Service: Air Force
Instituted: 2007 (retroactive to 11 Sept. 2001)
Criteria: Awarded to Airmen who have direct participated in active combat, either in the air or on the ground, as part of their official duties
Devices: Gold and Silver Stars
On January 2007, the SECAF approved establishment of the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM) to recognize any military member of the Air Force (airman through colonel) who actively participated in combat (ground or air). The principal eligibility criterion is that the individual must have been under direct and hostile fire while operating in enemy domain (outside the wire) or physically engaging hostile forces with direct and lethal fire.
Combat conditions defined: for the purposes of this award, combat conditions are met when: 1) individuals deliberately go outside the wire to conduct official duties—either ground or air; and 2) they come under enemy attack by lethal weapons while performing those duties; and 3) are at risk of grave danger. Or 1) individuals defending the base (on the wire); and 2) come under fire and engage the enemy with direct and lethal fire; and 3) are at risk of grave danger, also meet the intent of combat conditions for this award. Additionally, personnel in ground operations who actively engage the enemy with direct and lethal fire may qualify even if no direct fire is taken—as long as there was risk of grave danger and other criteria are met. Central to the integrity of this combat recognition is the adherence to those combat conditions prerequisites.
The symbolism to the medal is as follows: The eagle represents strength and vigilance and embodies the American spirit of freedom. The star and eagle, as well as the ribbon colors are adapted from the art insignia on the aircraft of Billy Mitchell and give this medal the heritage and honor of that history. Billy Mitchell was an airpower advocate who planned and led the first coordinated air ground offensive in history during World War I. The eagle is facing toward the olive branch for peace and emphasizes looking forward to peace while the arrows represent lethal capability. The laurel wreath is symbolic of respect and high achievement.