Awards and Decorations
NB This article is by no means exhaustive
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See also: medals
As with the armed forces of all nations, the Head of State bestows various awards such as campaign medals in recognition of an individual's participation in operations, and gallantry awards in recognition of acts of exceptional valour. The more auspicious awards are rightly held in the highest esteem by the mere mortals not in receipt of such awards, and while justifiably proud, the recipients are typically modest.
With the passage of time most individuals will naturally gradually accrue a collection of campaign medals which will serve, in addition to recognising operational service, to establish an unofficial seniority over niggier Toms; an ally pecking order. They're also a nice, well-earned bit of bling to go with your ginger suit and they give your mum an extra reason to make fuss over you.
If, however, you find yourself on parade for Remembrance as a Ssgt, bare-chested, and even the niggy BAT Lancejacks have something to show for their short careers, you need to have a word with yourself, you war dodger!
UK Gallantry Awards
The awards for gallantry, leadership and bravery on active operations (in the presence of the enemy) are:
Victoria Cross (VC)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (for command and leadership), Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) (for gallantry)
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) (at sea), Military Cross (MC) (on land), Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) (in the air)
Mention in Despatches (for bravery, no post-nominal)
(My first RSM, during basic training at ATR Pirbright, WO1 R.W.J. Jackson, MM, Scots Guards, was a recipient of the Military Medal which is an equivalent award to the Military Cross. The MM was discontinued in 1993 in favour of awarding the MC to all ranks where the criteria is met; prior to that it was awarded only to Warrant Officers and junior Officers. My first razzman, he was officially the scariest man alive. He was awarded the MM for his actions in the Falklands at Mount Tumbledown.)
The gallantry and bravery awards for non-active operations (ie not in presence of the enemy) are:
George Cross (GC)
George Medal (GM)
Queens's Gallantry Medal (QGM), Air Force Cross (AFC)
Queen's Commendation for Bravery, Queen's Commendation for Bravery in the Air (both for bravery, no post-nominal)
Recipients of the awards listed with an abbreviation are entitled to use the abbreviation as a post-nominal.
(As an example, Pc Trevor Lock was awarded the George Medal for his actions at the Iranian Embassy in 1980 when They mounted Op NIMROD and he tackled the leader of the hostage-takers to prevent him from shooting one of Them.
The more commonly awarded medals, these are awarded to all personnel taking part in current operations.
Operational Service Medal (OSM). The new Operational Service Medal was introduced on 1 January 2000 - apparently the eligibility criteria are 'complex' so heaven knows if/ when you're due one. Comes with a variety of clasps to denote different theatres.
Iraq Medal (from 2003 onward). Continuing their attempt to baffle us all, the eligibility criteria vary with dates and physical locations of your operational service. Then there's the clasp to consider...
General Service Medal (GSM). In 1962, the GSM 1962 replaced the separate Naval GSM 1915 and the GSM 1918 awarded to Army and RAF personnel taking part in campaigns and operations which fell short of full-scale war. Thirteen different clasps have been available for presentation with the GSM: 'Borneo', 'Radfan', 'South Arabia', 'Malay Peninsula', 'South Vietnam', 'Northern Ireland', 'Dhofar', 'Lebanon', 'Mine Clearance Gulf of Suez', 'Gulf', 'Kuwait', 'N. Iraq & S. Turkey' and 'Air Operations Iraq'.
There are countless other campaign medals, awarded for service in various far-flung parts of the globe, including: Korea, Korea UN, GSM Africa 1952-56 (Kenya), Rhodesia, South Atlantic, Gulf, OSM (Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo), Iraq (mentioned above), Iraq Reconstruction Service Medal, Accumulated Campaign Service Medal, UN Cyprus Medal, UN Former Repulic of Yugoslavia Medal, NATO Former Repulic of Yugoslavia Medal, NATO Kosovo Medal, NATO Macedonia Medal, NATO Non Article 5 Medal, European Security & Defence Policy Service Medal Op Athlea.
WW2 Campaign Medals
1939 - 1945 Star
Air Crew Europe Star
France & Germany Star
War Medal 1939 - 45
Without going into exhaustive detail, I felt it necessary to at least mention two old favourites:
Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (LS&GC) Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal
The LSGC is awarded upon reaching the appropriate length of service while maintaining a nice clean rap sheet. Of course, the award isn't so much for actual good behaviour; any recipient will tell you with a wink, it's awarded to recognise 15 years undetected crime. (There's only one crime: getting caught!)
The Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal was awarded to personnel of the Regular, Reserve and Cadet forces who were in effective service on 6 February 2002, who had completed 5 full calendar years reckonable service and were properly enlisted on or before 7 February 1997. The 5 year minimum service crtieria caused, depending on who you believe, entire platoons - nay, companies - to march from the parades where those eligible had been presented with the medal, and those ineligible had not, in spite of recently having undertaken operational tours. Additionally, an exception was made for Princes William and Harry, because grannies do love to spoil their grandchildren, irrespective of Royal status!
How Not To Do It
Of course, while recognition of service is an honourable and worthwhile thing, especially when acts of heroic bravery are involved, it is possible to overdo it. I am, of course referring to Walts, see here and here. Of course, if you're American there's no need to Walt it up. There are medals and ribbons to be had for all sorts of achievements, like completing basic training in the Air Force. According to the USAF website, "Nothing makes a uniform look more complete than a set of ribbons. But ribbons are not issued along with clothing and boots. Airmen have to earn them. While attending BMT [Basic Mil Trg], Airmen have the opportunity to earn three ribbons upon graduation." So that's approximately 8 1/2 weeks (increased in Nov '08 from 6 1/2 weeks) to earn up to 3 ribbons. Shit the bed, they work their recruits hard, don't they.
The US Army offers an equivalent known as the Army Service Ribbon. It is harder-earned, taking a minimum of 15 weeks to achieve, but it's worth the extra effort thanks to its resemblance to one of these.
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