Medals, ribbons for Iraq deployment explained

10 Jul 2004 | Sgt. Colin Wyers

Marines' medals say a lot about them - where they've been, what they've done.

So what medals can Marines earn while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom? And what are the qualifications?

Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal

The Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal was established by President George W. Bush to recognize service members deployed in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. A Marine can only earn the award once, so no service stars are authorized. Marines engaged in combat against the enemy can be eligible for a battle star.

To be eligible, Marines must have been deployed outside the United States in support of either operation for either 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days, engage the enemy in combat while deployed in support of either operation or be medically evacuated while participating in the operation. Being a member of an aircrew flying sorties into the area of eligibility counts toward the 30 or 60-day requirement.

An Iraq Campaign Medal?

President Bush signed into a law a bill passed by Congress authorizing separate campaign medals for service in the Iraqi and Afghan theaters. The Department of Defense has not yet issued guidance on these awards, however.

Enemy action

The Combat Action Ribbon is awarded to Marines and sailors who engage in a firefight or other combat action and whose performance is satisfactory. The Marine does not necessarily need to return fire - if a convoy is attacked and a humvee driver maneuvers his vehicle out of the kill zone, he could be eligible.

For those taking indirect fire, such as rockets and mortars, only those who actively participate in retaliatory or offensive operations are eligible.

To be eligible for the Purple Heart, a service member must have sustained wounds requiring medical treatment as a result of enemy action, including small arms fire, indirect fire, enemy mines and vehicle accidents caused by enemy fire.

Those who rate the Purple Heart do not necessarily rate the Combat Action Ribbon, and vice versa.

Serving Overseas

The Sea Service Deployment ribbon is for Marines and sailors serving in the Fleet Marine Force who have spent 90 consecutive days deployed. For those Marines supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, the requirement that a Marine spend a year with the unit deployed is waived. The award can only be received once per deployment.

For those Marines and Sailors who deployed and are not part of a Fleet Marine Force unit, they are eligible for the Overseas Service Award.