The Department of the Air Force first began issuing awards and decorations in 1947. At that time, airmen were eligible to receive most U.S. Army decorations. In 1962, following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Department of the Air Force began a concentrated effort to create its own distinctive awards, separate from the Army.
Air Force Valor Award: similar to the Airman's Medal. Gold-colored medal design bearing the Air Force thunderbolt on an equilateral triangle surmounted by the Air Force eagle perched on a scroll inscribed "Valor" within an olive wreath. Ribbon is light blue with four yellow stripes, two dark blue stripes, and one red stripe in the center.
Air Force Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award: similar to the military Legion of Merit. Bronze medal bearing the Air Force coat of arms with a wreath of laurel leaves. Ribbon is white trimmed in maroon with three maroon stripes in the center.
Air Force Command Award for Valor: similar to the military Meritorious Service Medal when awarded for heroism. Sterling silver medal of the same design as the Air Force Valor Award. Ribbon is light-blue silk with four yellow stripes and one red stripe in the center.
Air Force Exemplary Civilian Service Award: For clearly outstanding service supporting a command mission for at least one year or a single act that significantly contributed to command mission. Similar to the military Commendation Medal.
Secretary of the Air Force Distinguished Public Service Award: For distinguished public service to the Air Force which translates into substantial contributions to the accomplishment of the Air Force mission. This is the highest public service award bestowed to private citizens by the Secretary of the Air Force.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Award for Exceptional Public Service: For Sustained unselfish dedication, contributions, and exceptional support to the Air Force.
Air Force Exceptional Service Award: For exceptional service to the United States Air Force or for an act of heroism involving voluntary risk of life.
Air Force Scroll of Appreciation: For meritorious achievement or service that are completely voluntary and performed as a public service or patriotic in nature.
In 2018, as part of the Air Force's initiative to reduced directive publications, the eight-page AFI 36-2805 was released, superseding 30 previous AFIs. Guidance for special awards was moved to a website at https://access.afpc.af.mil/.
Cheney Award (an act of valor, extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest, performed in connection with aircraft)