In light of the first US Soldier KIA after the withdrawal of US Army Brigade "Combat" Teams and the reflagging of the "Advise and Assist" Brigades, I thought about something on my ride in to work today. With Operation Iraqi Freedom over/ending, will our troops still be reckognized for their service in a combat environment?

The names have changed, but US forces will still be targetted by the enemy and will engage in kinetic operations, whether offensive or defensive. Will US forces deployed to Operation New Dawn be eligible for combat awards? Will infantrymen be eligibile for CIBs, everyone else CABs? Is a wound eligible for the Purple Heart? I don't know the rules for training/advising operations, so if anyone knows please let me know. If US trainers or advisors are wounded in a foreign nation where combat is not declared, are they considered combat actions? If combat is over, is combat over?

I am glad and proud that the US has been able to draw down, but I worry that changing names and saying "combat is over" has a dangerous tendency to bite back down the road. I served in OIF IV, 2005-2006, when we prematurely tried to hand the country back to the Iraqis. This time the transition seems to be much smoother and the Iraqis more ready and willing to step up. I just hope we didn't take the training wheels off too soon and the bike falls over.