The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced its findings following a year-long review of department policy on military awards and decorations. The review was implemented in an effort to enhance current practices, and increase the timeliness of the Medal of Honor and other valor awards. Development of the review is driven by 14 years of ongoing combat operations, and is designed to “ensure continued appropriate recognition of the service, sacrifices, and actions of its service members while maintaining the historical legacy of the awards program.”

Highlights of the review include:

  • Requirements for the Medal of Honor will remain the same. New guidelines are set to streamline the awarding process and assign clear accountability and responsibility in the awarding process.
  • The normalization of the definition and usage of the “V” device, which again establishes it as a valor-only device—a clear-cut recognition for distinguished acts of valor in combat.
  • The creation and implementation of a combat “C” device that will provide distinction for those service members who have “performed meritoriously while under the most arduous combat conditions.”
  • There is now consensus of a common definition for “meritorious service under combat conditions” to regulate fitting entitlement for personal combat awards, geared to remove award ambiguity. The move is also set to counter the military’s tendency of awarding superfluous medals by rank and title for simply showing up. Specifically, the definition reads, “Personally exposed to hostile action or while under significant risk of hostile action.” This means that those individuals who work under comfortable and secure conditions can no longer receive the validation of a Bronze Star or other valor awards simply by filling out a form with their position but not their actions.
  • The institution of a remote “R” device. The device will provide recognition for service members who, “Use remote technology to directly impact combat operations.” The “R” device is the agreed-upon conclusion of the Nintendo Medal for cyber-warriors and drone operators with a direct impact on combat operations.
  • The Purple Heart medal is authorized for mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), and it will be the responsibility of unit commanders to ensure that their soldiers are properly identified and fittingly awarded.
  • Service stars for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal will recognize participation in the following operations: Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Nomad Shadow, Freedom’s Sentinel, and Inherent Resolve.

The implementation of the DoD policy review is to set be actualized by the individual service branches over the next 12 months.

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