Five Commendation Medals are awarded by branch or service. From left to right: Joint Service, Army, Navy & Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
|Awarded by United States Armed Forces|
|Type||Military medal (decoration)|
|Eligibility||Military personnel only|
|Awarded for||Heroism, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service|
|Established||Navy and Marine Corps: 1943|
Coast Guard: 1943
Air Force: 1958
Joint Service: 1963
|Next (higher)|| Air Medal |
Aerial Achievement Medal (USAF)
Silver Lifesaving Medal (USCG)
|Next (lower)|| Achievement Medals |
Transportation 9-11 Medal (USCG)
Five Commendation ribbons are awarded by branch or service.
Top row: Joint Service, Army.
Bottom row: Navy & Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard.
The Commendation Medal is a mid-level United States military decoration which is presented for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service. Each branch of the United States Armed Forces issues its own version of the Commendation Medal, with a fifth version existing for acts of joint military service performed under the Department of Defense.
The Commendation Medal was originally only a service ribbon and was first awarded by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard in 1943. An Army Commendation Ribbon followed in 1945, and in 1949, the Navy, Coast Guard, and Army Commendation ribbons were renamed the "Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant". By 1960, the Commendation Ribbons had been authorized as full medals and were subsequently referred to as Commendation Medals.
Additional awards of the Army and Air Force Commendation Medals are denoted by bronze and silver oak leaf clusters. The Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and Coast Guard Commendation Medal are authorized gold and silver 5/16 inch stars to denote additional awards. The Operational Distinguishing Device ("O" device) is authorized for wear on the Coast Guard Commendation Medal upon approval of the awarding authority. Order of Precedence is following the Air Medal but before the Prisoner of War Medal and all campaign medals. Each of the military services also awards separate Achievement Medals which are below the Commendation Medals in precedence.
For valorous actions in direct contact with an enemy, but of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Bronze Star Medal, a Commendation Medal with "V" Device or Combat "V" (Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard) is awarded; the "V" device may be authorized for wear on the service and suspension ribbon of the medal to denote valor. On January 7 2016, The "C" Device or Combat "C” was created and may be authorized for wear on the service and suspension ribbon of the Commendation Medal to distinguish an award for meritorious service or achievement under the most arduous combat conditions (while the Soldier/Sailor/Marine was personally exposed to hostile action or in an area where other Soldiers were actively engaged). A Commendation Medal with Combat Device is unofficially named the “Combat Commendation” and is often considered to be a higher level form of the Commendation Medal, regardless of the Awarding Branch. Retroactive award of the “C” device is not approved for medals awarded before 7 January 2016.
The Joint Service Commendation Medal was authorized on 25 June 1963 and is awarded in the name of the Secretary of Defense to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who, after 1 January 1963, distinguished themselves by meritorious achievement or service in a joint duty capacity.
This award is intended for senior service on a joint military staff and is senior in precedence to service-specific Commendation Medals. As such, it is worn above the service Commendation Medals on a military uniform.
The Army Commendation Medal is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States other than General Officers who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army after December 6, 1941, distinguished themselves by heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service. The medal may be awarded to a member of another branch of the U.S. Armed Forces or of a friendly foreign nation who, after June 1, 1962, distinguishes themselves by an act of heroism, extraordinary achievement, or significant meritorious service which has been of mutual benefit to the friendly nation and the United States.
The Army Commendation Medal is awarded to American and foreign military personnel in the grade of O-6 (Colonel in the U.S. Army) and below who have performed noteworthy service in any capacity with the United States Army. Qualifying service for the award of the medal can be for distinctive meritorious achievement and service, acts of courage involving no voluntary risk of life, or sustained meritorious performance of duty. Approval of the award must be made by an officer in the grade of Colonel (O-6) or higher.
The medallion of the Army Commendation Medal is a bronze hexagon, 13⁄8 inches wide. On the medallion is an American bald eagle with wings spread horizontally, grasping in its talons three crossed arrows. On its breast is a shield paly of thirteen pieces and a chief. The reverse bears a panel for naming between the words FOR MILITARY above and MERIT below, all placed above a laurel sprig. The ribbon is 13⁄8 inches wide primarily of myrtle green. It is edged in white and in the center are five thin white stripes spaced equally apart.
After the First World War, the Department of the Navy authorized the Navy Commendation Star, a ribbon device to be placed on the World War I Victory Medal. The 3⁄16 inch silver star was identical to the Army Citation Star, but not comparable, as the later recognized "gallantry in action", while the Navy Commendation Star denoted those who had been cited and commended for performance of duty by the Secretary of the Navy.
An independent Navy Commendation Ribbon was established in November 1943. On 22 March 1950 a metal pendant (of the same design as the pendant of the Army Commendation Medal) was authorized and the Commendation Ribbon was renamed the Navy Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant. This award was re-designated as the Navy Commendation Medal in September 1960, and renamed the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in 1994. This decoration was previously awarded only by flag rank operational commanders, requiring the signature of an admiral or general officer in the grade of O-7, allowing interpretation of the criteria for which the medal may be awarded. Authority to award this decoration was later expanded to captains and colonels in the grade of O-6 currently holding operational command as a commodore, carrier air wing commander or commanding officer.
In contrast to the Army and the Air Force, in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal has historically considered its commendation medal to be a higher level and less frequently awarded decoration. Outside of those instances where it has been awarded for combat action with a Combat "V", it has typically been reserved for Department Head level officers at the O-4 level, senior Navy Chief Petty Officers (CPO) and Marine Corps Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO) at the E-8 and E-9 level as an "end of tour" award in a given command/organization/unit, and, following a full career, as a retirement award for enlisted personnel between pay grades E-6 and E-9. For more junior personnel, it has occasionally been awarded as an "impact award" for a significant contribution of service, to include those instances of combat service where it has included the Combat "V". In contrast, the awarding of the Army Commendation Medal in the U.S. Army and the Air Force Commendation Medal in the U.S. Air Force, is not limited to senior service members, and can be awarded to junior NCOs in the grade of E-6 and below (with some recipients as low as E-3) and junior officers in the grade O-3 and below. However, since the early 2000s, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal has been observed as being increasingly awarded to junior USN officers in pay grade O-3 as an "end of tour" award in a given command/unit/organization in a manner similar to that employed by the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force since the late 1960s.
Recipient members of the U.S. Marine Corps have always been issued the Navy's commendation medal and there is not a separate commendation medal intended only for Marines. This lack of difference was recognized on August 19, 1994 when Secretary of the Navy John Howard Dalton changed the name of the Navy Commendation Medal to the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
The U.S. Coast Guard awards a separate Coast Guard Commendation Medal, with a ribbon similar in design to that of its Navy and Marine Corps counterpart. Initially established as the Coast Guard Commendation Ribbon in 1947, it was redesignated as the Coast Guard Commendation Medal in 1959. Criteria for its award has paralleled that of the Navy and Marine Corps.
The U.S. Air Force began issuing its own Air Force Commendation Medal in 1958 with additional awards denoted by oak leaf clusters. Prior to this time, USAF recipients received the Army Commendation Medal. It was not until 1996 that the "V" device was authorized on the Air Force Commendation Medal; prior to 1996, there was not a valor distinction in effect for the Air Force Commendation Medal. On January 7, 2016, the "C" device and "R" device was authorized on the Air Force Commendation Medal as well. For USAF enlisted personnel, the Air Force Commendation Medal is worth three points under the Air Force enlisted promotion system.
The Air Force Commendation Medal is awarded to both American and foreign military personnel of any service branch in the U.S. military grade of O-6 and below, the NATO grade of OF-5 and below, or of any other Allied or Coalition nation in the grade of Colonel or equivalent or below, or the naval grade of Captain or equivalent or below, who have performed noteworthy service in any capacity with the United States Air Force. Qualifying service for the award of the medal can be for distinctive meritorious achievement and service, acts of courage involving no voluntary risk of life, or sustained meritorious performance of duty. Approval of the award must be made by an officer in the grade of Colonel or higher.
The Air Force Commendation Medal is a bronze hexagonal medallion. On the medallion is a shield surmounted by an eagle superimposed over clouds. On the shield bears a pair of flyer's wings and a vertical baton with an eagle's claw at either end; behind the shield are eight lightning bolts. The design on the shield is derived from the Seal of the Department of the Air Force. The ribbon of the Air Force Commendation Medal is golden yellow with blue edges. In the center are three bands of blue, the outer stripes are thin with the center stripe being wider.
The Bronze Star Medal is a United States decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.
The Legion of Merit (LOM) is a military award of the United States Armed Forces that is given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. The decoration is issued to members of the seven uniformed services of the United States as well as to military and political figures of foreign governments.
The Navy Unit Commendation (NUC) is a United States Navy unit award that was established by order of the Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal on 18 December 1944.
The Meritorious Unit Commendation is a mid-level unit award of the United States Armed Forces. The U.S. Army awards units the Army MUC for exceptionally meritorious conduct in performance of outstanding achievement or service in combat or non-combat, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps award units the Navy MUC for valorous or meritorious achievement or service in combat or non-combat, and the U.S. Coast Guard awards units the Coast Guard MUC for valorous or meritorious achievement or service not involving combat.
The Combat Action Ribbon, is a United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard military decoration awarded to those U.S. sea service members "who have actively participated in ground or surface combat."
The United States Armed Forces awards and decorations are primarily the medals, service ribbons, and specific badges which recognize military service and personal accomplishments while a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Such awards are a means to outwardly display the highlights of a service member's career.
The Achievement Medal is a military decoration of the United States Armed Forces. The Achievement Medal was first proposed as a means to recognize the contributions of junior officers and enlisted personnel who were not eligible to receive the higher Commendation Medal or the Meritorious Service Medal.
A Marksmanship Ribbon is a United States Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard award that is issued to its members who pass a weapons qualification course and achieve an above-average score. Additionally, there are select State National Guard organizations that award marksmanship ribbons for high placement in state-level marksmanship competitions.
A "V" device is a metal 1⁄4-inch (6.4 mm) capital letter "V" with serifs which, when worn on certain decorations awarded by the United States Armed Forces, distinguishes an award for heroism or valor in combat instead of for meritorious service or achievement.
A 5⁄16 inch star is a miniature gold or silver 5⁄16-inch (7.9 mm) star that is authorized by the United States Armed Forces as a ribbon device to denote subsequent awards for specific decorations of the Department of the Navy, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A gold star indicates one additional award, while a silver star is worn in lieu of five gold stars.
A service star is a miniature bronze or silver five-pointed star 3⁄16 inch in diameter that is authorized to be worn by members of the seven uniformed services of the United States on medals and ribbons to denote an additional award or service period. The service star may also be referred to as a campaign star or battle star depending on which award is authorized the star and the manner in which the device is used for the award.
The Good Conduct Medal is one of the oldest military awards of the United States Armed Forces. The U.S. Navy's variant of the Good Conduct Medal was established in 1869, the Marine Corps version in 1896, the Coast Guard version in 1923, the Army version in 1941, and the Air Force version in 1963; the Air Force Good Conduct Medal was temporarily discontinued from February 2006 to February 2009, followed by its subsequent reinstatement.
The Coast Guard Unit Commendation is the highest peacetime unit award that may be awarded to military commands of the United States Coast Guard. The decoration was first created in 1963 and is presented to members of any Coast Guard unit that distinguishes itself by valorous or extremely meritorious service, not involving combat, but in support of Coast Guard operations.
A Reserve Good Conduct Medal refers to any one of the five military conduct awards, four of which are currently issued and one of which was previously issued, by the United States Armed Forces to enlisted members of the Reserve and National Guard. The primary difference between the regular Good Conduct Medal and the Reserve Good Conduct Medal is that the regular Good Conduct Medal is only issued for active duty service while the reserve equivalent is bestowed for reserve duties such as drills, annual training, and additional active duty for either training or operational support to the active duty force or, in the case of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, in support of Title 32 U.S.C. state active duty (SAD) such as disaster response and relief.
The Armed Forces Reserve Medal (AFRM) is a service medal of the United States Armed Forces that has existed since 1950. The medal recognizes service performed by members of the reserve components and is awarded to both officers and enlisted personnel. The medal is considered a successor award to the Naval Reserve Medal and the Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon, which were discontinued in 1958 and 1967, respectively.
The Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) is a military award presented to members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguished themselves by outstanding meritorious achievement or service to the United States subsequent to January 16, 1969.
The Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Medal also known as the Vietnam Civil Actions Medal or Civil Actions Medal, is a military decoration of the former South Vietnamese government (1955–75). The medal was created on May 12, 1964 during the Vietnam War. The Civil Actions Medal was awarded to the South Vietnamese military and its allies' military personnel or units that performed outstanding achievements in the field of civil affairs. The medal was awarded in two classes, with the first-class intended for commissioned officers and the second class for enlisted personnel. Individuals who were cited received the medal, ribbon, and a citation.
Campaign streamers are decorations attached to military flags to recognize particular achievements or events of a military unit or service. Attached to the headpiece of the assigned flag, the streamer often is an inscribed ribbon with the name and date denoting participation in a particular battle, military campaign, or theater of war; the ribbon's colors are chosen accordingly and frequently match an associated campaign medal or ribbon bar. They often are physical manifestations of battle honours, though this does not mean all streamers are battle honours. They should not be confused with a tassel, which is usually purely decorative in nature.
Awards and decorations of the United States government are civilian awards of the U.S. federal government which are typically issued for sustained meritorious service, in a civilian capacity, while serving in the U.S. federal government. Certain U.S. government awards may also be issued to military personnel of the United States Armed Forces and be worn in conjunction with awards and decorations of the United States military. In order of precedence, those U.S. non-military awards and decorations authorized for wear are worn after U.S. military personal decorations and unit awards and before U.S. military campaign and service awards.
Awards and decorations of the state defense forces are presented to members of the state defense forces in addition to regular United States military decorations and state National Guard military decorations. Each of the state governments of the United States maintains a series of decorations for issuance to members of the state defense forces, with such awards presented under the authority of the various state adjutants general and/or respective state defense force commanders.
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