sea service ribbon
General Military Questions

Sea Service Ribbon: All 5 Military Branches Explained

The Sea Service Ribbon holds a special place in the military award echelon.

It’s designed to recognize military personnel in various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces that perform a specific service.

Therefore, “sea service” is attributed to duty while stationed on a military vessel.

Learn more about the important role, appearance, history, and function of each Sea Service Ribbon.

Related ArticleOverseas Service Ribbon Explained For All 6 Military Branches

Sea Service Ribbon Explained

The Sea Service Ribbon is a military award presented in most service branches.

The primary exception is the United States Air Force and Space Force, which do not currently feature such an award.

Therefore, you can find a type of Sea Service Ribbon in the following military branches:

  • U.S. Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Marine Corps
  • U.S. Navy

Additionally, the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps also presents its own version of this military achievement.

The specific name and appearance of each Sea Service Ribbon varies depending on the service branch (more details, below).

Otherwise, the award is intended to recognize service members who perform a duty assignment while stationed on a military vessel.

The length of duty and other eligibility requirements vary depending on the service branch.

In general, additional honors of the award are displayed on the ribbon with bronze or silver service stars.


The United States Navy and Marine Corps were the first service branches to establish a Sea Service Ribbon in 1980.

Meanwhile, the Navy Reserve followed not too long thereafter in 1986.

The U.S. Coast Guard version was also created around this era (1984).

Then, there is the United States Army, which recently incorporated its own version of the sea service award in 2006.

It’s worth mentioning that another service ribbon is granted to NOAA Commissioned Corps and Public Health Service Officers.

The purpose of this 5th version of the military accomplishment is to recognize personnel who serve on a military vessel but do not act directly under the U.S. Armed Forces.

Now, for a closer examination of each Sea Service Ribbon awarded, depending on the military branch:

Navy & Marine Corps Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

navy and marine corps sea service deployment ribbon

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps were the first service branches that created a Sea Service Ribbon.

The purpose of the award was to recognize the unique contributions and extraordinary sacrifices of military personnel aboard a vessel.

Thus, the Navy and Marine Corps Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (SSDR) was established in 1980.

The Overseas Service Ribbon is provided to any service member who is assigned to a deployable unit that operates away from its assigned homeport and is forward-deployed.

In general, the length of time for forward-deployment is either:

  • 90 consecutive days (within a 12-month period); or
  • 80 days combined in two different periods (within a 12-month period); or
  • 6 months stationed overseas in a forward-deployed location.

Furthermore, the Navy & Marine Corps Sea Service Deployment Ribbon is retroactive to August 1974.

The Sea Service Ribbon is provided to military personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps assigned to a deployable unit, including:

  • Military Vessels (including ships and submarines)
  • Aircraft Squadrons
  • Air Wings
  • Air Groups
  • Detachments
  • Battalions
  • Marine Expeditionary Units
  • Marine Air Ground Task Force

Finally, both service branches recognize staff assigned to specialized groups or squadrons, including:

  • Destroyer Squadrons (DESRONS)
  • Amphibious Squadrons (PHIBRONS)
  • Amphibious Readiness Groups (ARG)
  • Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs)
  • Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs)

The Marine Corps and Navy recognize additional awards by presenting 3/16″ bronze stars (providing for the 2nd-5th award).

Meanwhile, the silver star is displayed on the uniform as a substitute for 5 bronze stars.

Interestingly enough, when a ship’s crew qualifies for the Sea Service Ribbon, the ship is authorized to display the ribbon directly on the ship.

Marine Corps and Navy aviation squadrons have a comparable method for displaying the ribbon in the exterior or interior of the hangar.

Related Article15 US Navy Ribbons Explained

Navy Reserve Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

navy reserve sea service deployment ribbon

Additionally, the U.S. Navy Reserve features its own version of the Sea Service Ribbon.

The color pattern and appearance of the Navy Reserve version look distinctively different from the other ribbons.

It signifies the successful accomplishment of sea service duty.

In general, the Navy Reserve Sea Service Deployment Ribbon is available to personnel who complete a cumulative of 90 days of OCONUS or Underway Duty.

The other stipulation is that the sea service must occur while being assigned to a deployable Navy Reserve or active-duty unit.

Thus, you’ll also find members of the U.S. Navy who qualify for the Reserve version of the award depending on the circumstances.

There are many eligibility requirements that may defer the service member to receive a comparable award, like the Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon.

Finally, the service award is sometimes presented to members of embarked Navy Reserve staff, provided at least half of the drills qualify as “underway” drills.

Related Article12 US Marine Corps Ribbons Explained

Coast Guard Sea Service Ribbon

coast guard sea service ribbon

The United States Coast Guard features its own variant of the military award.

It’s known as the Coast Guard Sea Service Ribbon.

The service ribbon was established in the branch in 1984.

In general, the Coast Guard ribbon is provided to guardians who complete more than 12 cumulative months of sea duty.

Traditionally, this sea duty occurs on board a U.S. Coast Guard cutter or attached to a Fleet Training Group.

Moreover, it’s not uncommon for the award to recognize those on board certain Coast Guard vessels (or even non-Coast Guard vessels).

For example, this may happen aboard a U.S. Navy warship with a Coast Guard LEDET embarked (and under official Coast Guard orders).

Lastly, additional awards are denoted by service stars, like the other ribbons featured in the article.

Related Article16 Coast Guard Ribbons Explained

Army Sea Duty Ribbon

Army Sea Duty Ribbon

The United States Army Sea Duty Ribbon (ASDR) was recently created in 2006.

As such, the history and tradition of the military award are not as renowned as other service branches.

Furthermore, the requirements are more demanding, requiring 2 cumulative years of sea duty.

The sea service may occur on a Class A or B Army vessel or the ship of another service branch, depending on the circumstances.

Moreover, members of the U.S. Army National Guard and Army Reserve also qualify for the service award.

Those in the Army Reserve or National Guard must have 2 years of creditable service in a watercraft unit (including at least 25 days underway).

Additionally, two annual training exercises must occur underway on a Class A or B U.S. Army vessel.

Despite the recent incorporation of the award, it is retroactive all the way back to August 1, 1952.

Subsequent awards are designated with bronze or silver stars.

Oddly, the Army variant of the ribbon appears nearly identical to the Navy and Marine Corps version, aside from the center stripe.

Related ArticleArmy Service Ribbon (ASR): 5 Things To Know

NOAA Corps Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

NOAA Corps sea service deployment ribbon

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently established the service ribbon in 2002.

Previously, members of NOAA were eligible for the Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon prior to the creation of this ribbon.

It’s awarded to members of the NOAA Commissioned Corps and Public Health Service Officers.

NOAA requires that eligible members have served 12 months of sea duty, which may also include temporary assignments.

In general, the basic requirement is that the official completes at least 90 days of consecutive sea duty.

Recipients of the award are eligible for subsequent designations indicated by service stars on the ribbon.

Related Article20 Air Force Ribbons Explained


The Sea Service Ribbon is an important military decoration of most military branches of the Armed Forces.

It recognizes a specified length of time serving the military in a sea duty assignment.

The appearance of the service ribbon and requirements for the award vary depending on the branch of the military.

Currently, the U.S. Air Force and Space Force are the only service branches not to award the ribbon to personnel.

Rob V.
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

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The Sea Service Ribbon recognizes military personnel that complete duty while stationed on a military vessel. Learn more about the ribbons.
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