- Commendation Medal
Five different versions of the Commendation Medal are awarded: one for Joint Service, Air Force, Army, Navy & Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard
Awarded by United States Department of Defense Type Medal Eligibility Military personnel only Awarded for "distinguishing oneself by heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service." Status Currently Awarded Statistics Established Navy/Marine Corps - 1943
Coast Guard - 1943
Army - 1945
Air Force - 1958
Joint Service - 1963
Precedence Next (higher) Meritorious Service Medal (MSM)
Air Force - Aerial Achievement Medal
Next (lower) Achievement Medals
The Commendation Medal is a mid-level United States military decoration which is presented for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service. For valorous actions in direct contact with an enemy force, but of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Bronze Star, the Valor device ("V" device) may be authorized as an attachment to the decoration. Each branch of the United States Armed Forces issues its own version of the Commendation Medal, with a fifth version existing for acts of joint military service performed under the Department of Defense.
The Commendation Medal was originally a ribbon, and was first issued by the Navy and U.S. Coast Guard in 1943. An Army Commendation Ribbon followed in 1945, and in 1949, the Navy, Coast Guard, and Army Commendation ribbons were renamed the "Commendation Ribbon with Medal Pendant." By 1960, the Commendation Ribbons had been authorized as full medals and were subsequently referred to as Commendation Medals. For additional awards of the Commendation Medal, the Army issues bronze and silver oak leaf clusters while the Navy and Coast Guard furnish gold and silver award stars. The Operational Distinguishing Device is authorized for the Coast Guard Commendation Medal upon approval of the awarding authority. Order of Precedence is following Bronze Star Medal but before the Prisoner of War Medal and all campaign medals. Each of the military services also issue an Achievement Medal, which is a lesser decoration.
The Army Commendation Medal is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States other than General Officers who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army after 6 December 1941, distinguished themselves by heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service. Award may be made to a member of the Armed Forces of a friendly foreign nation who, after 1 June 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.
Originally established in November 1943 as the Navy Commendation Ribbon, redsignated as the Navy Commendation Medal in September 1960, and renamed the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in 1994, this decoartion is awarded by operational commanders, requiring the signature of an Officer in the grade of O-6. This allows for interpretation of the criteria for which the medal may be awarded.
For instance, in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal is considered a somewhat high decoration reserved for Department Head level officers at the O-4 level, senior Navy CPOs and senior Marine Corps NCOs at the E-8 and E-9 level and, following a full career, as a retirement award. However, beginning in the 1990s, award of this decoration to junior Navy and Marine Corps officers at the O-3 level and CPOs and NCOs at the E-7 in a manner similar to the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force has become increasingly common. In contrast, the awarding of the Army Commendation Medal in the U.S. Army and the Air Force Commendation Medal in the U.S. Air Force is not limited to senior service members, and can be awarded to junior NCOs in the grade of E-6 and below and junior officers in the grade O-3 and below.
The U.S. Marine Corps has always been issued the Navy's commendation medal and there is not a separate commendation medal intended only for Marines. This lack of difference was recognized in 1994 when Secretary of the Navy John Howard Dalton changed the name of the Navy Commendation Medal to the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
The U.S. Coast Guard awards a separate Coast Guard Commendation Medal, with a ribbon similar in design to that of its Navy and Marine Corps counterpart. Initially established as the Coast Guard Commendation Ribbon in 1947, it was redesignated as the Coast Guard Commendation Medal in 1959. Criteria for its award has paralleled that of the Navy and Marine Corps.
The U.S. Air Force began issuing its own Air Force Commendation Medal in 1958 with additional awards denoted by oak leaf clusters. Prior to this time, USAF recipients received the Army Commendation Medal. It was not until 1996 that the "V" device for valor was authorized on the Air Force Commendation Medal; prior to 1996, there was not a Valor distinction in effect for the Air Force Commendation Medal.
The last of the Commendation Medals is the Joint Service Commendation Medal, which was created in 1963. 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. As a joint award, multiple awards are denoted with an oak leaf cluster regardless of service.
- Awards and decorations of the United States government
- Awards and decorations of the United States military
- Awards and decorations of the United States Coast Guard
Inter-service awards and decorations of the United States military
- US Army Institute of Heraldry: Army Commendation Medal
- Department of the Army, DoD Army Commendation Medal 578.20
- US Army Institute of Heraldry: Joint Service Commendation Medal
- HRC Joint Awards FAQ
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