Rep. Troy Nehls wears a medal that the US Army says he’s ineligible for

The Combat Infantryman Badge is given to infantry and special forces members who see combat.

By Michael MarksJune 25, 2024 3:35 pm, ,

U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls is a Republican from Southeast Texas whose district includes much of Fort Bend County, where he used to be the sheriff.

In addition to his law enforcement career, Nehls also served in the U.S. Army, both in the Wisconsin National Guard and in the Army Reserve. He went to Iraq in 2004 and Afghanistan in 2008.

In the halls of Congress, Nehls often wears a medal on his lapel from his Army days: the Combat Infantryman Badge, awarded to infantry or special forces members who see active combat. 

Whether Nehls is eligible to wear that badge, however, seems to depend on who you ask. While he’s maintained that he can rightfully wear it, the U.S. Army says otherwise.

John T. Seward, a reporter for the Washington-based nonprofit news outlet NOTUS, spoke to the Texas Standard about the potential case of stolen valor. 

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Now, you checked with U.S. Army about whether Representative Nehls is eligible to wear the Combat Infantryman Badge. What did they tell you?

John T. Seward: I did, and what the Army was able to tell me was essentially that in both of those deployments that you mentioned a second ago, Congressman Nehls was serving as a civil affairs officer, which is a position that just doesn’t rate that device, that CIB.

Does this mean that he was not a combat infantryman? I know that usually civil affairs jobs are mostly administrative. What did you learn about that Combat Infantryman Badge and who’s eligible to wear it?

Yeah, I wouldn’t necessarily, you know, characterize Congressman Nehls’ service during the deployments and what he was doing there.

But what I would say is that the standard from the Army is very clear: Infantry and special forces soldiers are the only ones that are able to receive that device. So during his deployments, he just was never in a position that would actually be the guy to receive that award.

Well, what does Representative Nehls have to say about this?

You know, he’s consistently said that he rates the device, that he’s 11 Bravo qualified. He’s essentially alluding to some time earlier in his career when he was indeed an infantryman. But that’s not how the Army looks at that device. It’s about what you were doing on the ground during your deployment.

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Why is this such a big deal in the military? I know that stolen valor has obviously been a part of public discussion for a long time, but if you could clarify why this is such an issue.

Yeah, well, I think a lot of the military community, you know, they take their different awards pretty seriously. When you put yourself in a position to be taking an award that isn’t meant for you, it just brings down the prestige of that award.

One of the responses that I’ve seen to this story was that there’s folks that were part of the support element, guys just doing the job of making sure that guys were able to actually go and conduct combat. They don’t want to feel like their service is any less just because they didn’t have that kind of an award.

And when you try to put yourself in a position to say, “well, I earned this,” it starts to bring up a lot of those questions for them. And I know that for them, they’ve said, you know, I served honorably even if I was just in a support role.

I’m curious if Congressman Nehls could be facing any consequences for continuing to wear the badge if the Department of Defense says he’s not eligible.

It’s interesting that you ask, because the Combat Infantryman Badge is specifically mentioned in U.S. code when it comes to stolen valor. I’m not currently aware of any pending action. The Army has already done the administrative action to remove it from his record.

And outside of that, like I said, I’m not aware of any action that would happen to Congressman Nehls because of his continuing to wear the pin. But obviously, there’s been a response from a number of folks, both in and out of the military, as to how they feel about him continuing to wear it and what it means for him being an honest broker.

I’m sorry, maybe I missed something. When you said the Army has already taken action to remove it from his record – was it ever on his record?

Yes. So the Army did award Nehls the badge at one point, and last year removed the badge from his record, saying that the original award was done in error.

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