Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Armed Forces Service Medal

The Armed Forces Service Medal was created by Executive Order 12985, signed into law Jan. 11, 1996, by President Bill Clinton.

The medal is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who, as a unit, participate in a United States military operation deemed to be a significant activity and who encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action. In many respects, this provision makes the award a non-combat parallel of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

The medal shall be awarded only for operations for which no other United States service medal is approved. For operations in which only personnel of the Navy or Marine Corps participate, the medal shall be awarded only if the Navy or Marine Corps expeditionary medals are deemed inappropriate. No more than one medal shall be awarded to any one person, but for each succeeding operation justifying such award, a bronze service star shall be added to the suspension ribbon and ribbon bar.

Regulations place the Armed Forces Service Medal in an order of precedence immediately before the Humanitarian Service Medal. The medal may be awarded posthumously.

These are representative operations approved to date for award of the Armed Forces Service Medal: 

  • Operation Provide Promise
  • Operation Joint Endeavor
  • Operation Joint Guard (successor to Joint Endeavor)
  • Operation Able Sentry
  • Operation Deny Flight
  • Operation Maritime Monitor
  • Operation Sharp Guard
    (The above operations must be within the total land area and air space of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Italy, and Hungary and the air space above that portion of the Adriatic Sea that lies north of 40 degrees north latitude from 1 June 1992 to a date to be determined.)
  • Also, service with the United Nations Mission in Haiti, U.S. Forces Haiti and U.S. Support Group Haiti is qualifying service for the Armed Forces Service Medal.

To qualify for the medal, service members must be bonafide members of a unit participating for one or more days in the operation within the designated areas of eligibility, or meet one or more of the following criteria: 

(1) Be engaged in direct support for 30 consecutive days in the area of eligibility or for 60 non-consecutive days provided this support involves entering the area of eligibility.

(2) participate as a regularly assigned crew member of an aircraft flying into, out of, within, or over the area of eligibility in support of the operation. 

At right in the photograph is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Medal, an award frequently seen alongside the Armed Forces Service Medal.

The NATO Medal, created by the international organization in 1994 is awarded exclusively by the Secretary General of NATO. On Nov. 24, 1995, the U.S. Secretary of Defense accepted the offer of the NATO Medal made by the NATO Secretary General for operations relating to the former Republic of Yugoslavia.

Service time for the former Yugoslavian operation includes dates between July 1, 1992, and a termination date to be announced later.

The qualifying periods of service are 30 days (continuous or accumulated) in the territory or air space of the former Yugoslavia and the Adriatic Sea, or 90 days (continuous or accumulated) in direct support of NATO operations in areas adjacent to the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Retroactive to July 1, 1992, NATO has expanded the area of eligibility for the NATO Medal to include the countries of Italy, Greece, Hungary and Austria.

The basic criteria for the NATO Medal is that one must serve under the command and control of NATO for this medal. The Navy has no authority to approve exceptions to the criteria for the NATO Medal.

The NATO Medal is categorized as a foreign/international service and has the same precedence as the United Nations Medal, but will rank immediately after the United Nations Medal when the wearer has earned both awards.

The NATO Medal presentation set may include a clasp denoting the specific operation for which the award was made (for this operation the clasp bears the words "Former Yugoslavia"). U.S. service members are authorized to retain the clasp if presented; however, its wearing with the NATO Medal or service ribbon is not authorized. They may wear only the basic medal and service ribbon as shown here.

To recognize subsequent awards for service in a different NATO operation, U.S. service members will place a bronze service star on the medal's suspension ribbon and service ribbon. 

17 August 1998

Published: Wed May 03 12:26:50 EDT 2017