New combat-related devices authorized for decorations


(Photo: HRC)

By David Vergun, Army News Service

The V device worn on Army Commendation Medal and other awards, stands for “valor.” The device was authorized decades ago for wear on Army ribbons.

The V device is still around, but joining the V now are two new devices: the “C” and “R” devices, where C denotes “combat” and the R means “remote.” Both are described fully in Military Personnel Message 17-095, titled “Implementation of Department of Defense Guidance for the Newly Established ‘C’ and ‘R’ Devices.” That message was published March 15.

C device

There’s a subtle but important distinction between the V and the C, said Lt. Col. R. Arron Lummer, chief of Awards and Decorations Branch, The Adjutant General Directorate, U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

The valor V device “is for combat heroism, limited to a singular achievement where a Soldier demonstrated valor in combat against an armed enemy,” he said.

The combat C device is earned “through service or achievement under combat conditions.” The intent of the C device is to distinguish a particular award as having been earned in combat, since not all military awards are exclusively combat-related awards. For example, the Bronze Star Medal will not merit a C device because the medal itself recognizes service or achievement in a combat theater. The Army Commendation Medal, however, can be awarded in combat or in peacetime, so a C device would distinguish that service or achievement in combat.

A typical scenario for a C device, he said, could be on an award recognizing a Soldier’s meritorious service over the course of a deployment in a combat zone, commonly called an end-of-tour award. Another example may be to recognize a specific achievement made by a Soldier during a deployment, even if it is not directly-related to combat.

The catch, Lummer said, is the C device is intended to recognize that the particular award was earned under combat conditions. To qualify for the C device, the Soldier must be in an active area of combat where “the Soldier was personally exposed to hostile action or in an area where other Soldiers were actively engaged.

That’s not to say the Soldier must qualify for a combat badge, states the MILPER. Lummer clarified that combat badges, like the Combat Action Badge, are awarded when a Soldier is personally engaged or engages the enemy. A C device can be awarded to a Soldier even if he or she was never personally engaged, so long as the service or achievement being recognized was in an area where such enemy actions occurred.

Lummer added that it would be “highly unlikely, but possible” for a Soldier not to have a combat patch but be awarded a C device. In particular, a Soldier could be serving in a non-combat, contingency location but, due to the fluid nature of military operations, the situation may escalate into a combat situation, then rapidly de-escalate back to stability operations again.

R device

The remote R device is rated when “a Soldier remotely, but directly, contributed to a combat operation,” Lummer said.

That Soldier can be from any military occupational specialty, but a good example, he said, is an unmanned aerial system operator who places ordnance on a high-value target from a location away from the combat area.

Lummer said a UAS operator likely would qualify for the new R device if he “delivered ordnance or identified the target and was then able to talk or walk effects onto that target, whether from a raid on the ground or designating targeted munitions delivered from somewhere else.”

The determination a commander must make is whether the Soldier’s actions from outside the operational area (not exposed to or at risk of hostile action) directly affected combat operations.

How it’s worn

Instructions on wear of the C and R devices borrowed heavily from similar instructions on how to wear the V device, Lummer said.

The new C and the R devices are the same color, size and font as the existing V device, he said. Like the V, he said, the most common award the C and R will be worn with is most likely the Army Commendation Medal, but there are others.

The C device could also be worn with the:

— Distinguished Service Medal.
— Legion of Merit.
— Distinguished Flying Cross.
— Air Medal.
— Army Achievement Medal.

The R device could also be worn with the:

— Legion of Merit.
— Meritorious Service Medal.
— Army Achievement Medal.

Using as an example the Army Commendation Medal, if three ARCOMs were earned, that ribbon would contain two oak leaf clusters. If one or more of those ARCOMs were awarded with a C device, only one C device would be worn on the inboard side of the oak leaf clusters closest to the heart, he said.

In the same example, if a different ARCOM was awarded with a V or an R, only one of each device would be worn. According to Lummer, the V has the highest precedence, followed by the C and then the R. Lummer also stressed that a Soldier cannot receive multiple devices for the same service or achievement. If a Soldier is awarded an ARCOM for a valorous act against an armed enemy, they receive only the V device, even though the valor obviously occurred under combat conditions.

Commander’s program

As with all decorations, the C and R are part of the “commander’s program,” Lummer said, “designed to maintain good order and discipline and support morale and esprit de corps.”

As such, a lot of discretion is given to a commander in interpreting the appropriateness of an award and distinguishing the type of award and device a commander sees fit to recommend, he said.

In the past, awards such as the Army Commendation Medal did not in and of themselves outwardly denote extraordinary service related to combat, Lummer said.

“Soldiers were not appropriately recognized with the awards system as it was, so this change across DOD does just that,” he said.

He added that the Army was the first to publish guidance and authorization to wear the devices when the MILPER came out this month, but guidance will likely vary slightly between the joint staff and the other services.

(Photo: HRC)

Lots of questions, interest

Lummer said publication of the MILPER message has generated a lot of questions about the new C and R devices. Chief among those questions is whether the devices are retroactive in nature. For instance, can they be worn by Soldiers who have earned medals in past conflicts, such as Vietnam or Korea?

The answer, he said, is that the devices are retroactive only to Jan. 7, 2016, when the secretary of Defense authorized them, so any award approved prior to that day is not eligible for a C or R device.

Other questions, he said, mostly involve their wear and the criteria for awarding them.

As of March 21, Lummer said no formal requests have been received by HRC for a C or R device, though he expects such requests will come soon.