MacArthur Requests Medals for NJ Service Members
Washington, DC – Congressman Tom MacArthur today called on the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to award the Humanitarian Service Medal to New Jersey National Guard Service Members that engaged in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
Immediately after Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey in October of 2012 communities in Burlington and Ocean Counties were devastated. Countless families and individuals suffered great losses, and in response, thousands of New Jersey National Guardsmen deployed to communities across the state to assist in rescue and clean-up efforts.
Ambiguous language in Army qualification guidelines prompted Congressman MacArthur to contact the National Guard Bureau, the New Jersey Adjutant General and Pentagon Joint Staff seeking acknowledgement of this discrepancy. Most recently, the Awards and Decorations Branch of the Department of the Army and the Pentagon Joint was contacted by Congressman MacArthur seeking clarification of requirements for the Humanitarian Service Medal in regards to National Guard Service Members. If language is interpreted properly, as it has been in similar disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, participating Guardsmen could receive recognition for the humanitarian operations performed in response to Superstorm Sandy.
“Thousands of New Jersey Guardsmen left their families at home and volunteered to aid their fellow citizens during Superstorm Sandy,” said Congressman MacArthur. “In the wake of such a devastating disaster, our service members joined in the recovery and helped pick up the pieces, and I would like to see these individuals recognized for their efforts.”
Full text of the letter below:
September 2, 2015
Under Secretary of Defense
Personnel and Readiness (Awards)
4000 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-4000
Dear Under Secretary of Defense,
I am writing to you as per request by the Joint Staff and the Awards and Decorations Branch of the Department of the Army. Our office is requesting for the clarity of requirements for the Humanitarian Services Medal in regards to National Guard Members. Our office has been in contact and received notice from the National Guard Bureau concurring that National Guards Members are entitled to the Humanitarian Service Medals (document enclosed) for those Guard Members who responded to Superstorm Sandy on October 29, 2012. After having concurring documentation forwarded by the National Guard Bureau to the Adjutant General of New Jersey, the Guard Members were subsequently denied by the Adjutant General. We believe there may be a clerical issue with the DoD Manual 1348.33, Volume 2, Enclosure 3, 9. Humanitarian Service Medal, (d) Exclusions, 3. when declaring eligibility for title 10 and title 32 service members for the HSM.
The text in question states, "The Humanitarian Service Medal is not the appropriate award to recognize humanitarian operations performed solely by service members on title 32, U.S.C. (Reference (as)) orders under the authority of a State governor. In these instances, the appropriate level of recognition is provided by the applicable State governor."
It is our interpretation of the DoD instruction that during Hurricane Sandy, title 32 service members were not the sole arbiters of humanitarian service; therefore, the exclusion does not apply. By use of the word “solely”, the author intended that the HSM is not to be awarded if the emergency is small enough to only require a local (title 32) response and no augmentation from Federal troops is authorized by Presidential directive. The over-all intent of the exclusion is to prevent the various National Guards from seeking award of the HSM every time they respond to a localized emergency, e.g. Oklahoma National Guard responding to tornadoes. This makes sense as there are numerous tornadoes in each season and usually does not include augmentation from title 10 service members.
On August 22nd, 2013 the Milper Message Number 13-232 was issued which called for the approval of the Humanitarian Service Medal for Task Force Hurricane Sandy Response. This message laid the blueprint for all those eligible for the HSM. The blueprint stated that soldiers must satisfy the requirements Per AR 600-8-22, paragraph 2-22C, Must have been on active duty at the time of direct participation, and must prove and have participated directly in the recovery efforts during the dates of October 29 to November 25, 2012.
In support of the granting of the Humanitarian Service Medal, I would like to cite an Army Regulation and an Air Force Awards Instruction.
Army Regulation 600-8-22 (2-22, c, (1), (b)) says, "Members of the Army National Guard are eligible [for the HSM] provided that the use of active forces has been authorized in the act or operation." It is our understanding that when title 10 service members are authorized to serve alongside their title 32 counterparts, then both can be awarded the HSM.
Air Force Awards Instruction 38-2903 agrees that title 32 members are eligible for the HSM, “126.96.36.199. The HSM is awarded to Air Force members, including Reserve components, who, after 1 April 1979, distinguished themselves by meritorious direct participation in a significant military act or operation approved for award by the DoD.”
Our Office would like to note that neither the DoD nor the Army/Air Force regulations require that a title 32 service member must become a title 10 service member in order to qualify for the Humanitarian Service Medal. In fact, when most states activate their National Guard for emergency duty, they are put on state active duty orders. If title 10 was required for the HSM, then it would be a near impossibility for Army and Air Force title 32 service members to qualify for an award to which they are entitled according to all three regulations.
Enclosed is a Memorandum for Distribution by the National Guard Bureau which has the proprietary purpose of the issuing of the Humanitarian Service Medal for National Guard Members engaging in hurricane relief efforts. In reference to Section 3 (a) of the Memorandum, the actions carried out by the service members in Hurricane Sandy are identical to those of the Specific criteria when it comes to the length of direct service during the storm.
Finally, I would like to draw attention to the letter issued by the National Guard Bureau and forwarded to the Adjutant General which was dated May 29th, 2015. I would like to draw attention to page 2 paragraph 3 which cites Army Regulation 600-8-22 (regulation previously stated) which justifies The New Jersey National Guard to be considered active at the time of Hurricane Sandy. Lastly, after addressing the regulation, the NGB justifies the Title 32 issue and goes on to state, “Therefore, the NGB-J1 advises the evidence provided indicates many New Jersey Guard members are eligible for the Hurricane Sandy Task Force HSM, provided they are otherwise eligible, i.e., meet the geographical location, direct participation, and dates of disaster relief requirements, with documentation.”
After the preponderance of the evidence, it is our understanding that as long as title 10 and title 32 members responded together to the recovery efforts for Superstorm Sandy, soldiers who played a direct support role for recovery efforts would be considered “active duty” which will satisfy DoD Manual 1348.33 as previously referenced along with satisfying the Army Regulation and Air Force Awards Instruction. The enclosed letter by the National Guard Bureau makes a concurring statement on page 2, paragraph 4 by stating that in the DoD Manual, the word “solely” intends to provide eligibility to Service members in Title 32 status when Service members from the Active Services are also called to assist with disaster relief efforts.
Our Office hopes that the Under Secretary of Defense can shed light on this ongoing issue and provide the clarity of the law. Thousands of New Jersey Guardsmen left their families at home and volunteered to aid their fellow citizens during Hurricane Sandy and we would like to help our fellow New Jersey residents be awarded for their efforts.
Member of Congress (NJ-03)