The wording of the eligibility requirements for the Army Service Ribbon (ASR) as found in Army Regulation 600–8–22, Military Awards, can be a bit confusing for military newbies or those unfamiliar with the career progression of officers and enlisted personnel. When they read that the ACR “is awarded to Servicemembers of the U.S. Army for successful completion of initial entry training,” they likely envision exhausted but happy graduates of the Army’s Basic Combat Training program being pinned with the ribbon as part of some type of graduation ceremony.
But the reality is that enlisted Soldiers have quite a bit more to accomplish before they earn the right to wear the multi-colored ribbon. That’s because “initial entry training” encompasses not just the roughly ten-week training program at BCT (“boot camp”), but also what is called an “MOS producing course,” with MOS standing for Military Occupational Specialty. This is the Advanced Individual Training portion of the enlisted Soldier’s preparation, where they are taught specialized skills directly related to the MOS which either they chose or for which they were selected. AIT training regiments vary wildly in length, from around a month to nearly a full year. There are a few MOS training programs that combine BCT and AIT, allowing Soldiers to receive all their training with the same instructors and fellow enlisted personnel, but this doesn’t necessarily shorten the time before the ASR can be awarded.
A similar procedure is followed for the awarding of the ASR for officers. The officers’ equivalent of Boot Camp is their initial commissioning program: United States Military Academy, Reserve Officer Training Corps, or Officer Candidate School). Officers who are assigned to a specialty (Field Artillery Officer, Cyber Operations, etc.) must complete a higher-level course, similar to what enlisted Soldiers go through, that familiarizes them with the equipment and procedures that they’ll be working with at their first command. Field Artillery Officers, for example, must complete the Field Artillery Basic Officer Leadership Course before they are awarded the ASR.
Members of all three components of the U.S. Army---Active, Army National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve in an active Reserve status—are eligible for the ribbon. Although the award was not promulgated until April 10, 1981, it can be rewarded retroactively to eligible members who finished the requisite training before April 1, 1981 and had an Active Army status on or past that date.
Only one AST is awarded per Soldier, even if a Soldier completed enlisted MOS training and subsequently was promoted to officer and finished that training as well. The ASR may be awarded posthumously (on or after August 1, 1981) to individuals who did not complete the specified training their death is ruled to be in the line of duty.