The United States Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon was established on November 25, 1957, just tad over ten years that the Air Force itself was established as an independent and separate branch of the United States Armed Forces through the passage of the National Security Act of 1947.
While the original legislation establishing the award made it clear that recipients must be members of the Air Force—either active duty, Reserve, or retired—the primary eligibility factor was that candidates must have “an aggregate of 4 years of honorable active Federal military service with any branch of the United States Armed Forces.” Simply put, you had to be in the Air Force to earn the Longevity Service Award Ribbon, and you had to have four years of Federal military service under your belt—but not all of those four years had to be in the Air Force. Such a codicil was no doubt included to make up for the short period that the Air Force had been in existence, and to ensure that its current members’ service in other branches such as the U.S. Army Air Forces was not overlooked or unrecognized.
The introduction of the Longevity Service Award Ribbon also eliminated Federal Service Stripes, which had been an optional wear item of enlisted personnel up to that point.
The provision regarding service with any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces remains unchanged in the Air Force regulations for the award. Members of the Reserve Component can earn the award for each four years of satisfactory military service which are creditable to a reservists when calculating their retirement). All members of the Air Force on active duty are eligible for the award subject to the time requirements, and cadets and midshipmen earn credit for the time spent in the respective academies provided they graduate. Also eligible are members of the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences that are in the Air Force, while the award can be made retroactively to members of Reserve Components in training assigned on or after July 1, 1976 in certain training categories; specific details are found in Air Force Guidance Memorandum for Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2803.
For each additional four years of creditable service, an Oak Leaf Cluster is authorized for wear on the ribbon.