Awards and Decorations of the United States Military
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Awards and Decorations of the United States Military
Service ribbons, ribbon devices, and badge awards displayed on a U.S. Navy chief petty officer's service dress blue uniform

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.

U.S. military, awards currently issued to service members

Order of precedence

The precedence of particular awards will vary slightly among the different branches of service. All awards and decorations may be awarded to any service member unless otherwise designated by name or notation.[1]

Ribbon/award name[2]
Personal decorations
Awarded for "gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty"

Medal of Honor ribbon.svg  Medal of Honor

Service cross medals - Awarded for "extraordinary heroism"

Distinguished Service Cross ribbon.svg  Distinguished Service Cross (Army)

Navy Cross ribbon.svg  Navy Cross

Air Force Cross ribbon.svg  Air Force Cross

Coast Guard Cross ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Cross

Distinguished service medals - Awarded for "distinguished service"

Defense Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg  Defense Distinguished Service Medal

Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg  Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal

U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg  Distinguished Service Medal (Army)

Navy Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg  Navy Distinguished Service Medal

Air Force Distinguished Service ribbon.svg  Air Force Distinguished Service Medal

Coast Guard Distinguished Service ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal

Awarded for "gallantry in action"

Silver Star Medal ribbon.svg  Silver Star Medal

Awarded for "superior or exceptionally meritorious service"

Defense Superior Service Medal ribbon.svg  Defense Superior Service Medal

Legion of Merit ribbon.svg  Legion of Merit

Awarded for "heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight"

Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg  Distinguished Flying Cross

Medals for non-combat heroism

Soldier's Medal ribbon.svg  Soldier's Medal

Navy and Marine Corps Medal ribbon.svg  Navy and Marine Corps Medal

Airman's Medal ribbon.svg  Airman's Medal

Coast Guard Medal ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Medal

Awarded for heroism in combat zone or meritorious service in a war zone

Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg  Bronze Star Medal

Awarded for wounds suffered in combatPH

Purple Heart ribbon.svg  Purple Heart

Meritorious service and aviation medals

Defense Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg  Defense Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg  Meritorious Service Medal

Air Medal ribbon.svg  Air Medal
Aerial Achievement Medal ribbon.svg  Aerial Achievement Medal
Commendation medals

Joint Service Commendation Medal ribbon.svg  Joint Service Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg  Army Commendation Medal

Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal ribbon.svg  Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal

Air Force Commendation Medal ribbon.svg  Air Force Commendation Medal

U.S. Coast Guard Commendation Medal ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Commendation Medal

Achievement medals

Joint Service Achievement Medal ribbon.svg  Joint Service Achievement Medal

Army Achievement Medal ribbon.svg  Army Achievement Medal

Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal ribbon.svg  Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal

Air Force Achievement Medal ribbon.svg  Air Force Achievement Medal

U.S. Coast Guard Achievement Medal ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Achievement Medal

Commandant's Letter of Commendation Ribbon.svg  Commandant's Letter of Commendation
Combat action awards

Combat Action Ribbon.svg  Navy Combat Action Ribbon

Air Force Combat Action ribbon.svg  Air Force Combat Action Medal

United States Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon

Also see: Army combat badges

Unit awards
Presidential Unit Citations

U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Army Presidential Unit Citation

United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation

AF Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png  Air Force Presidential Unit Citation

U.S. Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation

Joint Meritorious Unit Award ribbon.svg  Joint Meritorious Unit Award

Valorous Unit Award ribbon.svg  Army Valorous Unit Award

U.S. Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg  Navy Unit Commendation

Gallant Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Air Force Gallant Unit Citation

Coast Guard Unit Commendation ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Unit Commendation

Meritorious Unit Commendations

Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg  Army Meritorious Unit Commendation

Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg  Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation

Air Force Meritorious Unit ribbon.svg  Air Force Meritorious Unit Award

Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation

Army Superior Unit Award ribbon.svg  Army Superior Unit Award

Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg  Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

Meritorious Team Commendation ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation

Efficiency Awards

Battle Effectiveness Award ribbon, 1st award.svg  Navy "E" Ribbon

Organizational Excellence ribbon.svg  Air Force Organizational Excellence Award

Coast Guard Excellence Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard "E" Ribbon

Service awards
Prisoner of War Medal ribbon.svg  Prisoner of War Medal
Good conduct medals

Army Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg  Army Good Conduct Medal

U.S. Navy Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg  Navy Good Conduct Medal

U.S. Air Force Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg  Air Force Good Conduct Medal

U.S. Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg  Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal

U.S. Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal

Combat Readiness Medal ribbon.svg  Combat Readiness Medal (Air Force)
Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon.svg  Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon

Enlisted Person of the Year Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Enlisted Person of the Year Ribbon

Air Force Recognition Ribbon.svg  Air Force Recognition Ribbon
Reserve service medals

U.S. Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal ribbon.svg  Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal

Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg  Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal

Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal ribbon.svg  Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal

Coast Guard Reserve Good Conduct Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Reserve Good Conduct Medal

Armed Forces Reserve Medal ribbon.svg  Armed Forces Reserve Medal

Expeditionary medals

Navy Expeditionary Medal ribbon.svg  Navy Expeditionary Medal

Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal ribbon.svg  Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal

Continued on right column
Ribbon/award name[2]
Campaign and service medals (cont.)
General service medals
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg  National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal ribbon.svg  Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Korea Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg  Korea Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Service Medal ribbon.svg  Armed Forces Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal ribbon.svg  Humanitarian Service Medal
Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal ribbon.svg  Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal
Special service medals
Antarctica Service Medal ribbon.svg  Antarctica Service Medal
Coast Guard Arctic Service ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal
Air and Space Campaign Medal ribbon.svg  Air and Space Campaign Medal
Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal ribbon.svg  Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal
Remote Combat Effects Campaign Medal ribbon.svg  Remote Combat Effects Campaign Medal
Campaign and Expeditionary / Conflict Service Medals
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal ribbon.svg  Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal ribbon.svg  Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal ribbon.svg  Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal ribbon.svg  Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Service and training awards
U.S. Army Sea Duty Ribbon.svg  Army Sea Duty Ribbon

Navy and Marine Corps Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.svg  Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

U.S. Coast Guard Sea Service Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Sea Service Ribbon

Naval Reserve Sea Service Ribbon.svg  Naval Reserve Sea Service Ribbon

Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon.svg  Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon

Navy Arctic Service Ribbon.svg  Navy Arctic Service Ribbon

Overseas service ribbons

Army Overseas Service Ribbon.svg  Army Overseas Service Ribbon

Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon.svg  Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon

USCG Overseas Service Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Overseas Service Ribbon

AF OS Short Tour Ribbon.svg  Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon

AF OS Tour Ribbon.svg  Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon

Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon.svg  Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon

Restricted Duty Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Restricted Duty Ribbon

U.S. Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon

Longevity ribbon

Longevity Service Award USAF.svg  Air Force Longevity Service Award

Recruiting service and training service ribbons

U.S. Navy Recruiting Service Ribbon.svg  Navy Recruiting Service Ribbon

Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon.svg  Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon

Coast Guard Recruiting Service Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Recruiting Service Ribbon

U.S. Navy Recruiting Training Ribbon.svg  Navy Accession Training Service Ribbon

U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon.svg  Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon

USMC Combat Instructor Ribbon.svg  Marine Corps Combat Instructor Ribbon

USA Air Force Special Duty Ribbon.svg  Air Force Special Duty Ribbon

Guard ribbons

Navy Ceremonial Duty Ribbon.svg  Navy Ceremonial Guard Ribbon

Marine Security Guard Ribbon.svg  Marine Corps Security Guard Ribbon

Professional development Ribbons

Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon.svg  Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon

USAF NCO PME Graduate Ribbon.svg  Air Force NCO PME Graduate Ribbon

Basic training honor graduate ribbons

U.S. Navy Recruit Honor Graduate Ribbon.svg  Navy Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon

USAF Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon.svg  Air Force Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon

Coast Guard Honor Graduate Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Basic Training Honor Graduate Ribbon

Training ribbons

Army Service Ribbon.svg  Army Service Ribbon

Air Force Training Ribbon.svg  Air Force Training Ribbon

Marksmanship awards[3][4][5]
USAF Marksmanship ribbon.svg  Air Force Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon

USCG Distinguished Marksman Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Distinguished Marksman Award

USCG Silver Rifle EIC Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Silver Rifle Excellence-in-Competition Award

USCG Bronze Rifle EIC Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Bronze Rifle Excellence-in-Competition Award

U.S. Navy Expert Rifleman Ribbon.svg  Navy Expert Rifleman Medal

Coast Guard Expert Rifleman Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Expert Rifleman Medal

United States Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with sharpshooter device.svg  Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

USCG Sharpshooter Rifle Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

U.S. Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon.svg  Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon

Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon


USCG Distinguished Pistol Shot Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Distinguished Pistol Shot Award

USCG Silver Pistol Shot EIC Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Silver Pistol Excellence-in-Competition Award

USCG Bronze Pistol Shot EIC Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Bronze Pistol Excellence-in-Competition Award

U.S. Navy Expert Pistol Shot Ribbon.svg  Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal

Coast Guard Expert Pistol Shot Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Expert Pistol Shot Medal

United States Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with sharpshooter device.svg  Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

USCG Sharpshooter Pistol Ribbon.png  Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon with Sharpshooter Device

U.S. Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.svg  Navy Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon

Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.svg  Coast Guard Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon

Note: ^ The precedence of the Purple Heart was immediately before the Good Conduct Medals until changed to its current precedence in 1985.

Military departments

To denote additional achievements or multiple awards of the same decoration, the United States military maintains a number of award devices which are pinned to service ribbons and medals.

U.S. military, inactive and obsolete awards

U.S. military personnel having received these awards have participated within these areas of combat / conflict during the time these awards were given to U.S. service members. Such awards have since been discontinued or are no longer applicable in terms of receiving these commendations.

Discontinued or proposed

The following decorations were designed for issuance with an approved medal, but were either never officially approved for presentation or were discontinued before a first award could be made.

Ribbon/award name
Personal decorations
USA Distinguished Warfare Medal ribbon.svg  Distinguished Warfare Medal
Combat service decorations
Noribbon.svg  Combat Recognition Ribbon
Ribbon/award name
General service award
Cold War Victory Medal ribbon.svg  Cold War Victory Medal

Single service awards

Single service awards were official military decorations created as one time awards to recognize a single event. The first such single service award was issued during the Spanish-American War by the Revenue Cutter Service to honor the actions of the vessel USRC Hudson during the Battle of Cárdenas. The last single service award was issued in 1960 when Congress authorized the awarding of the Four Chaplains' Medal recognizing the Four Chaplains who died together during World War II.[6] There have been no single service awards issued since by the U.S. military, mainly due to the decline and complications of awarding commemorative service medals.

Ribbon/award name
Personal valor decorations
FourChapRibbon.jpg  Four Chaplains' Medal
Personal commemorative decorations
Cardenas Medal ribbon bar.png  Cardenas Medal of Honor
NC-4 Medal ribbon bar.png  NC-4 Medal
Ribbon/award name
Exploratory commemorative decorations
Perry Polar Expedition Medal ribbon.png  Peary Polar Expedition Medal
Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal (1928-1930).png  Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal
SECOND BYRD ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION Medal.png  Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal

Unofficial decorations

Unofficial decorations are those military awards created and issued by local commanders. In most cases, unofficial awards were designed to commemorate a specific battle or engagement of a commander's unit. The most well known unofficial awards were issued during the American Civil War.

Ribbon/award name
Civil War decorations
Specially Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg Kearny Cross
Kearny Medal
9-11 Medal ribbon.svg Butler Medal
Noribbon.svg Gillmore Medal
Ribbon/award name
Research decorations
U.S. Navy Good Conduct Medal ribbon.svg  Walter Reed Medal

After the Civil War, stricter military regulations prohibited local commanders from issuing awards and the practice had fallen into disuse by the 20th century. Even so, the Department of Defense has stated that large numbers of unofficial medals were privately issued to members of the Armed Forces of the United States for many years after the Civil War, mostly to commemorate specific battles, events, or as private veteran memorabilia.[7] One of the more well known is the Walter Reed Medal (recognized today as a Congressional Gold Medal), awarded for exploratory scientific achievement in the field of malaria treatment. While presented as a gold medallion, members of the military were reported to wear a red ribbon on their uniforms to denote the decoration.

Foreign and international awards

Foreign and international decorations are authorized for wear on United States military uniforms by the Department of Defense in accordance with established regulations for the receipt of such awards as outlined by the State Department. In the case of foreign decorations, the awards may be divided into senior service decorations (awarded only to high ranking U.S. officers), heroic decorations for valor, and foreign service decorations.

There are hundreds of foreign and international awards which have been approved for issuance to United States military personnel since World War I, the following being among the more common.

During the First and Second World Wars, the Croix de Guerre medals of France and Belgium, as well as the French Military Medal and Luxembourg War Cross, were further issued as unit citation cords, known as Fourragère. Service members could receive both the individual award and the unit cord; in the case of the later, the unit citation could either be worn temporarily while a member of the unit or permanently if the service member was present during the actual battle which warranted the unit citation. A further unit citation cord of the Order of William of the Netherlands was also issued during World War II, and was far more commonly known as the "Orange Lanyard".

As of 2002, South Korea has again issued the Korean Presidential Unit Citation to certain units of the United States Marine Corps, thus placing this previously obsolete foreign award back on the active order of precedence for U.S. decorations. Apart from this one decoration, most 21st century foreign military awards are reserved for only the most senior flag and general officers and then only presented as "end of tour" decorations upon transfer from a major command.

See also

To display devices on resource pages, use Template:Ribbon devices.


  1. ^ "NUMBER 1348.33, Volume 3" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. United States Department of Defense. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ a b Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  3. ^ OPNAVINST 3591.1F, SMALL ARMS TRAINING AND QUALIFICATION Archived 22 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Chief of Naval Operations, dated 12 August 2009, last accessed 5 May 2013
  4. ^ "COMDTINST M1650.25D, Medals and Awards Manual, U.S. Coast Guard, dated May 2008, last accessed 5 May 2013" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 2012.
  5. ^ U.S. Coast Guard Uniform Regulations, dated March 2012, last accessed 5 May 2013
  6. ^ "The Institute of Heraldry - Army Chaplain Medal of Valor". Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  7. ^ Price, James S. (2011). The Battle of New Market Heights: freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-60949-038-6.

Further reading

  • Foster, Frank C. (2002). A complete guide to all United States military medals, 1939 to present. Fountain Inn, S.C.: MOA Press. ISBN 1-884-45218-3. OCLC 54755134.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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