Types of U.S. Marine Awards and Decorations

The United States Marine Corps, being part of the U.S. Naval Service, follows the same awards program as the United States Navy. The Department of the Navy governs the awards program but administered by the Corps. Most of the awards and decorations are the same for both the Navy and Marine Corps, and some are common to all services.

Marine Corps awards fall into three classifications: personal and unit decorations, campaign and service medals, and marksmanship badges and trophies.

  • Personal awards are conferred upon individuals for acts of heroism, acts of gallantry, or for meritorious service.
  • Unit awards are awarded to individuals who are members of units that are cited for outstanding performance.
  • Campaign or service medals are issued to individuals who participate in particular campaigns or periods of service for which a medal is authorized.

Marksmanship badges and trophies are awarded to individuals who demonstrate proficiency or skill with a specific weapon during a specified practice exercise, competition, or match. Marksmanship badges are worn to indicate an individual’s ability with a particular weapon and are awarded in three levels: Expert, Sharpshooter, and Marksman. Trophies are awarded at various levels to include: the United States and international distinguished shooter competitions, Marine Corps rifle and pistol championships, national trophies for rifle and pistol, inter-service rifle and pistol matches, regional practices, combat exercises, division, and inter-division contests.

Badges are awarded to indicate proficiency in specific areas, such as marksmanship. The Marine Corps also participates with the other services in a system by which entire units are recognized for outstanding performance. Members of cited units are entitled to wear the appropriate award (e.g., Navy Presidential Unit Citation and Navy Unit Commendation, etc.).

Marines may wear awards described in the Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST 1650.1). The definition of terms according to Marine Corps Uniform Regulations are:

  • Award – An all-inclusive term covering any decoration, medal, badge, ribbon bar, or attachment bestowed on an individual.
  • Decoration – An award conferred on an individual for a specific act of gallantry or meritorious service.
  • Unit Award – An award made to an operating unit for outstanding performance and worn only by members of that unit who participated in the cited action.
  • Service Award – An award made to those who have
    participated in designated wars, campaigns, expeditions, etc., or who have fulfilled specified service requirements.
  • Medal – An award issued to an individual for performance of certain duties, acts or services, consisting of a
    medallion hanging from a suspension ribbon of distinctive colors.
  • Miniature Medal – A replica of a standard size medal, made to one-half original scale. Foreign medal miniatures will not exceed the size of American miniatures. The Medal of Honor will not be worn in miniature.
  • Badge – An award to an individual for some special proficiency or skill, which consists of a medallion suspended from a bar or bars.
  • Ribbon Bar – A portion of the suspension ribbon of a medal, worn in lieu of the medal. Ribbon bars are also
    authorized for certain awards that have no medals.
  • Rosette – Lapel device made by gathering the
    suspension ribbon of the medal into a circular shape.
  • Lapel Pin – A miniature enameled replica of the
    ribbon bar.
  • Attachment – Any appurtenance such as a star, clasp, or other device worn on a suspension ribbon of a medal or on the ribbon bar (also called device).

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