The Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) is not just any ordinary recognition.
It’s reserved for the special soul that is willing to risk their lives and spend a` significant amount of time away from loved ones.
As a result, soldiers may become decorated with awards like Army ARCOM during service.
Discover 8 things to know about the Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM), including purpose and eligibility.
Related Article – Army Achievement Medal (AAM): 6 Things To Know
Army ARCOM Medal: 8 Things to Know
The U.S. Armed Forces utilize several methods to distinguish military personnel that goes above and beyond.
These include military achievements like the Purple Heart, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, and Army Achievement Medal (AAM).
Military personnel in the 5 primary branches of the Armed Forces each receive their own unique version of the Commendation Medal.
The Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) is considered a mid-level decoration and is awarded to personnel of the service branch.
Honorees of Army ARCOM usually receive recognition for “exceptional or meritorious service or acts of heroism.”
What does that mean, and how does a soldier qualify for the Commendation Medal?
Before we get too far, here is what you need to know regarding Army ARCOM:
- Eligibility / Requirements
- Army Service Ribbon
- Army ARCOM Devices
- Uniform Placement
- Army ARCOM Replication
The Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) is awarded for individual acts of heroism and those achieved as a unit.
Below, we’ll address each aspect of Army ARCOM in more detail:
#1. Purpose of Army ARCOM
The Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) is a special type of recognition for service members.
In general, Army personnel receive ARCOM for various “exceptional” acts, including:
- Heroism (as an Individual Soldier)
- Heroism (as a military unit)
- Meritorious Achievement
- Meritorious Service
The Army Commendation Medal is considered a “mid-level” military decoration.
In other words, the medal is not the most prestigious award one can receive, yet the honor still ranks higher compared to the Army Achievement Medal.
The commendation is generally awarded for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service.
It’s usually granted to U.S. Army personnel that are not general officers.
All in all, there are Commendation Medals for each service branch (Army, Naval Service, Air and Space Forces, and U.S. Coast Guard).
Moreover, a fifth version exists for joint military service and is issued by the Department of Defense (DoD).
Service members are further distinguished by bronze and silver oak leaf clusters (more information, below).
#2. History of Army ARCOM
The Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) has a long and decorated history.
The commendation initially consisted of a service ribbon which is still featured with the current ensemble (more details, below).
Originally, the Commendation Medal was reserved for members of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
However, after the Coast Guard and Navy introduced their versions in 1943 the U.S. Army soon followed in 1945.
Later, the service ribbons evolved into the current version, which now includes a bronze medal (see: Army ARCOM Design).
The original bronze medals date back to the 1960s when they were first authorized.
Today, Army ARCOM is also awarded to foreign countries and dignitaries.
In fact, the United States recently granted Commendation Medals to South Korean soldiers that rescued a defector from North Korea in 2017.
#3. Eligibility & Requirements
The Army Commendation Medal and Ribbon (ARCOM) are awarded to members of the military branch that perform “exceptional” service.
These include extraordinary acts of duty, courage, and heroism.
The Army Commendation Medal was initially established to recognize soldiers when the Bronze Star is not applicable.
For example, many quality and exceptional acts of service occur outside combat areas.
As a result, the qualifications for the Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) are fairly loose aside from the stipulation of being grade O-6 or lower.
Thus, anyone below the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Army qualifies, along with military members of foreign countries.
Some examples of qualifying service for medal recognition, include:
- Distinctive meritorious achievement and service.
- Acts of courage involve no voluntary risk to life.
- Sustained meritorious performance of duty.
The United States Army stipulates that authorization of the award must come from an officer grade Colonel (O-6) or higher.
Related Article – Top 15 Military Medals / Awards Ranked & Explained
The Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) features a noteworthy design.
The medallion is hexagonal and produced with bronze.
It features an American bald eagle on the front of the medal with wings spread horizontally.
The eagle grasps 3 crossed arrows while a shield paly of 13 sections and a chief.
The front design is somewhat comparable to the Naval Service Commendation Medal, yet is produced with a different metal.
Furthermore, the Navy version of the Commendation award is not granted near as frequently to sailors and, thus, rare.
Meanwhile, on the reverse side of Army ARCOM is room for inscription between the lines “For Military” and “Merit”.
The wording is above a laurel sprig that further distinguishes the Commendation Medal from other versions.
Army ARCOM is usually awarded with a service ribbon, “V” device, and/or oak leaf cluster (more details, below).
#5. Army Commendation Ribbon
The Army Commendation Medal includes a service ribbon.
In fact, the ribbon presided the medallion as the original recognition of the accolade.
The Army ARCOM ribbon is myrtle green and flanked by white.
Meanwhile, in the center of the ribbon, there are 5 thin white stripes spaced equally apart.
All in all, there are 12 stripes within the 1 3/8″ service ribbon.
Today, the service ribbon often replaces the Commendation Medal when it’s inappropriate to wear it directly on the uniform.
Service members that earn the decoration are authorized to dawn on the ribbon rack (more instructions, below).
#6. Army ARCOM Devices
The Army ARCOM ribbon is adorned on the service uniform with other honors, referred to as “devices”.
The protocol designates that these devices are displayed on the service ribbon.
For this reason, you may notice unique decorations such as “V” or “C”, or even a silver oak leaf cluster.
Devices that are commonly associated with Army ARCOM include:
- Oak Leaf Clusters (Silver & Bronze)
- “V” Device (for valorous actions in direct contact with an enemy)
- “C” Device (for meritorious service or achievement under combat conditions)
- “R” Device (for direct and immediate impact on combat operations from a remote location)
Often, Army ARCOM serves as a substitute for the Bronze Star Medal when valorous actions occur, but do not meet the guidelines necessary for the Bronze Star.
Thus, service members with this special distinction receive a “V” device they may attach to the service ribbon.
The same is true of the “C” and “R” devices that sometimes adorn service uniforms.
The “C” device is a recent accolade that was added to the Armed Forces in 2016.
It recognizes those of meritorious service or achievement under the most arduous combat conditions while the soldier is exposed to hostile action.
The award can also recognize military personnel present in an area where other service members were actively engaged.
The military decoration is sometimes referred to as the “Combat Commendation”.
Oak Leaf CLusteres
The service branch also awards Army personnel with oak leaf clusters.
These bronze and silver devices were created to also adjourn a service ribbon.
The bronze version of the medal represents 1 achievement, while the silver version represents 5 achievements.
Hence, a silver oak leaf cluster is the equivalent of 5 oak leaf clusters.
Oak leaf clusters, regardless of metal, are displayed with the stems pointing toward the right from the vantage of the soldier.
Army service members are not allowed to present more than 4 oak leaf clusters on a single ribbon.
The service ribbon can also represent a single achievement in itself which is why multiple ribbons are sometimes present on a military uniform.
#7. Army ARCOM Medal Placement
Where do you place the Army Commendation Medal?
What about the Army ARCOM service ribbon and oak leaf clusters?
The Army Commendation Medal and Ribbon are placed on the same location of the service uniform regardless of which one is selected.
Thus, the Order of Precedence for the medallion and/or service ribbon is 27.
Army ARCOM is placed on the ribbon rack as a substitute for the actual medal.
It’s between the position of the Joint Service Commendation Medal and before other Commendation Medals.
Furthermore, other honors from the service branch (like Army AAM) are displayed below the Commendation Medals.
The subsequent awards of the same achievement are further acknowledged with oak leaf cluster(s).
Additionally, the service ribbon may dawn “V”, “C”, or “R” device designations.
It’s crucial to follow these guidelines because the U.S. Army, like all military branches, takes its uniform standards very seriously.
#8. Replication & Fraud
The military demands a special type of person.
It’s the rare individual that is brave and courageous, as well as honest and trustworthy.
For this reason, service uniforms and medals should be reserved for military personnel.
Sadly, some attempt to impersonate soldiers by showing up to events in uniform with undeserved medals.
Fortunately, these shenanigans are illegal thanks to the Stolen Valor Act of 2013.
The federal law prosecutes imposters falsely claiming to be the recipient of military awards, medals, and achievements.
Thus, those with the “intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit” by impersonating a service member faces punishment, including fines and/or imprisonment.
Related Article – Bronze Star Meaning: 7 Things To Know About This Military Medal
Army ARCOM is an important decoration of military service.
The medal and/or service ribbon is displayed with pride on the ribbon rack of a uniform.
Army ARCOM designates exceptional service with acts of courage, duty, or heroism.
Moreover, the military recognition is also awarded to members of foreign militaries that assist the Free World.
The mid-level award is granted to Army personnel that fall below the rank of O-6 (Colonel).
In general, the Army Commendation Medal and Ribbon are awarded by local commanders.
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