The Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal was originally a service ribbon first awarded in 1943. It was changed to a medal in 1950 and underwent several design and name changes until the current decoration, criteria, and title was established in 1994. The medal is awarded for meritorious service or achievement in a combat or non-combat situation based on sustained performance of a superlative nature.
Unlike the comparable awards for the Army
and Air Force
, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal has historically been of a higher precedence level and is less frequently awarded. Typically, its recipients for meritorious service are department head level officers at the O-4 level, senior Navy Chief Petty Officers (CPO), some senior Marine Corps non-commissioned officers (and, increasingly, some junior officers) as an "end of tour" award, or some enlisted personnel as a retirement award. For more junior personnel, the Commendation medal is sometimes given as an "impact award" for significant service contribution.
To be given for heroism, the act must stand out, but to a lesser degree than required for the Bronze Star in combat or the Navy and Marine Corps Medal in a non-combat situation.
In order of precedence, the award follows the Bronze Star
and comes before the Prisoner of War Medal, Achievement medals, and all campaign medals. The Joint Service Commendation medal outranks those for each branch of the Armed Forces.
Designed by the Institute of Heraldry, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal is a bronze hexagon with the eagle from the Department of Defense's seal in the center. The back is inscribed "For Military Merit" with room for the recipient's name to be engraved. The medal hangs from a dark green ribbon with a narrow white stripe near each edge.
Additional awards are denoted with gold stars. A bronze "V" for "valor" can be authorized as a combat distinguishing device.