Combat Action Ribbon
|Combat Action Ribbon|
Top: Navy Combat Action Ribbon
Bottom: Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon
|Awarded by the Department of the Navy|
and Department of Homeland Security
|Type||Service ribbon (No medal; decoration)|
|Eligibility||Satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or maritime engagement.|
|Awarded for||Active participation in ground or surface combat on or after December 7, 1941.|
|Established||Navy Combat Action Ribbon (U.S. Department of the Navy): February 17, 1969|
Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon (U.S. Department of Homeland Security): July 16, 2008
|First awarded||Navy Combat Action Ribbon: 1969 (retroactive to March 1961)|
|Next (higher)||Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal|
Coast Guard Commandant's Letter of Commendation
|Equivalent||Air Force Combat Action Medal|
|Next (lower)||Presidential Unit Citation|
|Related||Combat Infantryman Badge (U.S. Army infantry and special forces equivalent)|
Combat Medical Badge (U.S. Army medical equivalent)
Combat Action Badge (U.S. Army non-infantry equivalent)
The Combat Action Ribbon (colloquially "CAR"), is a United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States Marine Corps military decoration awarded to those U.S. sea service members "who have actively participated in ground or surface combat." Navy and Coast Guardsmen sailors, and Marines in clandestine, stealth, or special operations are deemed eligible for consideration of the award.
The Navy Combat Action Ribbon was first authorized on 17 February 1969, and is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps with the ranks of or lower than captain and colonel respectively. Coast Guardsmen in Vietnam combat operations were deemed eligible for award of the Navy Combat Action Ribbon (the Coast Guard did not have its own Combat Action Ribbon until 2008).
Air combat does not meet the criteria for the Combat Action Ribbon; Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers and enlisted Naval Air Crewman, while in the performance of aerial flight, are eligible for consideration for the Air Medal, although this award requires far more combat exposure over a prolonged period.
The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon was authorized on 16 July 2008, and may be awarded to members of the Coast Guard in the rank of captain and below, "who have actively participated in ground or maritime combat."
The Navy Combat Action Ribbon is retroactive to 7 December 1941 and the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon is retroactive to 1 May 1975 (prior to 1975 Coast Guard members in Vietnam combat were awarded the Navy Combat Action ribbon).
A Combat Action Ribbon is not automatic; after consideration of specified criteria the member's service may award the CAR. For a military member to be awarded a Combat Action Ribbon evidence must establish the member engaged the enemy, was under hostile fire, or was physically attacked by the enemy. The service member's enemy engagement must have been with honor to the United States and to the satisfaction of the Service.
Evidence must show a service member was engaged in direct combat, not merely present in a region where combat is occurring; Presence in a combat zone does not qualify a service member for the award.
The Combat Action Ribbon is a ribbon-only decoration in contrast to military branches that award a badge or medal. Compare: the U.S. Army awards the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge, or Combat Medical Badge. A U.S. Air Force combat participant is awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM), which includes both full and miniature size suspension medals and a ribbon.
The Combat Action Ribbon is awarded only to individual service members. The CAR cannot be awarded to a military unit, station, or group, although multiple individual service members may be nominated for the award stemming from the same combat action(s).
The Combat Action Ribbon is worn in order of precedence on a member's "ribbon rack" displayed on the left (or right) side of a service member's uniform. The outermost blue stripe is always to the wearer's right; only one Combat Action Ribbon is authorized for wear, with each additional CAR award signified with a 5⁄16 inch gold star attached to the ribbon. For example, two CAR awards are signified with the CAR ribbon and one gold star device. Three awards are signified with the ribbon and two stars.
In full dress uniform, medals are worn on the member's left side, because the Combat Action Ribbon is not a medal, the ribbon is worn on the right side of the member's uniform. The CAR is the highest rated ribbon in the U.S. military decorations order of precedence and is superseded only by medals of meritorious achievement and combat valor.
Combat Action Ribbon versions
The Combat Action Ribbon is currently authorized with a U.S. Navy/Marine Corps design, and a U.S. Coast Guard version. The Navy version covers the Navy and Marine Corps since the establishment of the CAR in 1969, the award was made retroactive to 7 December 1941. Prior to 2008, U.S. Coast Guardsmen who were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon received the Navy version (typically because in most conflicts and wars Coast Guard members eligible for the CAR at the time operated with or under the U.S. Navy. From 2009 forward, Coast Guard members who engage in combat are awarded the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.
Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard veterans are advised to submit requests about eligibility or other matters to their respective branches to inquire about the Combat Action Ribbon or other awards of this nature.
The Navy Combat Action Ribbon ("CAR") was established during the Vietnam War by a Secretary of the Navy Notice, dated February 17, 1969, with retroactive award to 1 March 1961. The Navy CAR is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps (and Coast Guard, when operating under the control of the Navy during a war or national emergency), with the grade of captain/colonel and below, who have actively participated in ground or surface combat.
Marines, sailors, or Coast Guardsmen who are awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Action Badge, or Combat Action Medal while assigned to United States Army or United States Air Force units, or who earned such for prior service in the U.S. Army or Air Force, may be authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon upon application to the Department of the Navy (or Department of Homeland Security, as applicable).
In January 2013, the awarding criteria were expanded to include dangerous exposure to IEDs, mines, and scatterable munitions, be it the detonation of such or direct action taken to disable, render safe, or destroy such; servicemembers may be deemed eligible if the IEDs are detonated or specifically emplaced by the enemy. Previous eligibility applied only to exposure to IEDs actually detonated by the enemy. Eligibility under this criterion is retroactive only to 7 October 2001.
Blanket lists of units and operations whose members or participants are deemed to be "in-combat", and thus potentially eligible, can be found in OPNAVNOTE 1650 (for specific units and ships) and in chapter 2, appendix E, of recent SECNAVINST's (for specific operations & ships) though, "Neither service in a combat area nor being awarded the Purple Heart Medal automatically makes a service member eligible...," and specific Sailors and Marines may receive the ribbon in recognition of individual actions or various minor operations.
In 2017, sailors from USS Nitze, USS Mason, USS Ponce, and USS San Antonio were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon after their ship was fired upon by rebels off the coast of Yemen in 2016, one of the few instances in the 21st century when U.S. Navy sailors aboard a commissioned warship were awarded the ribbon for combat occurring at sea. In 2005, the USS Kearsarge was awarded the ribbon as well.
- World War II and Korean War
In October 1999, World War II and Korean War veterans became retroactively eligible for the Navy Combat Action Ribbon by Public Law 106-65 on 5 October 1999, which permitted the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) to award the Combat Action Ribbon to a member of the Navy or Marine Corps for participation in ground or surface combat during any period on or after 7 December 1941, and before 1 March 1961, if the Secretary determines that the member has not been previously recognized in an appropriate manner for such participation. Two specific blocks of time were later designated by then SECNAV Danzig: Dec. 7, 1941—Apr. 14, 1946 (World War II), and June 25, 1950—July 27, 1954 (Korean War)
Coast Guard CAR
In 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard began awarding a Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon (CGCAR), that is similar in design to the Navy Combat Action Ribbon. Prior to 2008, Coast Guard members earning a Combat Action Ribbon received the U.S. Navy CAR because in times of conflict and war the Coast Guard in combat areas typically operated with or under the U.S. Navy.
For example, in the Vietnam War's Operation Market Time the U.S. Coast Guard had at any one time approximately 1,200 Coast Guard members participating in the Operation. Those Coast Guard members in Vietnam who engaged in combat were awarded the U.S. Navy Combat Action Ribbon by the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam.
The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon (CGCAR) was established by the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security on 16 July 2008, in ALCOAST 361/08. The Coast Guard version of the CAR is awarded to members of the Coast Guard who have actively participated in a ground or maritime engagement. Satisfactory performance under fire with the enemy is required.
With its own Combat Action Ribbon, as of 2009 USCG members will receive the Coast Guard CAR regardless if a member is operating in conjunction with or under the control of the U.S. Navy. Those USCG members awarded the U.S. Navy CAR prior to 2009 are authorized to continue wearing the Navy award despite the availability of the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.
Criteria for the CGCAR also include personnel with direct exposure to the detonation of an improvised explosive device used by an enemy, and for personnel who serve in clandestine/special operations, or who are restricted in their ability to return fire, where the risk of enemy fire was great.
The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon is authorized for:
- Operation Allied Force (Kosovo)
- Operation Desert Storm
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
Other minor operations and specific actions may allow the award, as determined by the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Only one award per operation is authorized.
Initially, all other similar military awards from other services were required to be converted to the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon in order to be worn on the Coast Guard uniform, but the policy was modified effective January 1, 2009 to allow wearing the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, Air Force Combat Action Medal, and Army Combat Infantry/Medical/Action Badge for service prior to May 1, 1975, and which cannot be converted to the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.
Additional awards of the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon are denoted by 5⁄16 inch gold stars on the ribbon.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 16, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Info" (PDF). media.defense.gov. 2017.
- "COMDTINST M1650.25E Medals and Awards Manual" (PDF). August 15, 2016. pp. 2–12, 2–13. Retrieved February 24, 2017.[permanent dead link]
- "MARADMIN 038/13". Archived from the original on January 31, 2016.
- Jamie McIntyre, CNN Washington Bureau. "CNN.com - Navy gives USS Cole crew awards - September 5, 2001". edition.cnn.com.
- Ziezulewicz, Geoff (November 3, 2017). "Four ship crews receive Combat Action Ribbon".
- Affairs, This story was written by Journalist 2nd Class Bretta Heath, USS Kearsarge Public. "Kearsarge Awarded Combat Action Ribbon".
- Pub.L. 106–65 Oct. 5, 1999, STAT.588, G, Sec.564, "Retroactive Award of the Navy Combat Action Ribbon"
- DOD Press Release, March 21, 2000, Retroactive Combat Action Ribbon "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Retrieved May 13, 2015
- Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon @ Foxfall medals  Retrieved May 13, 2015[better source needed]
- Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon – Official Coast Guard All Hands blog[dead link]