Fact Check

Courageous Restraint Medals

Does the U.S. military award 'Courageous Restraint Medals' to soldiers who refrain from firing their weapons?

Published Jul 6, 2010

Claim:   The U.S. military awards "Courageous Restraint Medals" to soldiers who refrain from firing their weapons.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, July 2010]

The greatest insult to our troops in the field, and to the officers who lead them, may be a new battlefield medal designed by the Obama team. It is called the Courageous Restraint Medal and is awarded to soldiers and Marines who demonstrate uncommon restrain in combat by not firing their weapons even when they feel threatened by the enemy. Would we be surprised to learn that the preponderance of these medals were awarded posthumously?


Origins:   In May 2010, NATO commanders were weighing options for reducing civilian casualties in Afghanistan. One notion that was considered was recognizing troops for "courageous restraint" if they avoided using force that could endanger innocent lives, and British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter proposed the idea of an award for soldiers who demonstrated that quality:

The concept comes as the coalition continues to struggle with the problem of civilian casualties despite repeated warnings from the top NATO commander, U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, that the war effort hinges on the ability to protect the population and win support away from the Taliban.

Most military awards in the past have been given for things like soldiers taking out a machine-gun nest or saving their buddies in a firefight, said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall, the senior NATO enlisted man in Afghanistan.

"We are now considering how we look at awards differently," he said.

British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, the NATO commander of troops in southern Afghanistan, proposed the idea of awarding troops for "courageous restraint" during a visit by Hall to Kandahar Airfield in mid-April.

"The idea is consistent with our approach," explained Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis. "Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians. In some situations our forces face in Afghanistan, that restraint is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those seen in combat actions."

Soldiers are often recognized for non-combat achievement with decorations such as their service's commendation medal. But most of the highest U.S. military decorations are for valor in combat. A medal to recognize a conscious effort to avoid a combat action would be unique.

Although General McChrystal reviewed the "courageous restraint" proposal to determine how it might be implemented, the idea for a so-called Courageous Restraint Medal didn't proceed past the talking stages:

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis spoke pointedly about the need for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to show discipline and avoid harming innocent people.

But he doesn't think troops should get a medal for it.

His opinion neatly dovetailed with news that came out later in the day. A so-called Courageous Restraint Medal, which had been in the talking stages, was pushed off the table.

In short, the Courageous Restraint Medal was a concept that was briefly considered back in May 2010 before being tabled. No such medal (yet) exists within the U.S. military, and none has been awarded (posthumously or otherwise). The idea originated with NATO commanders; it was not suggested or designed by the "Obama team."

Last updated:   6 July 2010


    Lessig, Hugh.   "Should Restraint Be Rewarded with a Medal?"

    [Hampton Roads] Daily Press.   14 May 2010.

    McMichael, William H.   "Hold Fire, Earn a Medal."

    Marine Corps Times.   13 May 2010.

    Worthington, Peter.   "This Proposed Medal Should Be Killed."

    Toronto Sun.   19 June 2010.

    Associated Press.   "NATO Pushes 'Courageous Restraint' for Troops"

    Military.com.   4 May 2010.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags

Read More

a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.


Ad-Free Browsing on Snopes.com
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime