According to SECNAVINST 1650.1H, Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual, the Navy Ceremonial Guard Ribbon was initially authorized in a letter from Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England to the Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals on December 12, 2003; it was officially announced in NAVADMIN 156/04 dated July 12, 2004. On January 17, 2012, the name of the award was changed to the Navy Ceremonial Duty Ribbon per NAVADMIN 019/12.

The eligibility requirements for this award are simple and straightforward. It is awarded to military personnel assigned to the Ceremonial Guard or to the USS Constitution after May 1, 2001. They must complete a successful tour lasting at least two years, with a minimum of 18 months (consecutive or cumulative) spent in drilling status. The definition of “successful tour” is somewhat redundant, since the specification that it is “service in a drilling status for a minimum of eighteen months and completion of standard honor qualification or higher” was already spelled out two paragraphs earlier. (The 18-month minimum may be waived by the awarding authority provided the candidate has received full honors qualification.)

A successful tour also means maintaining exemplary personal standards. This isn’t likely to be an issue, given that the Ceremonial Guard is one of the most prestigious assignments in the Navy and that only the cream of the crop are selected to serve in it.
The definition of “drilling status” is a bit confusing to the layman because “drilling” is typically associated with “practice.” For this award, however, drilling status pretty much means performing the Ceremonial Guard duties, to wit: “actual participation in ceremonies and funerals as casket bearers, firing party, color guard, ceremonial drill team, and marching platoons (to include commanders of troops, platoon petty officers, and petty officers-in-charge).”

The Ceremonial Duty Ribbon is awarded by the Commanding Officer of the USS Constitution. Personnel may receive only one award per tour, even if the length of the tour meant the candidate could have completed the drilling-status requirements for two tours. Subsequent awards are denoted with bronze service stars.

Although the Web site of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard says the unit was founded temporarily in 1931 and permanently in 1933, both the SECNAVINST 1650.1H and NAVADMIN 156/04 list the unit’s formal establishment date as May, 2001. Interestingly, Gordon R. England was Secretary of the Navy at that time; he left that position in January, 2003 to serve as Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security. He returned to serve again as Secretary of the Navy in October, 2003, just two months before he established the decoration for the unit he had created during his first tenure. A clue as to the exact establishment date is found in the Awards Manual, which lists one eligibility requirement as "Military personnel assigned to the Navy Ceremonial Guard in Washington, DC, on 1 May 2001 or later."

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