Thousands of U.S. troops sent by the Trump administration to the U.S.-Mexico border will receive a military award, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.
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The Defense Department (DOD) said it will award the Armed Forces Service Medal to service members who have been deployed to the border as part of a mission to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement that the department “recently approved the awarding of this medal” to the service members who have helped in the support mission that began in April 2018.
There is no cut-off date for the award, as the operation is ongoing, Mitchell noted.
Military.com was the first to report on the decision.
The Armed Forces Service Medal, which was created in 1996 under President Clinton, is awarded to armed forces members who participate in a U.S. military operation “deemed to be a significant activity” and “encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent threat of hostile action,” according to a DOD description.
Troops must have operated within roughly 115 miles of the Mexican border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California, Mitchell said. Service members operating in San Antonio — the site of the mission’s headquarters — are also eligible, as are those who are at sea and within 24 nautical miles off the coast.
The Pentagon has previously awarded the medal for Operation Jump Start, the deployment of National Guard forces to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California from May 2006 through July 2008 to assist the Department of Homeland Security with securing the southwest border, according to Mitchell.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks ‘soon’ MORE first deployed Guard troops to the border in April 2018, followed by 5,200 active duty service members sent in October of that year. Trump has framed the deployments as helping seal the border from potentially dangerous individuals seeking to enter the United States, though critics have blasted the move and questioned whether it is necessary.
The active duty troops at the border have since been reduced, with numbers now at 2,900, in addition to the roughly 2,600 Guard members also at the border as part of operation Guardian Support.