The Pentagon still has not found a way to award deployment or campaign medals to troops who are fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), officials said Monday.
Media outlets last week reported that the Pentagon was going to make troops eligible for the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) medal, which is given to troops supporting the Operation Enduring Freedom, usually associated with Afghanistan.
But the Pentagon on Monday said those reports were premature.
"The Department is working closely with U.S. Central Command to determine the most appropriate means to recognize participation in ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria. No decisions have been made yet," Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said Monday.
The Hill first reported last week that there were no campaign or deployment medals available to troops fighting ISIS, primarily because the mission has not yet been designated an official military campaign.
The medal eligibility issue has riled lawmakers, with several demanding that the Pentagon find a solution.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), whose state is home to Fort Riley, which is deploying 200 soldiers to Iraq in October, pressed Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelInterpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 escapes Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE on the medal issue in a letter last week.
"It should go without saying that our President and Military commanders have an obligation to our brave soldiers to define the mission they are risking life and limb for and reward them for their service. I look forward to honoring our valiant men and women of the Big Red One at Fort Riley,” Huelskamp wrote.
“It would seem that a deployed force of greater than 500 is no longer there in strictly an advisory role. The men and women on the ground in Iraq are daily placing their lives in danger. To continue to insist that our soldiers are only in Iraq in an ‘advisory’ role discredits the sacrifices they are making to serve our country and misrepresents their role to the American public.”
President Obama has thus far deployed more than 1,600 troops as “advisers” to help the Iraqi military as it takes on ISIS. The U.S. has also targeted the group with airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
The Pentagon said on Friday that there is an effort underway to name the operations in Iraq.
"There are names being considered for this operation against ISIL," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Friday, using an alternate name for ISIS.
"I'm not gonna get ahead of decisions that haven't been made yet, but that's the impetus for thinking about a name, not because we're trying to, you know, design a new patch to put on a uniform," he said.
Christensen said troops can still be awarded valor awards for their service in the ISIS mission, including the Medal of Honor, the silver star, the bronze star, service crosses and individual and performance medals.