This medal is presented as an individual service medal. The activities for which the Humanitarian Service Medal may be authorized are designated by the United States Department of Defense. Such activities include natural disaster relief, evacuation of non-combatants from a hostile area, or humanitarian support to refugees. This medal may not be awarded for services rendered in domestic disturbances involving law enforcement, equal rights demonstrations, or protection of property. This medal may also not be presented if either the Armed Forces Service Medal or Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal was presented for the same period of service.
Centered on the obverse of the medal within a circle, is a right hand pointing diagonally upward with open palm, (to symbolize a giving or helping hand). At the top of the reverse of the medal is the inscription, For Humanitarian Service in three lines. Below this is an oak branch, with three leaves and three acorns, and below this, around the outside edge of the medal, is the inscription, United States Armed Forces.