various achievement medals

Achievement Medals: Explained

The Achievement Medal is a United States Armed Forces military decoration that is awarded to service members who have demonstrated meritorious service or outstanding achievements.

Similar in nature to the Commendation Medal and Meritorious Service Medal, the Achievement Medal was proposed as a means of recognizing the services, accomplishments, and duties of junior officers and enlisted personnel who do not qualify for higher awards.

Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces issues its own Achievement Medal according to branch-specific requirements. Local commanders in each branch are responsible for deciding what merits the awarding of a prestigious Achievement Medal.

Army Achievement Medal

The Army Achievement Medal was proposed in the Army Cohesion and Stability Study in 1980 and later created in 1981.

The Army Achievement Medal (AAM) is awarded to any member of the armed forces, below the rank of colonel, who served in any capacity with the Army in a non-combat area on or after August 1, 1981.

It is awarded for any significant achievement that has been deemed worthy of recognition but is of a lesser degree than achievements mandating the award of a Commendation Medal.

An octagonal bronze medal, the AAM is 1-1/2 inches in diameter with one angle centered at the top. The face of the medal features a Department of the Army plaque with the year of establishment–1775–at the bottom.

The reverse side features the inscription “For Military Achievement” with space for the recipient’s name above two slips of laurel.

Navy and Marine Corps Achievement

US navy personnel attend promotion ceremony

Originally a ribbon-only award called the Secretary of the Navy Commendation Achievement Award with Ribbon, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Award is awarded to junior officers and enlisted personnel, including reserve members.

Awardees demonstrate professional and leadership achievements that are superlative and are worthy of recognition.

To merit awarding, the actions performed must positively contribute to an individual’s unit mission or the U.S. Naval Service and exceed what is typically required of service members. Unlike other Achievement Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal can be awarded during a combat situation.

The gold medal is rectangular with clipped corners and depicts a centered, fouled anchor and four five-point stars. The reverse side is left blank for the inscription of the recipient’s name.

Air Force Achievement Medal

The first medal established for Air Force personnel under Air Force Authority, the Air Force Achievement Medal was instituted in 1980. It is awarded to Air Force personnel below the rank of colonel and, most often, junior personnel according to the discretion of local commanders.

This achievement medal is a means of recognizing specific individual achievements or accomplishments in the Air Force rather than continuing periods of service. It is awarded for those outstanding achievements that do not warrant the Air Force Commendation Medal.

The 11 pegs that protrude from the silver medal are what lends its distinctive shape. The face of the medal features an adaptation of the Air Force seal and depicts thunderbolts and wings to signify striking power.

The inscription “Air Force Meritorious Achievement” is centered on the reverse side.

Coast Guard Achievement

Until 1968, the Coast Guard Achievement Medal was a ribbon-only award. Today, it is given to those who serve with Coast Guard units as well as reserve members who demonstrate professional or leadership achievement in a combat or non-combat situation.

The circular medal is gold in color and depicts two crossed anchors, as well as the Coast Guard insignia, encircled by rope and a laurel wreath.

Aerial Achievement

US air force lettering on metal surface

The Air Force Aerial Achievement Medal is an Air Force-specific medal that is considered to be on par with the Air Medal but is more likely to be awarded for continuous meritorious achievement in aerial flight during peacetime. It is not awarded for single flight events, unlike the Air Medal.

Unlike other U.S. Military Achievement Medals, the Aerial Achievement is awarded according to specific requirements set by each Air Force Command’s location, mission, environment, available aircraft types, and local political conditions.

The AFAAM is often awarded to personnel to acknowledge contributions made as part of aircrew on behalf of the Secretary of the Air Force.

The circular, bronze medal depicts an American Bald Eagle with its wings extended beyond the border of the medal itself to allude to freedom. The relief also features 13 stars in a tribute to the 13 original colonies and six lightning bolts to refer to the Air Force.

Joint Service Achievement

Established in 1983, the Joint Service Achievement medal can be awarded to any branch member of the U.S. military who demonstrated meritorious service while serving at a grade below O-6 with a joint activity. Qualifying joint activities are: Defense agencies, Headquarters of Unified Commands, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The gold medal is a 12-point star featuring an American Bald Eagle with a shield on its breast to symbolize the Department of Defense.

Final Thoughts

Achievement Medals are part of a well-rounded award packet that makes for an impressive service dress medal bar and increases your chances of receiving a promotion.