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United States Military Awards and Decorations Guide

Like most things in the military, there's a whole book of regulations detailing the acquisition and display of awards. If you wear yours incorrectly or get them from an unauthorized source, you could be subject to disciplinary action, so it's important to know and follow the rules.

Military Awards By Precedence

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Precedence

Across all six branches of the military, awards and decorations are to be displayed on dress uniforms in order of precedence (left to right, top to bottom, from the viewer's perspective). "Precedence" refers to the relative importance, rarity or prestige of the award; for instance, the Medal of Honor is far rarer and more difficult to earn than the Good Conduct Medal and so has much higher precedence. In the table below and in the graphic above, awards are listed in descending order of precedence.

Earning Awards

Upon initially earning an award, your commander or company-level supply specialist should issue the medal or ribbon to you directly. Some units may conduct small, informal ceremonies for the conveyance of certain awards, but only the most prestigious awards are issued during official recognition ceremonies. Should you need to replace lost or damaged awards, you must submit an official copy of your DD-214 or other discharge record to an authorized military award retailer. If you don't have official copies of your discharge orders, you'll need to request them prior to purchasing replacement awards.

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Award name Requirements Issuing Branches Image
Medal of Honor Awarded for "gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty" All
Army Distinguished Service Cross Awarded for "displaying extraordinary heroism and selfless action in combat with an armed enemy force." Actions of merit must be of such a high degree they are above those required for all other U.S. military decorations, but which do not meet the criteria for the Medal of Honor. Army
Navy CrossAwarded for "displaying extraordinary heroism and selfless action in combat with an armed enemy force." Actions of merit must be of such a high degree they are above those required for all other U.S. military decorations, but which do not meet the criteria for the Medal of Honor.Navy/Marines
Air Force CrossAwarded for "displaying extraordinary heroism and selfless action in combat with an armed enemy force." Actions of merit must be of such a high degree they are above those required for all other U.S. military decorations, but which do not meet the criteria for the Medal of Honor.Air Force
Coast Guard CrossAwarded for "displaying extraordinary heroism and selfless action in combat with an armed enemy force." Actions of merit must be of such a high degree they are above those required for all other U.S. military decorations, but which do not meet the criteria for the Medal of Honor. The Medal was established in October 2010 and, while approved, has not yet been awarded.Coast Guard
Defense Distinguished Service MedalAwarded by the Department of Defense for "exceptionally distinguished performance of duty contributing to the national defense or security of the United States."All
Homeland Security Distinguished Service MedalAwarded by the Department of Homeland Security for "exceptionally meritorious service."All
Army Distinguished Service Medal Awarded for "exceptionally meritorious service to the government in a duty of great responsibility. The performance must be such as to merit recognition for service that is clearly exceptional. The exceptional performance of normal duty will not alone justify an award of this decoration."Army
Navy Distinguished Service MedalAwarded for "distinguished and exceptionally meritorious service to the United States while serving in a duty or position of great responsibility."Navy/Marines
Air Force Distinguished Service MedalAwarded for "distinguished and exceptionally meritorious service to the United States while serving in a duty or position of great responsibility." Air Force
Coast Guard Distinguished Service MedalAwarded for "exceptionally meritorious service to the government in a duty of great responsibility." The exceptional performance of duty must be clearly above what is normally expected and must have contributed materially to the success of a major command or project.Coast Guard
Silver Star MedalAwarded for "gallantry, so long as the action does not justify the award of one of the next higher valor awards (the branch crosses), and the gallantry displayed must have taken place while in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party."All
Defense Superior Service MedalAwarded for " superior meritorious service while serving in a position of great responsibility. This service must be as part of a joint activity. The award is generally for a period of time exceeding 12 months and encompassing an entire joint assignment."All
Legion of MeritAwarded for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of one's duty. The decoration is issued to members of uniformed services of the United States as well as military and political figures of foreign governments." This medal can be awarded at four different degrees: Chief Commander, Commander, Officer, and Legionnaire. Reference to the degree is not mentioned when medal is awarded.All
Distinguished Flying CrossAwarded to individuals who "distinguish themselves by single acts of heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. Both heroism and extraordinary achievement are entirely distinctive, involving operations that are not routine."All
Soldier's MedalAwarded for acts that "have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy. Awards will not be made solely on the basis of having saved a life." Army
Navy and Marine Corps MedalAwarded for "personal "life threatening" risk experienced by the awardee. For heroic performance to rise to this level it must be clearly established that the act involved very specific life-threatening risk to the awardee."Navy/Marines
Airman's MedalAwarded for " heroism involving voluntary risk of their life not involving actual combat with an armed enemy of the United States."Air Force
Coast Guard MedalAwarded "to any service member who, while serving in any capacity with the United States Coast Guard, distinguishes themselves by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. For the decoration to be awarded, an individual must have performed a voluntary act of heroism in the face of great personal danger or of such a magnitude that it stands out distinctly above normal expectations."Coast Guard
Bronze Star MedalAwarded for "either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone." The actions are of a lesser degree than those required for the Silver Star.All
Purple HeartAwarded "in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after April 5, 1917, has been wounded or killed. The Purple Heart differs from most other decorations in that an individual is not "recommended" for the decoration; rather he or she is entitled to it upon meeting specific criteria."All
Defense Meritorious Service MedalAwarded for "non-combat meritorious achievement or service while serving in a joint assignment. The recognized service is typically for a period of time greater than 12 months, encompassing a recipient's entire joint assignment, including extensions. The required achievement or service, is of a lesser degree than that required for award of the Defense Superior Service Medal, but must have been accomplished with distinction."All
Meritorious Service MedalAwarded to "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."All
Air MedalAwarded for "either single acts of merit or gallantry in combat or for meritorious service in a combat zone. Award of the Air Medal is primarily intended to recognize those personnel who are on current crew member or non-crew member flying status which requires them to participate in aerial flight on a regular and frequent basis in the performance of their primary duties. However, it may also be awarded to certain other individuals whose combat duties require regular and frequent flying in other than a passenger status, or individuals who perform a particularly noteworthy act while performing the function of a crew member but who are not on flying status. These individuals must make a discernible contribution to the operational land combat mission or to the mission of the aircraft in flight."All
Aerial Achievement MedalAwarded "to members of the United States military or civilian personnel, while serving in a capacity with the U.S. Air Force, who distinguish themselves by sustained meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight. The achievements must be accomplished with distinction above and beyond that normally expected of professional airmen."Air Force
Joint Service Commendation MedalAwarded " to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who, after January 1, 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."All
Army Commendation MedalAwarded 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."Army
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation MedalAwarded to "those who had been cited and commended for performance of duty by the Secretary of the Navy." It is given both as an impact award for significant contribution of service, as well as to higher ranking officers as an "end-of-tour" award.Navy/Marine
Air Force Commendation MedalAwarded "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."Air Force
Coast Guard Commendation MedalCriteria for its award has paralleled that of the Navy and Marine Corps.Coast Guard
Joint Service Achievement MedalAwarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces below O-6 grade, in the name of the Secretary of Defense, who distinguish themselves while part of a joint activity. These actions must be meritorious, but not to the extent that an Achievement Medal would be warrented.All
Army Achievement MedalAwarded for "outstanding achievement or meritorious service not of a nature that would otherwise warrant awarding the Commendation Medal. Award authority rests with local commanders, granting a broad discretion of when and for what action the Achievement Medal may be awarded."Army
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement MedalAwarded for "outstanding achievement or meritorious service not of a nature that would otherwise warrant awarding the Commendation Medal. Award authority rests with local commanders, granting a broad discretion of when and for what action the Achievement Medal may be awarded."Navy/Marine
Air Force Achievement MedalAwarded for "outstanding achievement or meritorious service not of a nature that would otherwise warrant awarding the Commendation Medal. Award authority rests with local commanders, granting a broad discretion of when and for what action the Achievement Medal may be awarded."Air Force
Coast Guard Achievement MedalAwarded for "outstanding achievement or meritorious service not of a nature that would otherwise warrant awarding the Commendation Medal. Award authority rests with local commanders, granting a broad discretion of when and for what action the Achievement Medal may be awarded."Coast Guard
Commandant's Letter of Commendation RibbonAwarded "to any member of the Coast Guard who receives a Letter of Commendation from the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard."Coast Guard
Navy Combat Action RibbonIn order to be awarded, "evidence must establish the member engaged the enemy, was under hostile fire, or was physically attacked by the enemy. The service member must have demonstrated satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or surface engagement."Navy/Marine
Air Force Combat Action MedalAwarded to recipients who "Deliberately go into the enemy's domain (outside the wire) to conduct official duties, either on the ground or in the air, and have come under enemy fire by lethal weapons while performing those duties, and are at risk of grave danger; While defending the base (inside/on the wire), and must have come under enemy fire and engage the enemy with direct and lethal fire, and are at risk of grave danger; or Are personnel in ground operations who actively engage the enemy with direct and lethal fires also may qualify even if no direct fire is taken, as long as there was risk of grave danger and meets other criteria."Air Force
Coast Guard Combat Action RibbonIn order to be awarded, "evidence must establish the member engaged the enemy, was under hostile fire, or was physically attacked by the enemy. The service member must have demonstrated satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or surface engagement."Coast Guard
Army and Air Force Presidential Unit CitationAwarded "to units of the uniformed services of the United States, and those of allied countries, for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy on or after 7 December 1941. The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign."Army/Air Force
Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation Awarded "to units of the uniformed services of the United States, and those of allied countries, for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy on or after 7 December 1941. The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign."Navy/Marine
Coast Guard Presidential Unit CitationAwarded "to units of the uniformed services of the United States, and those of allied countries, for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy on or after 7 December 1941. The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign."Coast Guard
Army Valorous Unit AwardAwarded for "extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent part for actions occurring on or after 3 August 1963. The degree of heroism required is the same as that which would warrant award of the Silver Star to an individual."Army
Navy Unit CommendationAwarded for "outstanding heroism in action against the enemy, but not sufficient to justify the award of the Presidential Unit Citation. A unit must have performed service of a character comparable to that which would merit the award of a Silver Star Medal for heroism, or a Legion of Merit for non-combat meritorious service to an individual."Navy/Marine
Air Force Gallant Unit CitationAwarded "to any Air Force unit which distinguishes itself by extraordinary heroism while engaged in armed combat with an enemy force on or after 11 September 2001. The GUC requires a lesser degree of gallantry, determination and esprit de corps than that required for the Presidential Unit Citation."Air Force
Coast Guard Unit CommendationAwarded "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. It may also be awarded to units and personnel of the other U.S. armed forces, typically when in support of operations where the Coast Guard is the lead service."Coast Guard
Joint Meritorious Unit AwardAwarded "in the name of the Secretary of Defense to joint activities for meritorious achievement or service, superior to that which is normally expected, for actions in the following situations; combat with an armed enemy of the United States, a declared national emergency, or under extraordinary circumstances that involve national interests."All
Army Meritorious Unit CommendationAwarded "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in performance of outstanding services for at least six continuous months (a month is considered 30 calendar days) during military operations against an armed enemy without regard to duties performed or the type of unit performing the duties. Such service is interpreted to relate to combat service support type activities and not to the type of activities performed by senior headquarters, combat, or combat support units."Army
Navy Meritorious Unit CommendationAwarded "to any unit of the Navy or Marine Corps that has distinguished itself, under combat or non-combat conditions, by either valorous or meritorious achievement, which renders the unit outstanding compared to other units performing similar service, but not sufficient to justify award of the Navy Unit Commendation."Navy/Marine
Air Force Meritorious Unit AwardAwarded "in the name of the Secretary to recognize squadrons, groups, or wings for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding achievement or service in direct support of combat operations for at least 90 continuous days during the period of military operations against an armed enemy of the United States on or after 11 September 2001. The degree of achievement required is the same as that which would warrant award of the Legion of Merit to an individual."Air Force
Coast Guard Meritorious Unit CommendationAwarded "to any unit of the Coast Guard that has distinguished itself by either valorous or meritorious achievement or service in support of Coast Guard operations not involving combat."Coast Guard
Coast Guard Meritorious Team CommendationAwarded "for performance of exceptional actions that would normally warrant a Commandant's Letter of Commendation if recognizing an individual. Recognized groups must also display cohesion and teamwork noticeable to upper echelon commanders."Coast Guard
Army Superior Unit AwardAwarded "in peacetime to any unit of the Army which displays outstanding meritorious performance of a difficult and challenging mission carried out under extraordinary circumstances."Army
Air Force Outstanding Unit AwardAwarded "to any unit of the U.S. Air Force (including the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard) which performs exceptionally meritorious service, accomplishes specific acts of outstanding achievement, excels in combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, or conducts with distinct military operations involving conflict with, or exposure to, a hostile action by any opposing foreign force."Air Force
Navy "E" RibbonThe Navy "E" Ribbon denotes the wearer was on permanent duty aboard a U.S. Navy ship or in a unit that won a battle efficiency competition after July 1, 1974.Navy
Air Force Organizational Excellence AwardAwarded "to recognize the achievements and accomplishments of various Air Force activities and organizations. It is awarded to internal Air Force organizations that are entities of larger organizations. These are unique unnumbered organizations or activities that perform functions typically fulfilled by numbered wings, groups, or squadrons."Air Force
Coast Guard "E" RibbonAwarded "to the officers and crew of any Coast Guard cutter which earns the Operational Excellence Award during annual refresher training."Coast Guard
Prisoner of War MedalAwarded "to any person who was taken prisoner or held captive while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing Armed Force; or while serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing Armed Force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. As of an amendment to Title 10 of the United States Code in 2013, the medal is also awarded for captivity under circumstances "which the Secretary concerned finds were comparable to those circumstances under which persons have generally been held captive by enemy armed forces during periods of armed conflict."The person's conduct, while in captivity, must have been honorable. This medal may be awarded posthumously to the surviving next of kin of the recipient."All
Army Good Conduct MedalAwarded "for soldiers completing three years active service after 28 June 1941."Army
Navy Good Conduct MedalAwarded "to every active duty enlisted sailor who completes three years of honorable and faithful service since 1 January 1996."Navy
Air Force Good Conduct MedalAwarded "to Air Force enlisted personnel during a three-year period of active military service or for a one-year period of service during a time of war. Those airmen who were awarded this medal must have had character and efficiency ratings of excellent or higher throughout the qualifying period including time spent in attendance at service schools, and there must have been no convictions of court martial or non-judicial punishment during this period."Air Force
Marine Corps Good Conduct MedalAwarded to members of the Marine Corp who must have three consecutive years of honorable and faithful service in order to be eligible for the medal.Marine
Coast Guard Good Conduct MedalOriginally, the service requirement for the CGGCM was four continuous years of service. Starting on 1 July 1983, the service requirement was reduced to three years.Coast Guard
Air Force Combat Readiness MedalAwarded "for accomplished sustained individual combat mission readiness or undertaken the preparedness for direct weapon-system employment."Air Force
Outstanding Airman of the Year RibbonAwarded "to any enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force who is nominated by their Major Command, Field Operating Agency, or Direct Reporting Unit for competition in the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year Program."Air Force
Coast Guard Enlisted Person of the Year RibbonAwarded "to two members of the Coast Guard, paygrade E-2 through E-6; the Coast Guard Enlisted Person of the Year (EPOY) and the Coast Guard Reserve Enlisted Person of the Year (REPOY). The selection based on a display of pride, professionalism, and dedication to Coast Guard core values, and is made by a panel of Master Chief Petty Officers, led by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG). The decoration is a one time only award and there are no devices authorized for multiple presentations."Coast Guard
Air Force Recognition RibbonAwarded "to a service member who must have received a designated trophy, plaque, or other award through an achievement as specified by Air Force regulations. The ribbon is thus intended to recognize awards which cannot otherwise be displayed on a military uniform; as such, this award is typically presented in combination with an Air Force level annual award."Air Force
Army Reserve Components Achievement MedalAwarded "for exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity while serving as a member of an Army National Guard (ARNG) unit or United States Army Reserve (USAR) Troop Program Unit (TPU) or as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA)."Army
Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service MedalFrom 1965 to 1974, the award was presented for four years of honorable reserve enlisted service in the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard, however the time limit was lowered to three years of service beginning on July 1, 1975.Air Force
Selected Marine Corps Reserve MedalThis is the oldest of the Reserve Good Conduct Medals. In 1939 the name of the medal was changed to the Organized Marine Corps Reserve Medal. In 1984, the award adopted its current name. As of January 1, 1996, the qualifying period of service was changed from four to three years to mirror the requirements of the Good Conduct Medal.Marine
Coast Guard Reserve Good Conduct MedalAwarded "for a standard satisfactory enlisted reserve tour of three years of duty. Additional awards are denoted by service stars. This is strictly an enlisted service award on par with the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal for active duty enlisted coast guardsmen. Commissioned officers, to include warrant officers, are not eligible for award of the Coast Guard Reserve Good Conduct Medal, however, they are entitled to wear the award if it was earned during prior enlisted service."Coast Guard
Armed Forces Reserve MedalAwarded "to members or the Army Reserve or National Guard for either periods of service (hourglass) for ten year increments, or in connection with an involuntary mobilization under Title 10 or 14, or volunteers for federal active duty during any such mobilization."All
Navy Expeditionary MedalThe medal will be awarded, to the officers and enlisted men of the Navy who shall have actually landed on foreign territory and engaged in operations against armed opposition, or operated under circumstances which, after full consideration, shall be deemed to merit special recognition and for which service no campaign medal has been awarded. The Navy Expeditionary Medal is retroactively authorized to February 12, 1874.Navy
Marine Corps Expeditionary MedalTo be awarded the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, a Marine must have engaged in a landing on foreign territory, participated in combat operations against an opposing force, or participated in a designated operation for which no other service medal is authorized.Marine
National Defense Service MedalAwarded "to anyone who has served on active duty, or as an active reservist, in the United States Armed Forces during any of four specified time periods: The Korean War (06/27/50 - 07/27/54), The Vietnam War (01/01/61 - 08/14/74), The Gulf War (08/02/90 - 11/30/95), and the Global War on Terrorism (09/11/01 - present)."All
Global War on Terrorism Service MedalAwarded "to receive the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, a military service member must have served on active duty during a designated anti-terrorism operation for a minimum 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days. For those who were engaged in combat, killed, or wounded in the line of duty the time requirement is waived."All
Korea Defense Service MedalTo qualify for the KDSM, a service member must have served at least thirty consecutive days in the South Korean theater. The medal is also granted for 60 non-consecutive days of service, which includes reservists on annual training in South Korea. Exceptions are made for the 30/60 days time requirement if a service member participated in a combat armed engagement, was wounded or injured in the line of duty requiring medical evacuation, or participated as a regularly assigned aircrew member in flying sorties which totaled more than 30 days of duty in South Korean airspace. In such cases, the KDSM is authorized regardless of time served in theater.All
Armed Forces Service MedalAwarded to "to service members who, on or after June 1, 1992, Participate, or have participated, as members of U.S. military units, in a designated U.S. military operation deemed to be a significant activity, and encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action."All
Humanitarian Service MedalAwarded for "meritorious participation in specified military acts or operations of a humanitarian nature." This can include natural disaster relief or humanitarian support to refugees.All
Outstanding Volunteer Service MedalAwarded for "substantial volunteer service to the local community above and beyond the duties required as a member of the United States Armed Forces. Such volunteer service must be made in a sustained and direct nature towards the civilian community, must be significant in nature to produce tangible results, and must reflect favorably on the military service and the United States Department of Defense."All
Antarctica Service MedalTo qualify for the Antarctica Service Medal, personnel must train or serve ten days stationed on the Antarctic continent, or aboard vessels in Antarctic waters, defined as south of 60 degrees latitude.All
Coast Guard Arctic Service MedalAwarded for "twenty one days of consecutive duty afloat or ashore north of the Arctic Circle. Air crews flying in and out of areas north of the Arctic Circle may also be awarded the medal for 21 days of non-consecutive service."Coast Guard
Air and Space Campaign MedalAwarded for "direct support of a military operation for at least thirty consecutive days or for sixty non-consecutive days. "Direct support" is defined as deploying in support of an ASCM approved operation inside the geographic area of combat which historically were deployed forward. This includes, but is not limited to, sortie generation, intelligence, surveillance, targeting, etc. Squadron Commanders may determine other functions that meet the intent of this award."Air Force
Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service MedalAwarded to Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard personnel for service in support of US Air Force Nuclear Deterrence Operations from 26 December 1991 until a date to be determined. The required length of service to be eligible for the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal is 120 consecutive or 179 non-consecutive days attached, deployed, assigned, or mobilized to a unit supporting the nuclear deterrence mission.Air Force
Remote Combat Effects Campaign MedalAwarded "to Air Force military members who, on or after Sept. 11, 2001, distinguished themselves by direct participation in a DOD combat operation."Air Force
Armed Forces Expeditionary MedalAwarded for "for three categories of operations: U.S. military operations; U.S. military operations in direct support of the United Nations; and U.S. operations of assistance for friendly foreign nations. The medal shall be awarded only for operations for which no other U.S. campaign medal is approved, where a foreign armed opposition or imminent threat of hostile action was encountered."All
Afghanistan Campaign MedalAwarded "to any member of the United States military who has performed duty within the borders of Afghanistan (or its airspace) for a period of thirty consecutive days or sixty non-consecutive days. The medal is retroactive to October 24, 2001, and is active until a date to be determined. Personnel who have been engaged in combat with an enemy force, or personnel who have been wounded in combat within Afghanistan, may receive the ACM regardless of the number of days spent within the country."All
Inherent Resolve Campaign MedalAwarded "to members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, for service in Iraq, Syria, or contiguous waters or airspace retroactively from 15 June 2014 to a date yet to be determined. Personnel must have been attached to a unit based in Iraq or Syria, fly missions over those countries, and/or serve in contiguous waters for 30 days consecutive, or 60 days non-consecutive. Service members who were killed or were medically evacuated from those countries due to wounds or injuries immediately qualify for the award, as do members who engaged in combat."All
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary MedalThe medal recognizes those military service members who have deployed overseas in direct service to the War on Terror from 11 September 2001 to a date to be determined. Prior to 30 April 2005, the medal was awarded for service within Iraq and Afghanistan, but has been replaced with the Iraq Campaign Medal and Afghanistan Campaign Medal and now serves primarily as recognition for personnel who have deployed in support of the War on Terror to locations beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.All
Army Sea Duty RibbonAwarded "to active duty soldiers who complete two cumulative years of sea duty on a Class A or B U.S. Army vessel. Duty aboard U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command, NOAA vessels, or aboard Army leased or foreign and non-military vessels may also qualify if soldiers serving on those vessels have a formally assigned primary mission that is accomplished underway, are in an active status, and are approved for creditable sea service by the Career Sea Pay Office."Army
Navy and Marine Corps Sea Service Deployment RibbonAwarded to any member of the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps assigned to a deployable unit (e.g., a ship (including submarines), aircraft squadron, air wing or air group, detachment, battalion, Marine Expeditionary Unit, Marine Air Ground Task Force, or other unit type that operates away from its assigned homeport) and is forward-deployed for a period of either 90 consecutive days or two periods of at least 80 days each within a given 12-month period; or 6 months stationed overseas in a forward deployed location.Navy/Marine
Coast Guard Sea Service RibbonAwarded to those members of the Coast Guard who serve more than twelve cumulative months of sea duty on board a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, attached to a Fleet Training Group, or on board certain other Coast Guard vessels and non-Coast Guard vessels (i.e., U.S. Navy warships with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment [LEDET] embarked) that are under official Coast Guard orders.Coast Guard
Naval Reserve Sea Service RibbonAwarded "to any member of the U.S. Navy Reserve who completes a cumulative total of 90 days of OCONUS or Underway Duty while assigned to a deployable Navy Reserve or Active-Duty unit. Active-Duty members assigned to a deployable Navy Reserve unit are also eligible for the award under the same qualifying service requirements. Qualifying service must be performed in an operational or operational support role with a deployable unit while operating underway or OCONUS, away from homeport or the permanent duty station."Navy
Air Force Expeditionary Service RibbonAwarded "to any member of the Air Force who completes a standard contingency deployment. The regulations of the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon define a deployment as either forty-five consecutive days or ninety non-consecutive days in a deployed status."Air Force
Navy Arctic Service RibbonAwarded to officers and enlisted personnel for twenty-eight days, consecutive or non-consecutive, above the Arctic Circle after 1 January 1982. For personnel working at remote ice camps or divers working under the ice, each day of duty will count as two days when determining award eligibility.Navy
Army Overseas Service RibbonAwarded to "to any member of the United States Army who completes a standard overseas tour of duty."Army
Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service RibbonAwarded "to any member of the Navy or Marine Corps who completes one year of consecutive or cumulative duty at a permanent overseas duty station. For inactive members of the reserve components, the first award is authorized upon completion of either 30 consecutive or 45 cumulative days of overseas duty, regardless of the type of orders."Navy/Marine
Coast Guard Overseas Service RibbonAwarded "to active duty members on a permanent assignment and who successfully complete a tour of duty of at least 12 months at an overseas shore-based duty station or on board a cutter permanently assigned to an overseas area. It is also awarded to reservists who are permanently assigned and have satisfactorily completed a minimum of 36 cumulative days of service at an overseas duty station during each 12-month period of the total tour of duty."Coast Guard
Air Force Overseas Short Tour Deployment RibbonAwarded "for less than two years of duty or as directed by Air Force policies. Normally, the Short Tour Service Ribbon is awarded for a permanent duty assignment of at least 300 days within an 18-month time span"Air Force
Air Force Overseas Long Tour RibbonAwarded "for completion of a standard overseas service assignment of two years or more in length with additional awards denoted by oak leaf clusters. Long tour credit is awarded for completion of an overseas long tour (2 years) prescribed by Air Force Instructions, or to any member assigned to a United States or overseas location who is subsequently sent under temporary duty orders (to include combat tours) for 365 or more days within a 3-year time frame."Air Force
Army Reserve Overseas Training RibbonAwarded "to members of the Reserve Component (RC) of the Army (ARNG and USAR), for successful completion of annual training or ADT for a period not less than 10 consecutive duty days on foreign soil. All ARNG and USAR Soldiers who accompany the RC unit (including unit cells) to which they are assigned or attached as active duty for operational support during overseas training are also eligible for the award."Army
Coast Guard Restricted Duty RibbonAwarded to "Coast Guard personnel who have completed a permanent tour of duty at specific shore units where accompanying dependents are not authorized."Coast Guard
Coast Guard Special Operations Service RibbonAwarded "for certain acts of non-combat meritorious service, for which no other service medal or ribbon is authorized. Coast Guard operations of a special nature involving multiple agency involvement pertaining to national security or law enforcement, in support of special events drawing large media interest and public attention, operations or involvement with foreign government in all areas of saving life and property at sea, or operations of assistance for friendly and/or developing nations."Coast Guard
Air Force Longevity Service AwardAwarded "for completing four years of Active, Air Force Reserve, or Air National Guard service. For members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, creditable service must have been in a drilling status with regular attendance of at least minimum monthly weekend drills and annual training. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard mobilized to full-time active duty continue to accrue eligibility in the same manner as active duty Air Force personnel."Air Force
Navy Recruiting Service RibbonTo be awarded the Navy Recruiting Service Ribbon, a service member must be assigned to one of the United States Navy's Major Recruiting Commands and must complete a standard three-year tour of duty. Award of the Navy Recruiting Service Ribbon is open to all branches of the Navy, including reservists on active duty for special work (ADSW) programs.Navy
Marine Corps Recruitng RibbonAwarded to Marine Corps officers and enlisted personnel who complete a standard 36-month tour in a United States Marine Corps Recruiting Command.Marine
Coast Guard Recruiting Service RibbonAwarded "to any member of the Coast Guard who completes a standard two-year tour as a Coast Guard Recruiter."Coast Guard
Navy Accession Training Service RibbonAwarded "to officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. Navy who successfully complete Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), Recruit Training Command, Officer Training Command, Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Units, U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) or U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory school."Navy
Marine Corps Drill Instructor RibbonTo be awarded this ribbon "a Marine must hold the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of 0911 (Drill Instructor) or must have served a successful tour of duty in positions such as Recruit Training Battalion Commander, Platoon Commander, or Company Gunnery Sergeant. Furthermore, the duties of the Marine's billet must be executed satisfactorily for a minimum period of 20 months, for those who received their 8511 MOS before December 1996 or 30 months, for those who receive their 0911 MOS on or after 1 December 1996."Marine
Marine Corps Combat Instructor RibbonThe ribbon recognizes the successful completion of a tour as a combat instructor, or in a high-profile leadership position, at the School of Infantry East or West.Marine
Air Force Special Duty RibbonAwarded "to those service members who complete a special duty assignment, or are awarded a special duty Air Force Specialty Code or special duty assignment. The award is for service after 4 September 2014, and cannot be retroactively awarded." This can include roles where the service member is in a position to train or oversee new recruits.Air Force
Navy Ceremonial Guard RibbonAwarded "to those members of the U.S. Navy who, while stationed in Washington, D.C., complete a standard tour of duty with the United States Navy Ceremonial Guard. A standard tour is defined as at least two years of duty with no disciplinary action, above average evaluations, and adherence to physical and military bearing standards of the Navy Ceremonial Guard. Also must be in a "fallout" status for 18 months, and reach at least Standard Honors within a platoon (firing party, casket bearers, colors, or drill team)."Navy
Marine Corps Security Guard RibbonMarines assigned to Marine Security Guard duty (MOS 8156) are eligible to receive the ribbon upon completion of 24 months of service at a foreign establishment.Marine
Army NCO Professional Development RibbonAwarded "by the U.S. Army for completion of any prescribed non-commissioned officer development courses. When a soldier completes additional schooling such as the Advanced Leaders Course (ALC), Senior Leaders Course (SLC), and Master Leader Course (MLC), an award numeral is worn on the ribbon to denote subsequent satisfactory completion of those courses."Army
Air Force NCO PME Graduate RibbonAwarded "to noncommissioned officers of the United States Air Force for completion of prescribed noncommissioned officer professional development programs. Approved programs are the NCO Preparatory Course, Airman Leadership School, NCO Leadership School, NCO Academy, and Senior NCO Academy. Select professional development programs of other services may also be counted for award of the ribbon."Air Force
Navy Basic Military Training Honor Graduate RibbonAwarded to "initial accession enlisted personnel of the U.S. Navy who are designated as Honor Graduates." No more than three percent of each training group will be designated as honor graduates.Navy
Air Force Basic Military Training Honor Graduate RibbonThe ribbon is awarded to graduates of Air Force basic training who have obtained an honor graduate designation and demonstrate excellence in all areas of academic and military training.Air Force
Coast Guard Basic Training Honor Graduate RibbonThe Basic Training Honor Graduate Ribbon is presented to the service member who graduates at the top of their basic training instruction class.Coast Guard
Army Service RibbonAwarded "to all members of the Regular (Active) Army, and Army National Guard and United States Army Reserve in an active reserve status, for successful completion of initial-entry training, which for officers is considered to be successful completion of their basic/orientation or higher-level course. Enlisted soldiers will be awarded the ribbon upon successful completion of their initial Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)-producing course."Army
Air Force Training RibbonAwarded "to U.S. Air Force service members on completion of initial accession training after August 14, 1974. Initial accession training in USAF is defined as Basic Military Training (BMT) for enlisted personnel, Basic Cadet Training (BCT) at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), or commissioning through Air Force ROTC (AFROTC), Officer Training School (OTS) or other specialized USAF officer accession programs."Air Force
Air Force Small Arms Expert Marksmanship RibbonAwarded "for an expert qualification on either the M16 rifle, M4 carbine or the individual's AFSC (duty) designated pistol."Air Force
Coast Guard Distinguished Marksman AwardAwarded for the earning of 30 leg points during marksmanship competition or tournaments.Coast Guard
Coast Guard Silver Rifle Excellence-In-Competition AwardAwarded to Coast Guardsmen who achieve their second set of leg points through authorized excellence catagory of competition.Coast Guard
Coast Guard Bronze Rifle Excellence-In-Competition AwardAwarded to Coast Guardsmen who achieve their first set of leg points through authorized excellence catagory of competition.Coast Guard
Navy Expert Rifleman MedalAwarded for "Expert" level scoring on the rifle qualification course with the M-16 or M4 rifleNavy
Coast Guard Expert Rifleman MedalAwarded for "Expert" level scoring on the rifle qualification course with the M-16A2, M14-T, or M4 rifleCoast Guard
Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter DeviceAwarded for "Sharpshooter" level scoring on the rifle qualification course with the M-16 or M4 rifleNavy
Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter DeviceAwarded for "Sharpshooter" level scoring on the rifle qualification course with the M-16A2, M14-T, or M4 rifleCoast Guard
Navy Rifle Marksmanship RibbonAwarded for higher level qualification at rifle shooting with the M-16 or M4 rifleNavy
Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship RibbonAwarded for higher level qualification at rifle shooting with the M-16A2, M14-T, or M4 rifleCoast Guard
Coast Guard Distinguished Pistol Shot Award Awarded for the earning of 30 leg points during marksmanship competition or tournaments.Coast Guard
Coast Guard Silver Pistol Excellence-In-Competition AwardAwarded to Coast Guardsmen who achieve their second set of leg points through authorized excellence catagory of competition.Coast Guard
Coast Guard Bronze Pistol Excellence-In-Competition AwardAwarded to Coast Guardsmen who achieve their first set of leg points through authorized excellence catagory of competition.Coast Guard
Navy Expert Pistol Shot awardAwarded for "Expert" level scoring on the pistol qualification course with the Beretta M9 - 9mm pistol.Navy
Coast Guard Expert Pistol Shot AwardAwarded for "Expert" level scoring on the pistol qualification course with the .40 cal SIG Sauer P229R DAK pistolCoast Guard
Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter DeviceAwarded for "Sharpshooter" level scoring on the pistol qualification course with the Beretta M9 - 9mm pistol.Navy
Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter DeviceAwarded for "Sharpshooter" level scoring on the pistol qualification course with the .40 cal SIG Sauer P229R DAK pistolCoast Guard
Navy Pistol Marksmanship RibbonAwarded for higher level qualification at pistol shooting with the Beretta M9 - 9mm pistol.Navy
Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship RibbonAwarded for higher level qualification at pistol shooting with the .40 cal SIG Sauer P229R DAK pistolCoast Guard
United Nations MedalAwarded "for any action in which a member of the military participated in a joint UN activity."Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Multinational Force and Observers MedalAwarded "to any United States service member who served at least ninety cumulative days as a member of the Multinational Force and Observers."Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Inter-American Defense Board MedalAwarded "to any military officer, serving in a member nation of the Organization of American States, who completes a tour of service with the Inter-American Defense Board. The award is also presented to military personnel who serve on the staff of the IADB Chairman, Secretariat, or for those who complete instructor tours at the Inter-American Defense College."Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
NATO Medal (Yugoslavia)Awarded to personnel who served for more than 30 days on land, sea, or air, in support of NATO efforts in Bosnia as part of Operation Joint Endeavor.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
NATO Medal (Kosovo)Awarded to individuals who served under NATO command and in direct support of NATO operations for 30 days in the Republic of Yugoslavia, 90 days outside the former Republic of Yugoslavia and the Adriatic Sea, or 30 days on land, sea or air of the Province of Kosovo.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
NATO Medal (Macedonia)Awarded for 25 days (continuous or accumulated) service on the land or air space of former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as part of the planning or implementing of Operation Essential HarvestArmy/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)Awarded to members of the Military Coalition who served in support of Operation Desert Shield or Desert Storm in one or more of the following areas between 2 August 1990 and 31 August 1993: Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, that portion of the Arabian Sea that lies north of 10 degrees north latitude and west of 68 degrees east longitude, as well as the total land areas of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)Awarded "to members of the Coalition Forces who participated in Operation Desert Storm and the liberation of Kuwait between the dates of January 17, 1991 and February 28, 1991."Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Aeronautical Merit Cross (Peru)Awarded to service members who have gained achievements in military or aeronautical activities.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Cross of Honor (Germany)Awarded "by the Federal Minister of Defence as a "visible commendation for loyal service and exemplary execution of duties". The minister is usually represented by the commanding officer of the awarded soldier (ranked battalion commander or higher). Those awards made for outstanding achievements or heroic deeds, Honour Cross for Bravery (silver or golden), may be presented to the honoured soldier directly by the minister or even by the head of government."Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Khalifiyyeh Order of BahrainAwarded to those demonstrating excellent achievements in military, diplomatic and civil fields for Bahrain.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Military Merit Order (United Arab Emirates)Awarded to very senior U.S. officers and officers in the U.S. Central Command during the Gulf War.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Order of the Crown of ThailandAwarded to Thai nationals and foreign dignitaries for their service to Thailand.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Order of May (Argentina)Awarded to individuals who distinguish themselves through service or achievement, or earn the gratitude of Argentina.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Order of Merit (Germany)Awarded "to visibly express recognition and gratitude to deserving men and women of the German people and of foreign countries."Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Order of Merit of the Italian RepublicAwarded for "merit acquired by the nation" in the fields of literature, the arts, economy, public service, and social, philanthropic and humanitarian activities and for long and conspicuous service in civilian and military careers.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Order of National Security Merit (Korea)Awarded by the President of South Korea for "outstanding meritorious services in the interest of national security."Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Order of the Rising Sun (Japan)Awarded to those who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field, development in welfare or preservation of the environment. Prior to the end of World War II, it was also awarded for exemplary military service.Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine
Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil)Awarded "as a token of gratitude and recognition for those who have rendered significant service to the Brazilian nation."Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine

Award Display Regulations

Each branch of the military has slightly different rules about how to display your awards on your uniform. Here's a quick summary of the most basic criteria to keep in mind. These requirements aren't exhaustive, though, so be sure to refer to a full copy of your branch's regulations as needed.

Army

For males, the ribbon rack shall be worn centered 1/8 inch above the left pocket. Females shall wear the rack centered on the left chest and may adjust its vertical position as needed.

Marines

Parallel rows of ribbon bars will either be spaced 1/8 inch apart or placed together without spacing at the wearer's option. Ribbon bars will be centered 1/8 inch above and parallel to the top edge of the upper left pocket of dress B coats, service coats and men's khaki shirts.

Navy

Up to three ribbons may be worn in a single row with no spaces between ribbons or rows. The bottom row shall be centered 1/4 inch above the left breast pocket and parallel to the deck.

Air Force

The ribbon rack shall rest on (but not over) the edge of the left chest pocket. Ribbons are optional. If worn, all ribbons and devices must be worn. Members are highly encouraged to wear their current occupational badge. Command Insignia is mandatory.

Coast Guard

Ribbons must be centered 1/4 inch above the left pocket. Insignia are centered 1/4 inch above the ribbons. Name tags are centered 1/4 inch above the right pocket. CO (Commanding Officer) or OIC (Officer In Charge) devices must be centered 1/4 inch above the name tag.

Space Force

As of this writing, the Space Force uses the same dress code and award display regulations as the Air Force. The Space Force issues its own rank and command badges but does not yet issue any branch-specific awards or ribbons.

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