U.S. NAVY SSBN DETERRENT PATROL MISSION / COMBAT AIRCREW STARS
The breast insignias for Sailors who have served on SSBN Deterrent Patrols or as members of Combat Aircrew include holes for the placement of silver or gold stars represent either successfully completed missions (SSBN badge) or combat actions (Combat Aircrew).
For the SSBN Deterrent Patrol badge, a gold star is awarded after the completion of a successful mission, and each silver stars represents five such missions; the number of gold stars that can be worn at a single time is four. Also, the silver pin itself represents the very first successful mission, so a silver pin with a single silver star represents six missions, a silver pin with two silver stars stands for eleven, and three silver stars equals sixteen. At that point, only three holes are available for gold stars, taking the number of missions symbolized up to nineteen. A gold pin upon completion of the 20th mission, and the process begins again.
The Combat Aircrew badge was originally established as the Air Crew insignia, with three holes for placing stars representing individual offensive of defensive actions taken against the enemy. Originally, only gold stars representing single combat actions were allowed, and any combat actions beyond those first three were noted only on the individual’s record. In late 1944, however, a Bureau of Naval Personnel circular gave the first in-depth description of the insignia, and it stated that recipients would receive a gold combat star for each merited combat action, and that a single star could be worn instead of three gold stars.
But because the insignia could be earned without having engaged in a combat action, it would seem the maximum number of actions that could be represented on the badge was nine. In 1958, the name of the insignia was changed to Combat Aircrew, but the regulations on combat stars remained unchanged. Today, the only Navy personnel authorized to wear the Combat Aircrew badge are those flying in United States Marine Corps combat aircraft.