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Army Awards, Medals & Decorations

This video, I’m talking about awards in the United States Army. What’s up, friends? I am US Army veteran Christopher Kross. And in this video, we’re talking about the awards and decorations that a soldier could be possibly wearing on their dress uniform. Some of these awards are classified as medals, and some of them are classified as service ribbons. I’ll break down a little bit of each, and then at the end of the video, I’ll even explain some of the awards that I have received on my uniform. Now, just be aware, there are a lot of medals out there for army, Navy, Marines, all different branches. I’m mainly going to focus on army ones, but I can’t focus on every single medal that there is in the army because there’s just too many that would take way too long. So we’re going to try to focus on some of the major ones as well as some of the common ones that soldiers may receive in the United States Army. It’s also important to note that some of these medals can be awarded to civilians as well. So medals and ribbons are worn on a soldier’s ASU uniform or army service uniform.

Now, there are some ribbons that are worn on the right hand side of that ASU uniform. Those are unit awards, and I won’t be talking about those ones. The ones that I will be talking about are the awards and ribbons that are worn on the left hand side, which are the individual’s awards that they have received. We’re going to start off from the very top, and that is the Medal of Honor. This is the highest military award that an individual could receive. There are actually three variations of the award. There is an army version, a Navy version, and an Air Force version. You’ll notice I didn’t say Marines. That’s because Marines are technically associated with the Navy as well as the Coast Guard. So Coast Guard and Marines would be qualified for the Navy’s version of the Medal of Honor. This award usually requires an action that is very heroic of that individual. This award is presented by the President of the United States in a very special ceremony. There are a lot of benefits to come with the honor of receiving a Medal of Honor. Things like a soldier will receive a special pension for receiving the Medal of Honor.

Their name is added to the scroll of Medal of Honor awardees. They have special transportation benefits that they’re granted, as well as they could be saluted by someone that is higher ranking than that Medal of Honor recipient. Now, this isn’t set by law or by armed regulations. It’s more of a courtesy type of thing. So a general could be passing by a Medal of Honor recipient that maybe is a staff sergeant, for example. Out of courtesy, that general should salute that staff sergeant that is a Medal of Honor recipient out of respect. But again, it’s not required, but it is highly encouraged out of respect. This is one of the very few cases in which a higher ranking person could be saluting a lower ranking person. And just for a little bit of recent history as far as Medal of Honor recipients in recent wars. There has been 14 recipients from the war in Afghanistan and four recipients from the war in Iraq. Now, as a breakdown by branch as far as individuals that have received the Medal of Honor, there has been over 2,000 in the United States Army, a little over 700 in the United States Navy, almost 300 in the United States Marine Corps, 18 in the Air Force, and 1 in the United States Coast Guard.

Next up, we have the second highest award that an individual could receive, and that is the Distinguished Service Cross. The Distinguished Service Cross was first awarded during World War II. War I, but there have been individuals that have received the Distinguished Service Cross for actions prior to World War I. This medal is awarded to an individual from actions that they did in combat. Now, essentially, this person would have done something very heroic, but not yet to qualify them for the Medal of Honor, but still very heroic. So they usually get the Distinguished Service Cross if it’s not quite a high enough level for a Medal of Honor. Next up, we have the third highest medal, which is the Silver Star. This one is given to an end user just like you’d probably expect something they’ve done that’s heroic or very courageous. But typically, this one is actually given out for a brief period of heroism, as in a one day battle or two day battle, something that happened in a single day or over two days. Now, that could still be the case with higher awards too, like the Distinguished Service Medal or the Medal of Honor, but more specifically with the Silver Star, it’s for that brief period where certain other awards could have been given because of something that was much larger of an event.

It could still be a one day event of someone saving someone’s life, or a long battle that took several months, or a big operation that they were able to complete. Whereas the Silver Star is usually more focused around something that happened in one or two days, a time frame. Next up, let’s talk about the soldier’s medal. This would be given to an individual for personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involved in conflict with an armed enemy. The award would not solely be based on whether that individual saved a life or not. This is the highest award that an individual could possibly receive for actions that were not in a combat type of environment. And there are cases of individuals receiving this award for actions in combat, so don’t get that confused. I’m mainly saying that this award is the highest one you could receive if you did something heroic that wasn’t in combat, like saving someone from a fire or saving someone from drowning. And now we’re starting to get into some of the more common medals you might see on more individuals. As next up is the Bronze Star.

Now, this one isn’t necessarily a very common award, but in a lot of cases, I have seen higher leadership individuals like commanders for battalions and such, after a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, receive the Bronze Star for their leadership actions they conducted while leading their unit in the campaign in Iraq or in Afghanistan. This medal could be awarded to someone for a heroic act or possibly a higher leadership person for their job as leading their unit or commanding the unit. Next up, we have the Purple Heart. This medal is given to individuals that were wounded or killed while in action. The most purple hearts given to an individual was 10 times, and those went to a Curry T. Haynes during the Vietnam War. Next, you have some Commodation Medals. One of those medals that falls into the Commodation category is the Joint Service Commodation Medal. Now, this award isn’t necessarily something heroic or anything. It’s just usually an individual that has done a really great job at something. But for them to qualify for the Joint Commodation Medal, it’s going to require them to have been assigned with a joint unit, meaning working with other foreign nationals, maybe in Korea, maybe in Germany, wherever where they are joined together with other allies.

Another medal that falls into that Commodation category is the Army Commodation Medal. Just like that Joint Commodation Medal, it’s just usually something that has been awarded to somebody for doing a great job at something. But this one does not require them to have to be in a joint capability. It’s just the army accommodation medal. So it’s usually maybe they’ve done something great during a training exercise. A lot of individuals, such as leadership personnel, like squad leaders and section sergeants, may receive this for their tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, and other cases of just trying to distinguish an individual above their peers. Next below that, you have your achievement medals. There’s also a joint service achievement medal, in the same criteria as the joint accommodation medal. You have to be with a joint unit and separate yourself from your individuals. This one would be more likely given to lower enlisted soldiers, maybe E4 and below, maybe an E5. Then there’s also the army achievement medal. This one is actually a fairly common award in the United States Army. This would be given to someone who has done a great job at something, maybe something during a training exercise.

I would often sometimes see lower enlisted soldiers receive an army achievement medal for their tour in Iraq. There are a lot of reasons that someone could receive an army achievement medal as this is probably one of the more common awards that a soldier would receive. Now, let’s dive a little bit into the service medals. These are medals that an individual would receive, not necessarily for doing something great, but because they participated in something. In some ways, you might look at them as a participation award, but it’s not like something as simple as they participate in a soccer game. No, it’s usually like they participate in a conflict. So because they were involved with a conflict or something significant, they receive these service medals. And the first one I’ll talk about is the National Defense Service Medal. This medal will be authorized by an individual that was serving in the military during a specific time period. For example, an individual currently in the military or recently in the military would be authorized to wear this because of the Global War on terrorism. That’d be authorized if the individual was in the military during 911 or beyond.

Currently, it doesn’t have a cutoff date, so currently individuals now would be wearing it, even if they joined a couple of months ago. Now, related to that medal, there’s actually another medal that also qualifies during that same period, which is the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. That is also an authorized medal from someone who was serving during 911 to currently. Now, it seems redundant having two medals that are associated with the same thing, but the Global War on Terrorism Medal is specifically for that time frame of 911 to currently. Whereas that previous award that I mentioned, the National Defense Service Medal, covers periods during NOW from 911 on, as well as the Gulf War, Vietnam War, and the Korean War. Also to receive the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. You didn’t have to actually go to Iraq or Afghanistan. You could have just stayed in the United States or whatever and not been involved in any conflict. But because the individual was in the military during that time frame that authorized them the wear of that medal. Next, we have the Korean Defense Service Medal. This medal is authorized for wear for individuals who have served more than 30 consecutive days while in South Korea.

A tour to Korea is fairly common, so there are actually a lot of soldiers that will receive the Korean Defense Service Medal. Along with that, because they serve overseas, they will usually get an overseas service ribbon as well. Also, for individuals that have served in Afghanistan or Iraq, there is the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal. Also with that medal, if an individual was serving in that country during the war, during specific phases of that war, then they can also receive a star on that Campaign Medal. There were six phases involved in the Afghanistan War, and based on the time periods an individual was deployed to Afghanistan, could determine how many stars or if any stars they would wear on that ribbon. During the Iraq War, there were seven phases, and just like before, depending on when that individual was serving in that country, could determine whether they had several stars or no stars. Another common medal that you might see on a soldier would be a good conduct medal. This is awarded to an individual that have served three years in the military without getting in trouble, as in getting an Article 15, getting any actions against them for breaking some rules.

So an individual keeps their nose clean, then after three years, they receive an army good conduct medal, and they will continue to receive another army good conduct medal after another three years of doing well in the army without receiving any punishment. Last but not least is the most common ribbon you would see an individual wearing, and that is the Army Service ribbon. This ribbon is given to individuals after they complete their initial training, whether it be basic training, IT, or OSET. So at a bare minimum, a soldier would at least have this ribbon on their uniform. So that is a breakdown of just some of the notable awards that someone could receive, as well as some of the common awards that an individual could receive. But before we close out the video, I will talk about some of the awards that I currently have. So of course, I have the Army Service ribbon. I have the overseas ribbon with a number 4 on it, and that means that I have been overseas four times. That is because I served two tours in Korea and also deployed to Iraq twice. I have an Army NCO professional development ribbon.

That ribbon has a number 2 on it. This ribbon is given to individuals that have gone to leadership courses to become noncommissioned officers. And because I went to the school for the rank of E 5 sergeant, as well as the school for the rank of an E 6, a Staff Sergeant, I received a number 2 because I went to both of those schools. At that time, it was PLDC and B NOC, which those names have changed since then. I have the Korea Defense Service ribbon for serving in Korea. The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with four stars. And the four stars represent me being in Iraq during four major phases of the Iraq War. I have the National Defense Service ribbon. I have received the Army Good Conduct Medal three times. That is represented with the ribbon and then three knots across it. I have received four Army Achievement medals. That is represented with the Army Achievement ribbon and then three oak leaf clusters. I’ve received a joint service achievement medal for my service while I was stationed in Korea working with the Swiss and the South Koreans. And I have received four army accommodation medals that is represented with the army accommodation ribbon and three oak leaf clusters.

So there you go. That is a rundown of some of the awards and ribbons and medals that a soldier could receive in the army, as well as some of the ones that I have. If you are currently in the military or previously served in the military, let me know down in the comments below which medal you’ve received that means the most to you. For me, it would be two of my four army accommodation medals as two of them I received for my tour in Iraq for just doing a great job, being a leader and everything else that I did. I guess those ones were probably the hardest ones that I worked the hardest for, I guess. But if you’re not currently in the military, just let me know in the comments what achievement you have maybe gotten that you’re most proud of to this point. So if you liked the video and you found it helpful, make sure to hit that thumbs up. If you want to check out some of my other videos, I got these recommended ones right over there. If you are not yet subscribed to my channel, go ahead and hit that subscribe button.

I’m Christopher Kost. Thanks for watching. I will see you next time. See you.

George N.
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