The Navy Unit Commendation Award (NUC), introduced in December of 1944
, is awarded to units whose actions and performance in either combat or non-combat situations distinguish them from other units performing similar services. In the case of combat-related actions, the main criteria is outstanding heroism against the enemy; non-combat actions are recognized with the award when they are carried out in support military operation and lead to the unit’s service being recognize as outstanding in comparison to similar units. Although primarily intended for Navy and Marine Corps units, the NUC can be awarded units in other branches of the United States Armed Forces, as well as to units of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations that are serving with U.S. forces.
As with many commendation awards, the regulations refer to other possible awards as a yardstick in determining whether a nominated unit’s actions make it eligible for the award. In the case of the NUC, the unit service rendered by the unit must of a nature that is comparable to that which would qualify an individual for the Silver Star for acts of heroism or the Legion of Merit for meritorious service. A unit displaying even greater acts of heroism than those necessary to earn the NUC are eligible for the Presidential Unit Citation.
Along with the Meritorious Unit Citation and the aforementioned Presidential Unit Citation, the eligibility standards for the NUC were modified in 1969 to allow Depart of the Navy civilian employees to participate in the award, but they must be United States citizens in order to qualify. They also must be certified by the recommending officer to have played a key role in the unit’s achievements that are the reason for the award.
The NUC is a U.S. Unit award and therefore is second in category precedence, below U.S. Military Decorations but above U.S. Non-military Decorations. It is sixth in order of precedence for U.S. Unit Awards, preceded by the Army Valorous Unit Award and followed by the Air Force Gallant Unit Award.