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Navy Commendation Medal

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To receive a Navy Commendation Medal is a high honor. In the United States Armed Forces, certain acts from soldiers go above and beyond what is called for and expected of them. It is because of these times that service members have the opportunity to receive a commendation medal from their specific branch.

Each branch of the military has its own variation of the commendation medal to offer, while the Navy and Marine Corps share the same medal. The commendation medal is a mid-level military decoration that is presented for meritorious service and sustained acts of heroism. If you see a soldier wearing this medal, you know they have acted in a way that represents what it means to be a United States soldier and they deserve a handshake or a salute, and a whole lot of respect.

History of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal

The Commendation Medal was originally only a service ribbon that was awarded by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy in 1944. Later on, a medal pendant was added and the decoration then became the Navy Commendation Medal. In 1994, the name of the medal was changed to the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. There are additional service-specific Commendation medals that soldiers can receive as well.

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According to the Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual, this medal “is a multi-purpose decoration that may be awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguishes himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service. To merit this award, the acts or services must be accomplished or performed in a manner above that which is normally expected, and sufficient to distinguish the individual above those performing similar services.”

Different Variations of the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal

Military ribbons and medals signify additional achievements and participation in certain events that go above and beyond the “norm” of what is expected and outlined for soldiers. They are to be worn in a specific manner and location that is in line with military policies, procedures, and dress code requirements. There are different variations of the Navy Commendation Medal, so let’s take a look at some of those variations and what they stand for.

There are authorized devices for the Navy Commendation Medal those are:

  1. 5/16th-inch gold or silver stars that denote subsequent awards
  2. As of January 7, 2016, a “V” device denotes that the award or medal was for valor.
  3. According to the manual, “the combat distinguishing device, also known as combat ‘V,’ was authorized from December 1941 to January 6, 2016, to denote the award was for valor, or was for meritorious service while exposed to hazards of participation in combat operations. This latter use of ‘V’ is no longer authorized.”
  4. “C” device represents meritorious service or achievement under combat conditions on or after January 7, 2016.
  5. “R” denotes the meritorious service or achievement “had a direct but remote impact on combat operations on or after January 7, 2016.”
  6. Only one letter device is authorized to be worn, V, C, or R. The only exception is if the award was received previously, and then the solder must ensure the devices are worn according to their specific uniform regulations.

Navy Unit Commendation Medal

The Navy Unit Commendation Medal is reserved for those in the U.S. Navy or Marines who are recognized for outstanding heroism, or any ship, unit, detachment or aircraft of the Navy or Marines. The caliber of the act should be almost equivalent, but less than what it would require to receive a Silver Star Medal, which is the third-highest decoration for valor in the United States armed forces. The Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal is not to be confused with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the latter being the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism.

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In 2015, quotas for issuing Navy meritorious unit commendation medals were removed. Once upon a time, Commanders were limited to the number of commendation medals they could issue, 1 to every 50 Marine or sailor each year. Additional awards beyond that number required approval from a general officer which required more time and energy, and slowed down or minimized the award to deserving soldiers who went above and beyond their service expectations, performing meritorious or heroic acts or services to help others or their mission.

This lax on quotas doesn’t mean the standards for receiving a commendation medal have loosened at all. The criteria, standards, and level of achievement are just as stringent, but the purpose of eliminating quotas was to speed up the process of awarding these medals, which has been criticized in the past for its slowness. Speeding up the process increases the impact and purpose of awarding these Commendation medals, while also giving more people the power to issue them, thus removing the bottleneck of needing a 3-star General to authorize the medal.

Colonels now have permanent authority to issue Navy Commendation Medals, as well as Lieutenant Colonel’s who are acting commanders. This is a change because it used to require approval from a brigadier general, and a few years before that, a three-star General. Marine administrative message 491/15 states that “this change is intended to allow commanders appropriate freedom of maneuver to appropriately recognize members under their command for heroism or valor, exceptionally meritorious service, or outstanding achievement and other acts of services which are above and beyond what is normally expected, and which distinguish an individual among those performing similar acts or services.”

Receiving a Navy Commendation Medal and Joint Service Commendation Medals

Although it is often called the Navy Commendation Medal, on August 19, 1994, Secretary of the Navy John Howard Dalton recognized that the U.S. Marine Corps have always been issued the Navy Commendation Medal, and that they don’t have their own separate, distinct medal for meritorious service or acts. So he changed the name of the Navy Commendation Medal to the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal to include both branches of services.

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Oftentimes, soldiers receive more than one type of commendation medal. When they are awarded more than one type of medal, the multiple awards are denoted with bronze or silver oak leaf clusters, regardless of their branch of service. In 1963, a Joint Service Commendation Medal was created with its intention of being awarded to senior service on a joint military staff. The Joint Service Commendation Medal takes precedence to a service-specific Commendation medal. Because of this, the Joint Service Commendation Medal is worn above any other service-specific Commendation medals on a military uniform.

An Honor To receive a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal

It is a high honor to receive a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. It means the soldier went above and beyond the call of duty. It represents true acts of heroism, of meritorious services or acts that had a great impact on those around them. It means that they acted in a way that displayed true courage, bravery, quick-thinking, or skills that are beyond the base level expectations of their position. If you have aspirations of advancing in your career with the military, or of receiving Commendation medals such as this one, it’s important to go into your service aiming to do your very best, and maybe even then some. After all, when you’re active in the military, you are pushed beyond the limits that you thought you had, and you may realize that you have a lot more talent and courage that you once believed.

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