The Department of the Navy has issued its guidance for “V,” “C” and “R” devices to denote the differences between awards for valor, meritorious service under combat conditions and helping U.S. or friendly forces win while not being physically present on the battlefield.

The guidance comes after a Defense Department review to better recognize service members for the war against terrorism. It affects devices for awards issued since January 2016 for troops who have supported operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, according to ALNAV 055/17.

Under the new guidance, the “V” device for valor cannot be worn with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the ALNAV says. “V” devices also cannot be awarded as an end of tour award, end of deployment award or in recognition of a period of meritorious service.

The “C” device for meritorious service or achievement under combat conditions has been authorized for service members who were either personally exposed or at significant risk of being exposed to hostile action, according to the Navy-wide message. 

“The words heroism and heroic will not be used in any citation for any meritorious award under combat conditions,” the ALNAV says. “Heroism under combat conditions is valor, and a valor decoration is the more appropriate form of recognition.”

Marines and sailors who receive a “C” device are not automatically entitled to a Combat Action Ribbon, the message says.

“During a deployment a service member may have been at significant risk of exposure to hostile action (i.e., met C device criteria), but never actively participated in a ground or surface combat engagement (i.e., did not meet basic CAR criteria),” the messages says.

The Navy Department has authorized the “C” device to be worn with the following awards:

  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal
  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • Defense Superior Service Medal
  • Legion of Merit
  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Air Medal
  • Joint Service Commendation Medal
  • Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
  • Joint Service Achievement Medal

Simply serving in a combat zone or a combat zone tax exclusion area does not qualify sailors and Marines for a “C” device, the messages says. The device cannot be worn with the Bronze Star.

The Navy Department has also authorized the “R” device for sailors and Marines who had an impact on the battle but, “whose physical location outside the enemy threat envelope precludes them from receiving combat awards or combat devices,” the message says.

Activities that merit the “R” device include:

  • Taking part in strikes by unmanned aircraft, ship-to shore or surface-to-surface weapon systems.
  • Piloting an unmanned aircraft and providing intelligence and support vital to the success of combat operations or a hostage rescue.
  • Using cyberwarfare to actively disrupt the enemy’s capabilities.
  • Shooting down an enemy aircraft that is trying to attack or observe friendly forces.
  • Leading a raid or other combat mission from a location that is not exposed to hostile action.

The “R” device has been authorized to be worn with the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

The device cannot be worn with the Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross or Air Medal.

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