What are Armed Forces Unit Awards really about?

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A question that comes up very often from veterans and their families, as well as military enthusiasts, is, “What are Armed Forces Unit Awards really about?” Do they really stand for something or are they just “I was there awards.” Well, the answer is …”It depends on the unit award.” A Presidential Unit Citation is a big deal ..unless, of course, it is a Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation and then it is sadly an, “I was there award.” However, the Army, Navy and Air Force Presidential Unit Citation is the personal equivalent of that service’s Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross or Air Force Cross. It is a big deal. On the other hand, the Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation was handed out to every Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary in uniform during Katrina operations. Not such a big deal when everyone in a service gets a military medal, even if they were a thousand miles from the operation.
Shown below is a chart listing the 21 Unit awards of the Armed Forces and their equivalent personal award or service requirement. You can see they range the full spectrum from great valor to being on duty during the Bicentennial.

Unit Awards and Equivalent Personal Award

No. Rank Unit Award Equivalent Personal Award of Service Requirement
1AR 1 Army Presidential Unit Citation Distinguished Service Cross
1N 2 Navy Presidential Unit Citation Navy Cross
1AF 3 Air Force Presidential Unit Citation Distinguished Service Cross or Air Force Cross
1CG 4 CG Presidential Unit Citation Awarded to all CG for Katrina operations
2AF 5 Air Force Gallant Unit Citation Silver Star
DOD 6 Joint Meritorious Unit Award Defense Superior Service Medal
2AR 7 Army Valorous Unit Award Silver Star
2N 8 Navy Unit Commendation Silver Star (for heroism) Legion of Merit (for meritorious service)
3AR 9 Army Meritorious Unit Commendation Legion of Merit
3AF 10 Air Force Meritorious Unit Award Legion of Merit
3N 11 Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Bronze Star Medal
4AF 12 Air Force Outstanding Unit Award “Exceptionally meritorious service” or “Exceptionally outstanding achievement”
5AF 13 Air Force Organizational Excellence “Exceptionally meritorious service” or “Exceptionally outstanding achievement”
4AR 14 Army Superior Unit Award Outstanding meritorious performance during peacetime
1CG 15 DOT Secretary’s Outstanding Unit Award “Valorous or extremely meritorious service” (1993-1994 only)
2CG 16 Coast Guard Unit Commendation Coast Guard Commendation Medal
3CG 17 CG Meritorious Unit Commendation CG Achievement Medal
4CG 18 CG Meritorious Team Commendation Commandant’s Commendation Letter
4N 19 Navy “E” Ribbon Winner of Battle Effeciency Competition
5CG 20 Coast Guard “E” Ribbon Winner of Operational Readiness Award
6CG 21 CG Bicentenial Unit Commendation Honorable Service between 1989-1990
What are Armed Forces Unit Awards really about?, 10.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
There are 1 comments for this article
  1. Ed Stone at 4:19 am
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    Until 2004 the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award was the senior unit award given by the Air Force. The Air Force should reevaluate all AFOUA’s presented prior to 2004 to determine if any would qualify for a Meritorious unit award or higher.

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