Approved by Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche in March, 2004, the Gallant Unit Citation (GUC) was established to acknowledge and honor Air Force organizations that have displayed extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the United States. To qualify, the acts of heroism must have taken place while the organization was engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force on or after September 11, 2001.
The key element in an action that might qualify a unit for the GUC is not the amount of bravery, gallantry, determination, or esprit de corps it displays, but rather that the unit performed it under difficult and hazardous conditions while accomplishing its mission, setting it apart and indeed above other units taking part in the same conflict. The GUC’s heroism requirement mirrors that of the Silver Star for individual performance.
Because of the nature of the award and its emphasis on unit performance and teamwork, the GUC is unlikely to be rewarded to a unit larger in size than a group. (As of 2016, only groups had earned the GUC, with their subordinate squadrons receiving the award as well). While larger numbers of operational missions or extended periods of combat duty are factors in consideration for the GUC, they are not in and of themselves sufficient to earn the decoration.
The recommending official for the GUC is the unit commander, but it must have endorsement throughout the entire chain of command. Final approval authority rests with the Secretary of the Air Force. The GUC ranks seventh in the order of precedence of U.S. Unit Decorations, following the Navy Unit Commendation and preceding the Coast Guard Unit Commendation.