The Coast Guard Unit Commendation Ribbon was established in 1963 as a means to recognize any unit that has distinguished itself through valorous or extremely meritorious non-combat service in support of Coast Guard operations. Units from other branches of the Armed Forces of the United States are eligible for the award, but the service being honored must meet the same standards required of Coast Guard units and must be in support of Coast Guard operations.
Recommendations for this award must include a Summary of Action (SOA) for the approving authorities to review when making their decision to honor a nominated unit. It must be at least one page in length (not counting supporting documents) and contain enough data regarding the unit’s service for adequate consideration regarding justification of the award.
Besides listing the dates and type of service, recommendations must include a full list of all units, teams and individual personnel (and staff personnel if appropriate) that are being considered for the award, including dates of attachment to the unit. Any awards issued (or recommended to be issued) to the unit for the same period of service must be noted, and in fact the reverse is also the case: a notation should be made indicating the unit has not been issued any awards for the specified time frame.
Prior to 2003, just three unit awards available to honor Coast Guard units —Presidential Unit Citation, Joint Meritorious Unit Citation, and the Department of Transportation Outstanding Unit Citation—were ranked higher in precedence that the Unit Commendation Ribbon. But with the transfer of the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003, the DOT award became obsolete, and the Unit Commendation is now the highest non-combat unit award in the Coast Guard.
In honor of the numerous Coast Guard units that have been recognized with the Unit Commendation Ribbon over the years, the Coast Guard publishes a list of all its recipients as an enclosure in Coast Guard Military Medals and Awards Manual (COMDTINST M1650.25 series).