The Air Force Commendation medal is awarded for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service in direct contact with the enemy. The degree of merit is intended to be distinctive, but not unique.
Each branch of the Armed Forces presents its own version of this medal, and there is a fifth version awarded for joint military service performed under the Department of Defense. The Air Force version, first given in 1953, was a service ribbon -- as was true for the other military branches. They were all authorized as full medals in 1960.
The medal may be given more than once, with subsequent awards marked by bronze oak leaves. Silver oak leaves are awarded in lieu of five bronze. In 1996 a "V" signifying valor was authorized. The Air Force Commendation medal's precedence is between the Aerial Achievement medal and the Achievement medal.
The medal is a bronze hexagon with one point up inscribed with the seal of the Air Force: an eagle is superimposed over a circle symbolizing clouds. The eagle's wings are spread, and it is perched on a baton. Below the eagle is a shield featuring a pair of flyer's wings and a vertical baton with an eagle's claw at either end. The shield is superimposed over eight lightning bolts.
The medal hangs from a ribbon with a wide yellow stripe flanked by blue stripes.