Five different versions of the Achievement Medal are awarded: one for Joint Service, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard
|Awarded by United States Department of Defense|
|Eligibility||Military personnel only|
|Awarded for||"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."|
|Established||U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps (1961)
U.S. Coast Guard (1963)
U.S. Army (1981)
U.S. Air Force (1981)
U.S. Joint Service (1983)
|Next (higher)||Commendation Medals|
|Next (lower)||Navy & Marine Corps: Combat Action Ribbon
Army: Prisoner of War Medal
Air Force: Combat Action Medal
Coast Guard: Commandant's Letter of Commendation Ribbon
ribbons for Joint, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Achievement Medals
The Achievement Medal is a military decoration of the United States Armed Forces. The Achievement Medal was first proposed as a means to recognize the contributions of junior officers and enlisted personnel who were not eligible to receive the higher Commendation Medal or the Meritorious Service Medal.
Each military service issues its own version of the Achievement Medal, with a fifth version authorized by the U.S. Department of Defense for joint military activity. The Achievement Medal is awarded for outstanding achievement or meritorious service not of a nature that would otherwise warrant awarding the Commendation Medal. Since the Achievement Medal is designated as an award solely for junior personnel, it is generally only awarded to officers in the pay grade of O-4 and below and enlisted personnel below the grade of E-7. Award authority rests with local commanders, granting a broad discretion of when and for what action the Achievement Medal may be awarded.
The Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (NAM), is the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps' version of the Achievement Medal. The United States Navy was the first branch of the United States Armed Forces to award such a medal, doing so in 1961, when it was dubbed the “Secretary of the Navy Commendation for Achievement Medal”. This title was shortened in 1967 to simply, the "Navy Achievement Medal". On 19 August 1994, to recognize those of the United States Marine Corps who had received the Navy Achievement Medal, the name of the decoration was officially changed to the "Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal". The award is referred to in shorthand speech as a "NAM."
Chain of Command approval
From its inception in the early 1960s to 2002, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal could not be approved by the commanding officers of ships, submarines, aviation squadron, or shore activities who held the rank of Commander (O-5). Awards for crewmembers had to be submitted to the Commodore or Air Wing Commander or the first appropriate O-6 in the chain of command for approval, who then signed the award and returned it. This led to a dramatically lower awarding rate when compared to similar size units in the Army or Air Force awarding their own achievement medals, especially considering that those services did not establish their respective achievement medals until the 1980s. Since 2002 the commanding officers of aviation squadrons and ships have had the authority to award NAMs without submission to higher authority. For the Army, battalion commanders (or the first O-5 in a soldier's chain of command) is the approving authority for the Army Achievement Medal.
U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force
The United States Coast Guard created its own Achievement Medal in 1967; the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force issued their own versions of the award with the Army Achievement Medal in 1981 and Air Force Achievement Medal in 1980. The Joint Service Achievement Medal was created in 1983. This award was considered a Department of Defense decoration senior to the service department Achievement Medals. Effective 11 September 2001, the Army Achievement Medal may be awarded in a combat area. Since this change over sixty thousand Army Achievement Medals have been awarded in theaters of operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Additional awards of the Achievement Medal are denoted by oak leaf clusters, except for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard which issues 5/16 inch stars. Oak leaf clusters are authorized by all services for the Joint Services Achievement Medal. The Combat "V" may also be authorized for the Navy & Marine Corps and Coast Guard versions of the Achievement Medal. The Operational Distinguishing Device may also be authorized for wear on the Coast Guard Achievement Medal, upon approval of the awarding authority. The Air Force has authorized the Valor "V" Device in addition to the Oak Leaf Cluster. 
- Awards and decorations of the United States government
- Awards and decorations of the United States military
- Awards and decorations of the United States Coast Guard
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