On June 25, 1963, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara authorized the first Defense/Joint decoration, the Joint Service Commendation Medal (JSCM), to be awarded to Service members for meritorious achievement or service while assigned to joint activities.

Generally speaking, an award for meritorious service is for a period of time which is longer than twelve months and which encompasses a Service member’s entire joint assignment (extensions included). Those Service members who are assigned or attached to a Joint Task Force (JTF) as individuals and not as members of a Service unit may also qualify for the JSCM; members of units that are unique to a specific service and that are assigned to a JTF may not be awarded the JSCM, but do remain eligible to be awarded decorations from their parent Services.

Also eligible are members of foreign armed services on direct assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff or a Combatant Command after 6 February 2006 who meet the standard of meritorious achievement or service. The JSCM may be awarded posthumously, but it may not be awarded for a period of service for which the qualifying Service member received a medal from a Military Department.

With the Department of Defense’s 2016 creation of two new medal attachments, the “C” combat device and the “R” remote device, and the removal of the “V” device for wear with the Legion of Merit and service-specific Achievement medals, the JCSM became one of just five medals for which all three devices is authorized. (The remaining four are Commendation medals for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.)

Four hexagons—two displayed vertically and two horizontally—represent the Air Force, Army Marine Corps, and Navy Commendation Medals; they are joined together to reflect joint service, a concept also represented by a heraldic design at the bottom connoting land, sea, and air. The design of the eagle on the medal is taken directly from the seal of the Department of Defense, while the 13 stars displayed points up on a green field (green is the color of faithfulness) stand for the original founding colonies. On the reverse of the medal is the inscription, “For Military Merit.” On the ribbon, the green and white stripes were inspired by the colors of Army and Navy Commendation Medals, while the broad, blue stripes are Department of Defense colors.

The first medal ever awarded by the Department of Defense, the idea of a JSCM was proposed by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Maxwell Taylor, who pointed out in a March, 1963 memorandum to McNamara that several of the commanders of unified commands thought there should be a way to recognize superior service or achievements of individuals while they were assigned to those commands.

The JSCM is worn after the Air Medal and before the Commendation Medals awarded by the four branches represented here.

The Joint Service Commendation Medal was designed by Stafford E. Potter of The Army Institute of Heraldry.

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