DEFENSE SUPERIOR SERVICE
Established by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976, the Defense Superior Service medal is awarded by the Secretary of Defense for "superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility.” The medal is equivalent to the Legion of Merit except it is awarded for joint ventures over a sustained period.
Although most DSS medals are awarded to senior officers in Flag and Senior Officer grades, interestingly, military officers serving as astronauts have been awarded the medal for service leading up to and during Space Shuttle missions carrying Department of Defense payloads.
Notable recipients of the Defense Super Service Medal include Colin Power, Carter Ham (second commander of AFRICOM), Michael Mullen (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), and Anthony Zinni (former commander of CENTCOM).
The Defense Superior Service medal was designed by Mildred Orloff and sculpted by Lewis J. King, Jr. It features a blue enamel outline of the Pentagon suspended in a wreath. A series of 13 five-pointed stars spans the top half of the wreath, and laurel and olive leaves are entwined on the bottom half. Superimposed over the blue enamel Pentagon is a silver eagle with its wings outspread. Clutched in its talons are three arrows.
The reverse is plain silver, engraved with "For Superior Service" at the top and inscribed with the recipient's name in the middle.