army achievement medal - aam award

Army Achievement Medal (AAM): 6 Things To Know

The Army Achievement Medal (AAM) recognizes outstanding contributions in the service branch.

It was created as an alternative to the Commendation Medal.

The Army AAM medal awards military personnel that has demonstrated meritorious service during their tenure.

Discover the 6 things to know about the Army Achievement Medal (AAM).

Related ArticleTop 15 Military Medals / Awards Ranked & Explained

6 Things to Know About Army AAM

aam army award

Army AAM is a tremendous honor in the service branch.

The Achievement Medal was established as another means to recognize those in service that goes the extra mile.

For this reason, the Army Achievement Medal (AAM) acknowledges those in service who demonstrate outstanding achievement or meritorious service.

What exactly does that mean, and who qualifies for the military medal?

There are several important things to know about Army AAM, including:

  • Purpose
  • History
  • Eligibility / Requirements
  • Design
  • Army AAM Ribbon
  • Uniform Placement

Learn more about each aspect of the Army Achievement Medal (AAM), below:

#1. Purpose of Army AAM

The Achievement Medal is a military decoration of the U.S. Armed Forces.

It was first proposed as a method for recognizing outstanding achievement or meritorious service of military personnel.

The Achievement Medal is designed to serve as a substitute for the more prestigious:

  • Commendation Medal
  • Meritorious Service Medal

Every service branch in the U.S. Armed Forces issues its own version of the Achievement Medal.*

Therefore, Army Achievement Medal (AAM) is specifically reserved for the military branch.

The purpose of Army AAM is to acknowledge the following:

Meritorious service or achievement in either combat or noncombat situations based on sustained performance or specific achievement of a superlative nature but which does not warrant a Commendation Medal or higher.

Who determines what military personnel is deserving of the medal?

In general, the battalion commander or Lieutenant Colonel (O-5) in a soldier’s chain of command authorize the award.

*NOTE: There is a fifth version of the Achievement Medal authorized by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in recognition of joint military activity.

#2. History

aam army

The United States Navy is the first service branch to award an Achievement Medal.

The military branch created the Achievement Medal in 1961 and expanded the award to include the Marine Corps in 1994.

Later, the U.S. Coast Guard issued its own Achievement Medal in 1967 followed by the Army.

The Army Achievement Medal (AAM) came into existence in 1981.

It has recently been awarded more frequently following an order effective 9/11.

Now, Army AAM may also be awarded in a combat area (see: Eligibility & Requirements, for more information).

The adaption in Army protocol has contributed to over 60,000 medals being awarded to soldiers that served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

#3. Eligibility & Requirements

Army AAM is traditionally granted to military personnel for outstanding achievement or meritorious service that doesn’t quite warrant a Commendation Medal.

Thus, the most common recipients are enlisted personnel below the military rank of Sergeant First Class (E-7).

Furthermore, Army officers below the ranks of O-4 (Major) may also qualify for the military medal.

Recently, the U.S. Army expanded its requirements to include service members in combat roles.

As a result, it’s also possible for soldiers to earn an Achievement Medal in a combat area (that doesn’t involve direct combat).

While Army AAM is technically a lower merit award than other medals (like the Commendation Medal) it’s not to discredit its value.

The Achievement Medal was largely introduced to recognize the contributions of lower-ranking service members and junior officers.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t discount the value of the award since lower grades usually do not qualify for more prestigious honors.

Related ArticleWhat To Do With Old Military Uniforms

#4. Design

Army AAM presents a unique octagonal shape and design.

The military medal is composed of bronze and usually is connected to a ribbon (more details, below).

The Army Achievement Medal features a few noteworthy references.

First, the design etched onto the bronze is the Department of the Army (DA) plaque.

Secondly, “1775” signifies the year the U.S. Continental Army was established to defend the nation.

Third, on the reverse side of Army AAM are the words: “For Military Achievement”

The backside of the medal allows for inscription and features two subtle slips of laurel.

Meanwhile, the service ribbon is denoted by 2 green stripes on each side with a blue line running through the center.

The lines in the ribbon are flanked by white stripes to present the award with further distinction.

#5. Army AAM Ribbon

army award aam

The Army Achievement Medal (AAM) is awarded with a service ribbon.

The primary purpose of the ribbon is to wear it on the uniform (more instructions, below) in the absence of the full medal.

As a result, the service member can still be recognized without having to haul the actual bronze around everywhere.

Furthermore, personnel has the freedom to suspend other achievement medals to the service ribbon.

These symbols of achievement include an oak leaf cluster.

Whenever you spot one attached to the ribbon it denotes preceding decorations and awards.

The ribbon device consists of a silver or bronze twig with 4 oak leaves and 3 acorns on the stem.

The bronze version of the oak leaf cluster denotes one additional award.

Meanwhile, the silver oak version represents 5 bronze oak leaf clusters.

Thus, the prestige of a soldier is easily identifiable by the contents of their uniform, including the Army AAM ribbon.

It’s worth noting that the U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense also display the ribbon as part of the Achievement Award.

Related ArticleBronze Star Meaning: 7 Things To Know About This Military Medal

#6. Army AAM Uniform Placement

Those that earn Army AAM should display the medal and/or service ribbon on the ribbon rack.

The Order of Precedence of the Army Achievement Medal is 32.

The U.S. Army uses an Order of Precedence to determine the correct medal placement on the service uniform.

Consequently, service members should adhere to the same guidelines if replacing the medal with ribbon on a uniform.

For guidance, the Army Achievement Medal is displayed after the Joint Service Achievement Medal, but before other achievement awards.

The other achievement awards generally consist of individual oak leaf clusters to signify additional recognition.

Oak leaf clusters are worn with the stems pointing toward the right (based on the vantage point of the soldier).

Army personnel are not authorized to display more than 4 oak leaf clusters on the same ribbon.

Therefore, service members with more than one ribbon denote additional decorations and potentially more leaf clusters.

Soldiers should always adjust the total count accordingly depending on if they have silver or bronze twigs.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 makes it illegal for any person to falsely claim and represent military service, including displaying medals that were not awarded.

Those that falsely represent military personnel face fines and/or imprisonment.


The Army Achievement Medal (AAM) is an important distinction.

The military medal is one of many methods to demonstrate a soldier is decorated.

Army AAM is granted based on merit or other “outstanding” acts during service.

For this reason, it’s a great alternative for lower grades in the Army that generally do not qualify for more prestigious awards.


Rob V.
Latest posts by Rob V. (see all)
Army Achievement Medal

Army Achievement Medal

4.8 out of 5 (55 Ratings)

Army AAM is a special recognition for military service that is considered "outstanding" or done with merit. Learn more about the medal.

Originally posted on 02/17/23

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I have personally vetted. Learn more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *