A service ribbon, medal ribbon, or ribbon bar is a small ribbon, mounted on a small metal bar equipped with an attaching device, which is generally issued for wear in place of a medal when it is not appropriate to wear the actual medal. Each country's government has its own rules on what ribbons can be worn in what circumstances and in which order. This is usually defined in an official document and is called "the order of precedence" or "the order of wearing." In some countries (particularly in North America and Israel), some awards are "ribbon only," having no associated medal.
The service ribbon for a specific medal is usually identical to the suspension ribbon on the medal. For example, the suspension and service ribbon for the U.S. government's Purple Heart medal is purple with a white vertical stripe at each end (see Photo).
However, there are some military awards that do not have a suspension ribbon, but have an authorized ribbon and unit award emblem. The Soviet Order of Victory is a badge that was worn on the military parade uniform. However, a ribbon bar representing the Order of Victory was worn on a military field uniform.
Ribbon bars come in a variety of colors. In the case of the U.S. military, it maintains a specific list of colors used on its ribbons, based on the Pantone Matching System and Federal Standard 595 color systems:
|Colors used on U.S. military ribbons|
|Name||Color||RGB value||Pantone MS value|
|Air Force Yellow||255,205,0||116|
|Army Green (Uniform)||40,71,52||553|
|MC Antique White||233,223,151||461|
|Marine Corps Scarlet||228,0,43||185|
|Navy Blue #1||4,30,66||282|
|Navy Blue #2||4,30,66||282|
|Old China Blue||123,175,212||542|
|Old Glory Blue||1,33,105||280|
|Old Glory Red||186,12,47||200|
|Ultramarine Blue||0,20,137||Reflex Blue|
|Victory Medal Blue #1||0,75,135||301|
|Victory Medal Blue #2||0,75,135||301|
There is a variety of constructions of service ribbons. In some countries, service ribbons are mounted on a "pin backing", which can be pushed through the fabric of a uniform and secured, with fasteners, on the inside edge. These ribbons can be individually secured and then lined up, or they can be all mounted on to a single fastener. After the Second World War, it was common for all ribbons to be mounted on a single metal bar and worn in a manner similar to a brooch. Other methods of wearing have included physically sewing each service ribbon onto the uniform garments.
"Orders of wearing" define which ribbons may be worn on which types of uniform in which positions under which circumstances. For example, miniature medals on dinner dress, full medals on parade dress, ribbons on dress shirts, but no decorations on combat dress and working clothing. Some countries (such as Cuba) maintain a standard practice of wearing full service ribbons on combat utility clothing. Others strictly prohibit this. These regulations are generally similar to the regulations regarding display of rank insignia and regulations regarding saluting of more senior ranks. The reasoning for such regulations is to prevent these displays from enabling opposing forces to easily identify persons of higher rank and therefore aid them in choosing targets which will have a larger impact on the battlefield. In times of war, it is not uncommon for commanders and other high value individuals to wear no markings on their uniforms and wear clothing and insignia of a lower ranking soldier.
Service medals and ribbons are generally worn in rows on the left side of the chest. In certain commemorative and/ or memorial circumstances, a relative may wear the medals or ribbons of a dead relative on the right side of the chest. Medals and ribbons not specifically mentioned in the "Order of wear" are also generally worn on the right side of the chest. Sequencing of the ribbons depends on each country's regulations. In the United States, for example, those with the highest status—typically awarded for heroism or distinguished service—are placed at the top of the display, while foreign decorations (when allowed) are last in the bottom rows. When medals are worn (typically on the left side of a shirt or jacket), ribbons with no corresponding medals are worn on the right side.
The study, history and collection of ribbons, among other military decorations, is known as phaleristics (sometimes spelled faleristics by users of U.S. English).
In the U.S. military, the different federal uniformed services have different methods of wearing ribbon bars on uniforms. In the U.S. Navy, they are worn in rows of three with no staggering or spacing between rows (with the exception of the top row, which may be staggered if covered by lapel). For U.S. Navy members who have three or more ribbons, they can elect to wear only their three highest-ranked ones instead of all of them. In the U.S. Marine Corps, they can be worn in rows of three or four, with optional staggering and can be spaced between rows. In the U.S. Army, they can be worn staggered with spacing in between rows. A U.S. serviceman's complete ribbon display is known by a variety of nicknames. It can be referred to colloquially as a "ribbon rack" or "rack" for short, or a "fruit salad".
The "A" Device is a miniature bronze 1⁄4 inch letter "A" which comes with and without serifs, that is authorized for wear by the United States Armed Forces as a medal and ribbon device for two military awards. It is added to overseas service ribbons to indicate the theatre of action.
The Arctic "A" Device (with serifs), if authorized, may be attached to the center of the Air Force Overseas Ribbon - Short Tour, for service beginning February 10, 2002. If an oak leaf cluster is also authorized for wear on the ribbon, the "A" device is worn to the wearer's right of any oak leaf clusters on the ribbon.
The Atlantic "A" Device (without serifs), if authorized, may be attached to the center of the suspension and service ribbon of the American Defense Service Medal for service from June 22 to December 7, 1941. The "A" device is worn in lieu of any authorized 3⁄16 inch bronze star that is worn on the medal and service ribbon.Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon
The Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon (AFESR) is a military award of the United States Air Force which was first created in June 2003. The ribbon is awarded 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. Temporary duty orders also qualify towards the ninety-day time requirement. For deployments exceeding 45–90 days, a single Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon will be awarded for the entire time frame rather than issuing multiple awards for the same period of deployed service.Air Force Longevity Service Award
The Air Force Longevity Service Award is a military award of the United States Air Force established by Air Force General Order 60, on 25 November 1957 by General Thomas D. White, Air Force Chief of Staff. The award was primarily created as an air force equivalent to the service stripes used by other branches of the United States military to denote years of military service. The award is retroactive to the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as an independent service in September 1947. The ribbon is also retroactive for any service with the U.S. Army Air Forces, U.S. Army Air Corps, or U.S. Army Air Service prior to the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service as long as the serviceman was on active duty on or after 18 September 1947.Antarctica Service Medal
The Antarctica Service Medal (ASM) was established by the United States Congress on July 7, 1960 under Public Law 600 of the 86th Congress. The medal was intended as a military award to replace several commemorative awards which had been issued for previous Antarctica expeditions from 1928 to 1941. With the creation of the Antarctica Service Medal, the following commemorative medals were declared obsolete;
Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal
Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal
United States Antarctic Expedition MedalThe Antarctica Service Medal is considered an award of the United States Armed Forces, issued in the name of the U.S. Department of Defense, and is authorized for wear on active duty uniforms. The medal may also be awarded to U.S. civilians, but after the initial award, the civilian should only wear the miniature or the lapel pin depending on the occasion.
The Arctic equivalents of the Antarctica Service Medal are the Navy Arctic Service Ribbon, the Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal and the Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon with Arctic "A" Device.Army Service Ribbon
The Army Service Ribbon (ASR) is a military award of the United States Army that was established by the Secretary of the Army on 10 April 1981 as announced in Department of the Army General Order 15, dated 10 October 1990.Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal
The Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal is a United States military award of the Second World War, which was awarded to any member of the United States Armed Forces who served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945. The medal was created on November 6, 1942 by Executive Order 9265 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The medal was designed by Thomas Hudson Jones; the reverse side was designed by Adolph Alexander Weinman which is the same design as used on the reverse of the American Campaign Medal and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
There were 21 Army and 48 Navy-Marine Corps official campaigns of the Pacific Theater, denoted on the suspension and service ribbon of the medal by service stars which also were called "battle stars"; some Navy construction battalion units issued the medal with Arabic numerals. The Arrowhead device is authorized for those campaigns which involved participation in amphibious assault landings. The Fleet Marine Force Combat Operation Insignia is also authorized for wear on the medal for Navy service members who participated in combat while assigned to a Marine Corps unit. The flag colors of the United States and Japan are visible in the ribbon.
The Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal was first issued as a service ribbon in 1942. A full medal was authorized in 1947, the first of which was presented to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. The European Theater equivalent of the medal was known as the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
Boundaries of Asiatic-Pacific Theater.
(1) The eastern boundary is coincident with the western boundary of the American Theater.
(2) The western boundary is from the North Pole south along the 60th meridian east longitude to its intersection with the east boundary of Iran, then south along the Iran boundary to the Gulf of Oman and the intersection of the 60th meridian east longitude, then south along the 60th meridian east longitude to the South Pole.Award numerals
An arabic numeral device or numeral device sometimes called an "award numeral", is a United States Armed Forces service device that may be authorized for wear on specific service ribbons and suspension ribbons of medals. Arabic numeral devices are bronze or gold in color and are 3⁄16 inch in height.
Arabic numerals are worn to denote award of a second or subsequent award for which a member has already received the initial decoration or award. The ribbon denotes the first award and numerals starting with the numeral 2 denote the total number of awards. The 3⁄16 inch numerals are similar to the 5⁄16 inch Strike/Flight numerals worn by the United States Navy and Marine Corps.U.S. military decorations and awards that may be authorized an Arabic Numeral device are as follows:
Armed Forces Reserve Medal (only in conjunction with the "M" device)
NCO Professional Development Ribbon (numerals indicate the level of the course graduated, not multiple decorations)
Army Overseas Service Ribbon
Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon
Navy Recruiting Service RibbonWith the exception of the Air Medal and Armed Forces Reserve Medal service ribbons and suspension ribbons, the United States Army is the only service branch to currently use numerals on other service ribbons. During World War II, some Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees) were issued the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with numerals instead of service stars.Awards and decorations of the United States Armed Forces
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.Awards and decorations of the United States Department of the Navy
The Awards and decorations of the United States Department of the Navy are the military awards and decorations which are presented to members of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy.
Other military service members may also receive specific Navy Department military awards, provided such service members are performing duty under a Navy or Marine Corps command. Likewise, a Navy or Marine Corps service member may receive medals and decorations of another military branch, if cross assigned to a command of the respective service. All Navy and Marine Corps members are eligible to receive inter-service awards and decorations as well as approved foreign awards and International awards.List of decorations awarded by the United States National Guard
Awards and decorations of the National Guard are presented to members of the United States National Guard and sometimes to members of the state defense forces in addition to regular United States military decorations. Each of the state governments of the United States maintains a series of military decorations for issuance to members of the National Guard, with such awards presented under the authority of the various state adjutants general.
Those National Guard soldiers and airmen who subsequently serve in the active or reserve federal forces of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or United States Air Force (i.e., as active duty or reserve members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard) may not continue to wear and display such decorations on a military uniform, unless such activation is under Title 32 status. Active duty regulations allow federal soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines to accept but not to wear state awards.
Most states authorize the wear of other states' awards if a soldier or airman has earned awards from a state or territory to which he or she is not presently assigned. The order of precedence is typically the presently assigned state, followed by awards from the District of Columbia, then other states by their order of admission.
The following is a list of National Guard decorations, as issued by each of the fifty United States; Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal
The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (MOVSM) is a military award which was created under Executive Order 12830 by George H. W. Bush on January 9, 1993. The medal was designed by the Institute of Heraldry and was first issued in December 1993.Navy Arctic Service Ribbon
The Navy Arctic Service Ribbon is a decoration of the United States Navy which was established in May 1986. The ribbon is authorized to any member of the U.S. Navy or United States Marine Corps for service above the Arctic Circle. Like the Antarctica Service Medal, it may also be awarded to civilians and members of other U.S. services.New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs
The New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs (NYS DMNA) is responsible for the state's New York Army National Guard, New York Air National Guard, New York Guard and the New York Naval Militia. It is headed by Adjutant General of New York Major General Raymond F. Shields Jr., appointed on October 1, 2018. with the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo serving as Commander in Chief of the state's militia forces. It is part of the New York State Executive Department.All of the armories in New York State are run directly or indirectly by the Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
The DMNA headquarters, located in Latham, New York near Albany, is within 8 miles of both the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory and the General Electric Research and Development facility in Niskayuna, New York.Overseas Service Ribbon
An Overseas Service Ribbon is a service military award of the United States military which recognizes those service members who have performed military tours of outside the borders of the United States of America. There are different versions of the Overseas Service Ribbons for the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines receive the Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon.Recruiting Service Ribbon
The Recruiting Service Ribbon is a military award of the United States Armed Forces which is issued by every branch of service with the exception of the United States Army (who instead issues the Recruiter Badge). The Recruiting Service Ribbon recognizes those military service members who have completed a successful tour as a military recruiter in one of the United States Military Recruiting Commands.Sea Service Ribbon
A Sea Service Ribbon is an award of the United States Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army, and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps which recognizes those service members who have performed military duty while stationed on a United States Navy, Coast Guard, Army, or NOAA vessel at sea and/or members of the Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard who have been forward-deployed with their home unit.
Additional awards of the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Naval Reserve Sea Service Ribbon, Coast Guard Sea Service Ribbon, Army Sea Duty Ribbon, and NOAA Corps Sea Service Deployment Ribbon are denoted by bronze and/or silver service stars on the ribbon.Service star
A service star is a miniature bronze or silver five-pointed star 3⁄16 inch (4.8 mm) in diameter that is authorized to be worn by members of the seven uniformed services of the United States on medals and ribbons to denote an additional award or service period. The service star may also be referred to as a campaign star or battle star depending on which award is authorized the star and the manner in which the device is used for the award.Service stars, campaign stars, and battle stars are worn with one point of the star pointing up on the suspension ribbon of a medal or service ribbon. A silver star is worn instead of five bronze stars. A service star is sometimes mistaken for a Bronze Star (Bronze Star Medal) or Silver Star (Silver Star Medal). The service star is also similar to the gold and silver 5⁄16 Inch Stars which may be authorized to be worn on specific individual decorations of certain services to denote additional decorations.Southwest Asia Service Medal
The Southwest Asia Service Medal (SASM or SWASM) is a military award of the United States Armed Forces which was created by order of President George H.W. Bush on March 12, 1991. The award is intended to recognize those military service members who performed duty during the years of the Persian Gulf War. The medal was designed by Nadine Russell of the Army's Institute of Heraldry. The colors of the ribbon are tan, representing sand, with the black, white, red, blue, and green colors symbolizing the colors of coalition countries' national flags.Special Operations Service Ribbon
The Special Operations Service Ribbon is a service award of the United States Coast Guard which was first created 1 July 1987 by order of Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Paul A. Yost Jr.. The award is authorized for certain acts of non-combat meritorious service, for which no other service medal or ribbon is authorized.
The four main areas of eligibility, for the presentation of the Special Operations Service Ribbon, are listed as follows:
Coast Guard operations of a special nature involving multiple agency involvement pertaining to national security or law enforcement.
Coast Guard operations of a special nature in support of special events drawing large media interest and public attention.
Coast Guard operations or involvement with foreign government in all areas of saving life and property at sea.
Coast Guard operations of assistance for friendly and/or developing nations.Initially a one-time award precluded from the use of service stars, multiple awards of the Special Operations Service Ribbon are now denoted by service stars.
The Commandant of the Coast Guard has also periodically authorized award of the Special Operations Service Ribbon to certain warships, aviation squadrons and other selected units of the U.S. Navy, primarily for support of USCG-led counter-narcotics (CN) and drug interdiction operations and to U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force units assisting in search-and-rescue and/or natural disaster operations in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.
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