From left to right: The NATO Meritorious Service Medal (U.S.-spec.), the Article 5 NATO Medal (U.S.-spec), and the Non-Article 5 NATO Medal (U.S.-spec).
|Awarded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization|
|Eligibility||Military service members and NATO civilian employees (NATO Meritorious Service Medal)|
|Awarded for||30 days of either cumulative or consecutive service in Afghanistan as a NATO military service member (ISAF)|
|Status||Currently awarded (Operation Active Endeavour, Balkans, Africa, Resolute Support Mission, NATO Meritorious Service Medal)|
|Established||January 2015 (Resolute Support Mission)|
July 2012 (Libya and Africa)
July 2006 (ISAF)
2003 (Meritorious Service Medal)
July 1996 (U.S.)
|First awarded||Retroactive to January 2003 (Balkans)|
Retroactive to June 2003 (ISAF)
|Next (higher)||United Nations Medal (U.S.)|
|Next (lower)||Multinational Force and Observers Medal (U.S.)|
|Related||Afghanistan Campaign Medal (U.S.)|
U.S.-spec Article 5 ribbon bar (left) and U.S.-spec Non-Article 5 ribbon bar (right)
The NATO Medal is an international military decoration which is awarded to various militaries of the world under the authority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It is manufactured by Eekelers-Centini Intl, of Hemiksem, Belgium.
The NATO Medal was first established in 1996 to recognize individuals who had served in the Implementation Force (IFOR) as part of Operation Joint Endeavor in Former Yugoslavia. A new ribbon was established in 1999 for participants in Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. As NATO operations became more common, different ribbons were established for each operation.
In early 2003 NATO settled on only three ribbon styles - one for the NATO Meritorious Service Medal, one for Article 5 operations, and one for non-Article 5 operations. Participation in specific operations is distinguished by bars worn on the ribbons with the name of the operation. This change affects those who began a tour of duty after 2 December 2002. As a result, an individual who began his or her tour of duty in one of the Balkan NATO operational areas after 2 December 2002 will qualify only for the Non-Article 5 medal for the Balkans.
United States Armed Forces regulations do not permit the wearing of operation bars on the NATO Medal ribbon. Instead, the recipient wears the ribbon without a bar attached to it. In the event that a US service member is entitled to more than one NATO medal, they wear the ribbon of the first NATO medal they received and the appropriate number of bronze service stars to indicate the number of NATO medals they have been awarded. For example - a service member who served in Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo and ISAF in Afghanistan would wear the Former Yugoslavia ribbon with two bronze service stars.
In contrast, the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom permit a service member to wear all the NATO medals they are entitled to, provided that the operation the NATO Medal is awarded for is not recognized by another medal awarded by the United Kingdom.
There are currently fourteen versions of the NATO Medal in existence, for service in the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, two for service during Article 5 operations (Eagle Assist, Active Endeavour), and eight for Non-Article 5 NATO operations (International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan (ISAF), Resolute Support, Balkans, NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-I), Africa, AMIS, OUP-Libya, and Pakistan). In addition, there are corresponding clasps for operations such as ISAF, Kosovo, the former Yugoslavia, NTM-I, and clasps designating Article 5, and Non-Article 5 designations. There is also a NATO Meritorious Service Medal, with a "Meritorious Service" clasp as well. However, U.S. military personnel do not wear the clasps on the NATO Medals, since the U.S. has its own devices that are used instead.
The NATO Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) was first awarded in 2003 to commend NATO staff whose personal initiative and dedication went beyond their duty to make a difference both to their colleagues, and to NATO as an organisation. The Medal is the personal award of the Secretary General of NATO, who signs each citation. Fewer than 50 medals are awarded each year and it remains the only significant award for individual personal effort for NATO staff; this Medal can be awarded to military and civilian staff alike. When assessing nominations for the award, there are several criteria taken into consideration: the performance of acts of courage in difficult or dangerous circumstances; showing exceptional leadership or personal example; making an outstanding individual contribution to a NATO sponsored programme or activity; or enduring particular hardship or deprivation in the interest of NATO. The NATO Meritorious Service Medal is now authorized for wear on U.S. and British military uniforms.
For U.S. military members, the NATO MSM is considered a foreign personal decoration and would be placed in the order of receipt within that category, followed by foreign unit awards, then non-U.S. service and campaign awards (such as the standard NATO Medal). This arrangement may lead to some U.S. military personnel with the NATO MSM separated by the United Nations Medal from the standard NATO Medal. As it is a personal foreign decoration, the NATO MSM is the only NATO medal that can worn concurrently with the standard NATO Medal.
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To differentiate between the versions of the NATO Medal, a different ribbon pattern scheme is used for each of the decorations. The NATO Medal for Yugoslavia service consists of a blue ribbon with two thin white stripes on each side, very similar in appearance to the United Nations Medal. The NATO Medal for Kosovo service appears as a mixed blue and white stripped ribbon, with white stripes on the side as well as a wide white central stripe. The NATO Medal for North Macedonia service appears as a blue and white mixed ribbon with four white stripes. The Article 5 NATO Medal for Operation Eagle Assist has a blue background with a thin central golden stripe surrounded by white stripes. The Article 5 Medal for Operation Active Endeavour has a blue background with two thin golden colored stripes surrounded by white stripes. The Non-Article 5 Medal for the Balkans operations consists of a blue background with a central silver stripe surrounded by white stripes. The Non-Article 5 Medal for both ISAF and NTM-I operations consists of a blue background with two silver stripes surrounded by white stripes.
The NATO Meritorious Service Medal consists of a blue background with gold, silver and three narrow white stripes on each outer most portion of the ribbon, and the medallion color is changed from bronze in appearance to a silver medallion for this medal only. All medals except North Macedonia's NATO Medal have corresponding campaign clasps, however some militaries (such as the United States) prohibit the wearing of the medal with a clasp and instead authorize service stars for wear on any NATO Medal while wearing any US military uniform (although the various clasps may be accepted from NATO and retained by the service member as a memento).
For the U.S. military, a bronze service star indicates additional awards of the service and mission-related NATO Medals. As of May 2013, only the NATO MSM ribbon bar (as a personal foreign decoration) and the basic NATO ribbon (as a non-US service and campaign medal) may be worn for U.S. services (at least this is true for the U.S. Army).The basic NATO Medal ribbon bar worn will be the first NATO campaign medal awarded, with subsequent campaigns indicated with a bronze service star. Most military services besides the U.S. will allow multiple service and mission-related NATO medal decorations to be worn simultaneously as they are considered separate awards.
NATO medals authorized for wear include the NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia, the NATO Medal for Kosovo Service, both of the Article 5 Medals, the Non-Article 5 medals for the Balkans and Afghanistan (ISAF), The NATO Meritorious Service Medal and the North Macedonia NATO Medal and the Non-Article 5 Medal for service in Iraq, under the NTM-I.
The reverse of the medals state "IN SERVICE OF PEACE AND FREEDOM" in English and French, as well as the full name of NATO in English and French. The ribbon bar and suspension bar are both chiefly blue, specifically Reflex Blue on the Pantone Matching System.
For U.S. forces, eligibility for the Non-Article 5 Medal for the Balkans remains the same as those previous NATO medals with the exception of the dates of service. Those members entering the Balkan theatre on or after 1 January 2003 will be eligible for the Non-Article 5 medal. The service must be 30 days either continuous or accumulated. Aircrew members will accumulate one day of service for the first sortie during any day of the operation. Additional sorties on the same day will receive no further credit. The Balkans area is delineated as the political boundaries and airspace of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Yugoslavia (including Kosovo), the Republic of North Macedonia, and Albania, based on the detailed description contained in the SFOR, KFOR, and Task Force Fox Operational Plans. Service members who are entitled to more than one NATO medal during the same period will only be awarded one NATO Medal. The NATO chain of command will deem which medal is appropriate. This medal may also be awarded with the "ISAF" clasp for service in Afghanistan, as well as the "NTM-I" clasp for service in Iraq with NATO forces.
For U.S. forces the eligibility for the Non-Article 5 Medal for service with the ISAF is thus: those who are members of units or staffs as set out in the Joint Operations Area taking part in operations in Afghanistan. The area of eligibility is delineated by ISAF's political boundaries. The service must be a minimum of 30days either continuous or accumulated, from 1 June 2003 to 31 December 2014. Effective 1 January 2015, service members receive the Non-Article 5 Medal for service in Afghanistan for the Resolute Support mission. The medal is awarded with the "Afghanistan" clasp. The British government does not allow its personnel to accept or wear the medal, as a separate British Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan has been issued and, due to a long-standing ruling, British personnel are not allowed to wear two medals for the same campaign or operation. NATO campaign medals where a British decoration has not been issued, such as the award for Operation Unified Protector, may be worn.
On 24 July 2012, the United States Department of Defense announced that NATO medals for operations in Libya and Africa have been approved for acceptance and wear by eligible U.S. service members and DOD civilian personnel.
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 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 Defense Meritorious Service Medal (DMSM) is an award bestowed upon members of the United States military by the United States Department of Defense. In the order of precedence of the United States Armed Forces, it is worn between the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal. The medal is awarded in the name of the Secretary of Defense to members of the Armed Forces who, while serving in a joint activity, distinguish themselves by non-combat outstanding achievement or meritorious service, but not of a degree to warrant award of the Defense Superior Service Medal.
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 Kosovo Campaign Medal (KCM) is a military award of the United States Armed Forces established by Executive Order 13154 of President Bill Clinton on May 3, 2000. The medal recognizes military service performed in Kosovo from March 24, 1999 through December 31, 2013.
The Order of the Crown is a national order of the Kingdom of Belgium. The Order is one of Belgium's highest honors.
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.
An international decoration is a military award which is not bestowed by a particular country, but rather by an international organization such as the United Nations or NATO. Such awards are normally issued as service medals, for participation in various international military operations, and not for specific acts of heroism or bravery.
The United States Armed Forces authorizes certain medal and ribbon devices that may be worn if authorized on a defined set of United States military decorations and awards. The devices vary between 3⁄16 inch to 13⁄32 inch in size and are usually attached to suspension and service ribbons of medals and to unit award ribbons. The devices are usually made of brass or metal alloys that appear gold, silver, or bronze in color with either a dull or polished look. The devices may denote additional awards of the same decoration or award, an award for valor or meritorious combat service, participation in a particular campaign, periods of honorable service, specific events, and other special meanings. These are sometimes referred to as award devices, but are most commonly referred to in service regulations and Department of Defense instructions simply as "devices" for awards and decorations.
Authorized foreign decorations of the United States military are those military decorations which have been approved for wear by members of the United States armed forces but whose awarding authority is the government of a country other than the United States.
The Order of Leopold II is an order of Belgium and is named in honor of King Leopold II. The decoration was established on 24 August 1900 by Leopold II as king of the Congo Free State and was in 1908, upon Congo being handed over to Belgium, incorporated into the Belgian awards system. The order is awarded for meritorious service to the sovereign of Belgium, and as a token of his personal goodwill. It can be awarded to both Belgians and foreigners, and is seen as diplomatic gift of merit.
The Meritorious Service Medal is a decoration that is, within the Canadian system of honours, one of the two Meritorious Service Decorations gifted by the Canadian monarch, through the Governor-in-Council. Created in 1991, the medal is intended to recognize individuals—both Canadian and foreign—who have carried out meritorious acts bringing benefit and honour in either of two categories: military and civilian. Award of the medal grants recipients the ability to use the post-nominal letters MSM.
The Operational Service Medal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a British armed forces campaign medal, awarded mostly to military personnel who served between 14 June and 10 September 2003 on Operation Coral.
The Afghanistan Medal was instituted by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 2004. The Afghanistan Medal is awarded to Australian defence force personnel who served in or around Afghanistan after 11 October 2001. Defence force personnel are also recognised by the 'ICAT' clasp to the Australian Active Service Medal and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's Non-Article 5 Medal with 'ISAF' clasp.
An international decoration is a military award which is not bestowed by a particular country, but rather by an international organization such as the United Nations or NATO. Such awards are normally issued as service medals, for participation in various international military operations, and not for specific acts of heroism or bravery. The first medal from an international organization accepted for wear by the United States Military was the United Nations Korea Medal in 1951. Subsequent acceptance of other United Nations Medals did not come until 1964 with Executive Order 11139. Acceptance of the medals of other international multilateral organizations finally came with Executive Order 11446 in 1969. Acceptance of these international decorations must be approved by not only the Secretary of Defense, but also the Secretary of State.
The National Defence Medal is a French military decoration. It was created by Charles Hernu, Minister of Defence and established by decree on April 21, 1982. It rewards particularly honourable service rendered by military personnel for their participation in operational activities. The medal has three levels: Gold, Silver and Bronze.
The Common Security and Defence Policy Service Medal, is an international military decoration awarded to individuals, both military and civilian, who have served with CSDP missions. Since the 1990s the European Union has taken a greater role in military missions both in Europe and abroad. These actions were taken under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which is implemented by the European Union Military Staff, a department of the EU. To recognize service in these missions the EU authorized the creation of a medal with a common obverse and reverse, to which clasps featuring the missions' name are attached to the ribbon bar.
The Western European Union Mission Service Medal, is an international military decoration awarded to individuals, who served with Western European Union (WEU) military missions.
Most recently, in Afghanistan, an Operational Service Medal has been approved, with a unique ribbon. A NATO medal, with Afghanistan clasp, is also available, but not authorised for acceptance or wear by British service personnel.
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