Established by Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche in the same month as the Gallant Unit Citation, the Air Force Meritorious Unit Award (MUA) was created to recognize the efforts of units at the wing level
or below that displayed exceptionally meritorious conduct while performing outstanding service in direct support of combat operations. To qualify for the medal, the unit must have been engaged in combat operations on or after September 11, 2001 against an armed enemy of the United States.
The wording of Air Force regulations regarding MUA eligibility make it clear the award cannot be earned just through superior performance while carrying out missions in a combat zone; in fact, service in a combat zone is not even a requirement for the MUA. First, the unit’s outstanding achievement or service must in direct support of combat operations, and then for at least 90 continuous days. Second, the level of achievement or superior service displayed by the unit must be on the same level that would justify awarding the Legion of Merit to an individual. Third, while outstanding devotion and superior performance are noteworthy, the MUA requirements specify these must have been displayed while performing exceptionally difficult tasks—so much so that it sets the unit apart and above other units tasked with similar missions.
Personnel in units that receive more than one MUA are authorized to wear an oak-leaf cluster to denote each time they are so recognized beyond the first award.