors alongside the Infantry. Still, they were not given recognition. Initially, the CAB was known as the Close Combat Badge, or CCB. The original intent behind this award was to recognize non-Infantry Soldiers who were doing an Infantry duty in combat. That all changed in 2005 when MPs in Afghanistan began to question why MPs were unable to receive the CCB despite the nature of combat they were experiencing. Finally, in 2005 General Schoomaker authorized the Combat Action Badge.

Qualification Requirements

How do you qualify for the Army Combat Action Badge? What are the qualifications and requirements? Here’s what I found online:

Awarded to U.S. Armed Forces personnel after September 18, 2001 for performing duties in an area where hostile fire or imminent danger pay is authorized, as well as for those personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy while performing satisfactorily in accordance with the prescribed rules of engagement. Not limited by serviceman’s branch or military occupational specialty, but is authorized for wear solely on U.S. Army uniforms. ~

The CAB Design

What does the Combat Action Badge look like? Here are some good descriptions I found while conducting my research online.

The Combat Action Badge was originally planned as a ribbon which was to have been known as the “Combat Recognition Ribbon” (similar to the Navy/Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon created in 1969). However, as ribbons are generally seen as less prestigious than medals and badges, the CAB was then proposed as the “Close Combat Badge” (or CCB), thus granting the award badge status vice ribbon. This was to be a combat award only for soldiers who did not hold the infantry military occupational specialty (MOS), but who were deployed specifically to fulfill an infantry duty. ~ Wikipedia


The emblem features a rectangle supporting both an M9 bayonet and M67 grenade wrapped with an oak wreath. Stars are added at the top to indicate subsequent awards: one star for the second award, two stars for the third award, and three stars for the fourth award. The CAB was originally planned as a ribbon known as the “Combat Recognition Ribbon,” however, the CAB was later proposed as the “Close Combat Badge” (or CCB) for added prestige. This was to be a combat award only for soldiers who did not hold the infantry military occupational specialty (MOS), but who were deployed specifically to fulfill an infantry duty. Approved by the U.S. Army on May 2, 2005, the CAB can be retroactively awarded to soldiers of all MOSs who engaged in combat after September 18, 2001. ~

I think the badge is beautiful. You can see a picture of it below. You can click on the image below to be redirected to Amazon to take a closer look at one.

combat action badgeConfusion About the Army Combat Action Badge

Now, something that I misunderstood about the CAB, and I believe many others do as well, is that the CAB is an award that is branch and MOS irrelevant. The primary requirement to receive a CAB, as outlined in HQDA LTR 600-05-1, states that the Soldier simply not be assigned/attached to a unit that would qualify the Soldier for a CIB. However, this seems extremely contrary to what I have seen across the force. For example, if you are a 19K and serve in an Infantry Battalion, you will most likely receive a CAB rather than a CIB. According to the Chief of Staff’s (General Peter Schoomaker) intent it seems like as long as you are assigned/attached to a CIB qualified unit, you should get a CIB. Perhaps someone could confirm or deny this?

Army Combat Action Badge special recognition

Wearing the Badge

The bayonet and grenade badge is worn IAW AR 670-1…basically the same standard for how a CIB is worn. It is only worn on Army uniforms. The CAB provides special recognition, and rightfully so, for those who engage or are engaged by the enemy. The CAB may be awarded by any commander who is delegated authority by the Secretary of the Army during wartime. As a 19A, the CAB is a dearly held recognition and, personally, sets us apart from the Infantry.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, this is my best information about the Army Combat Information Badge, aka the CAB. We would love to hear from any of you who have received this prestigious award. Please tell us more and share your story how you earned it. I’d also love if you could post a citation of your award in the comment section below. Thank you for your service!

Other posts you may enjoy:
  1. Army MOS 25V: Combat Documentation/Production Specialist
  2. Army Airborne School
  3. How to Fast Track Your Military Career
  4. Army 11X MOS
  5. Why I Resigned My Commission
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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8 thoughts on “Army Combat Action Badge Overview”

  1. The thing is, if you are 11B and didn’t maneuver in some way to the enemy but if you received fire, you do not qualify for a CIB even if you are Infantry. If you are not Infantry or SF, you can engage the enemy and Receive a CAB. If you were just shot at, mortared and didn’t return fire, a CAB it is also. It’s the Infantry dude, assigned to an Infantry unit that received direct or indirect fire, they get nothing but a right shoulder sleeve patch. Period.
    Sucks but all this wasn’t thought through when established.

  2. I believe the idea behind this award is a good one. The system needs to take a hard look on who is able to receive it. It is my opinion that if any soldier has to face bullets, mortars, roadside bombs, etc… they should be eligible to receive this award. I feel they should just pull the MOS idea and award this to infantry and non-infantry alike. It is sad that someone who has an infantry MOS, but isn’t truly doing infantry material, but is still getting shot at and having to defend themselves cannot receive this honor.

    C’mon, some people high up need to pull their heads out.

  3. I don’t have access to AR 600-8-22, but I’m fairly certain the award criteria for the CIB are that the awardee hold an 11 (infantry) or 18 (Special Forces) MOS or functional area as well as being part of an infantry unit. While deployed to Iraq in 2004-05 I was attached to an armor company as part of a mechanized company team. All the 11Bs received the CIB and all the 19Ks received CABs. Even though we were attached to an armor company in an armor battalion, we were still part of an infantry brigade.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      This is correct. CIB is only for 11/18 series COL and below.

      There is criteria and FAQ on that page. The BLUF is you have to be 11/18 series and assigned to an infantry/special forces unit – even if you are attached out.
      on the flip side…

      “Can non-Infantry/Special Forces officers be awarded the CIB if they are performing an Infantry mission, especially if they graduated from Ranger school, underwent training with an Infantry platoon in preparation for combat, and serve as an Infantry platoon leader, or another 11A coded job, during a CIB qualifying engagement?

      No. These Soldiers would be eligible to earn the CAB. The Office of Infantry Proponency has defined being “properly trained in infantry or Special Forces tactics, [possessing] the appropriate skill code” as completing a school that results in the awarding of Army Occupation Code (AOC) 11A or 18A or an enlisted Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of 11B, 11C, 18B, 18C, 18D, 18E, etc. Ranger school is not an AOC/MOS producing school and is not an “Infantry” only school. It does not fulfill the requirements outlined in the regulation.”

      Seems pretty simple and straightforward to me. But, people will always want what they can’t have.

  4. A REMF award. I drove a truck up and down a highway, so that makes me infantry. This award should be pulled.

  5. Amy Skalicky

    You are correct, Chuck, that if a soldier is attached to an infantry battalion, regardless of MOS, they will be awarded the CIB if qualifed. Clearly, there is some confusion about the award and when it is appropriate award the CAB rather than the CIB. The US Army Human Resources Command Website states this: “Soldier must NOT be assigned or attached to a unit that would qualify the Soldier for the CIB/CMB. For example, an 11B assigned to Corps staff is eligible for award of the CAB. However, an 11B assigned to an infantry battalion is not eligible for award of the CAB.” It sounds like leadership needs to make some time to revisit the information and clarify this for their troops.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      The key word in your post is…IF QUALIFIED….which means, 11/18 series, nothing more and nothing less. Doesn’t matter if you’re a logistics officer attached to an infantry battalion..unless you have previously earned the AOC in the 11 or 18 series, you won’t get a CIB. Being assigned to an infantry unit is not the only qualification, if you read the regs on CIBs. You have to hold the AOC/MOS as well.

      11B can earn either CAB or CIB depending on what type of unit they are assigned to.

      the 11B assigned to an infantry battalion would not earn a CAB, as you stated above…because he is assigned to an infantry battalion. Therefore, he would earn a CIB.

      This is very clearcut and simple, and I don’t think it needs to be revisited. If you aren’t an 11/18 series, you shouldn’t even be worrying about if you can get a CIB. If you are in either of those series, you need to look at what type of unit you are assigned to. pretty simple.

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