At first blush, the eligibility requirements for the Army Overseas Service Ribbon (OSR), established by Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh on April 10, 1981, could hardly be more straightforward. Beginning on August 1, 1981, all members of the Active Army, Army National Guard, and United States Army Reserve (in active Reserve status) were eligible for the award upon successful completion of an overseas tour. (Regulations allows for retroactive awarding of the ribbon to personnel credited with an overseas tour completion before that date, provided they had Active Army status on or before it.)
More specifically, Soldiers must be credited with a “normal overseas tour completion in accordance with AR 614-30,” and that’s where things become a bit more complicated: That sixty-page document is chock-full of criteria, restrictions, exemptions, and other qualifiers and modifiers to the point that at points it reads more like an Internal Revenue Service publication rather than guidance on what qualifies as completion of an overseas tour of duty. To be fair, however, a host of contingencies and extraneous factors beyond the Servicemember’s control must be taken into account in order to render a fair assessment of whether the OSR requirements were met.
It’s possible for Soldiers who have been recognized as completing a normal overseas tour with another branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to also be awarded the Army OSR; but the time limitations are exempted for Reserve Component Soldiers who were called up and dispatched overseas to locations not inside the theater of operations during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, provided their overseas service is not recognized with the award of another service medal.