After the horrendous internationally condemned events of September 11th, 2001, the country of Afghanistan quickly emerged as a focal hot bed of United States' Military (and it's many Coalition allies) anti-terrorism combat activities. While Afghanistan had always been a place of great internal conflict leading up to September 11th, it was that event that really propelled it to the forefront of global consideration. Since the initial build-up of United States' military forces in Afghanistan, as with any military combat campaign, it became absolutely important for the birth of an award to be given to servicemen and women who served in Afghanistan.
Under the Republican administration of President George W. Bush, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal was ultimately created in accordance with Executive Order 13363. Initially, President Bush had to sign-off on Public Law 108-234, on May 28th, 2004, and, just a few months later (about a 1/2 a year), implementation of this law occurred when President Bush signed Executive Order 13363, on November 29th, 2004. With an active staff of 32 civilians, the United States' Army Institute of Heraldry was charged with the research, design, development and quality control of this particular medal. On both the front side, as well as the reverse back side of the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the United States' Army Institute of Heraldry was really quite successful in embracing the great symbolism underlying both the country of occupation, as well as, the honor and perseverance of soldiers.
As with any United States' medal, and its accompanying ribbon, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal bears its own specific sybolism, background, criteria for earning it, as well as, established order of precedence when placed beside other earned ribbons or medals.
1. Symbolism: Composed of a highly detailed front-side, and reverse back-side, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal has been specifically designed to embrace the general appearance and landmarks of this war-torn campaign theatre of operation. On the front-side, a miniature depiction of the country of Afghanistan is displayed, along with the glorious snow-capped Hindu-Kush Mountains, engulfed by the words "Afghanistan Campaign" (all in Capital Letters). On the back-side of this medal, a bold eagle's head towers over the words "For Service In Afghanistan". Clearly, the eagle's head, with a proud, determined and relentless gaze, is meant to embody the symbolism of the United States of America and all those characteristics that make it so great.
2. Ribbon: As with all United States' Military medals, an associated ribbon is also awarded. Military ribbons are essentially a condensed form of a medal, that bear the same width and color scheme of the original medal, however, they do not actually include the medal itself. Adorned with a collage of red, black, white, navy blue, slim green flanking, the ribbon counterpart to the Afghanistan Campaign Medal can be displayed honorably as apart of a military ribbon rack (which is typically displayed above the left breast pocket, for males, on the United States' Army Class-A or Army Service Uniform. For specific wear of this ribbon, for males and females, it is important for a servicemember to consult AR 670-1 (Army) and/or my attached article links displayed at the tail end of this Info Barrel article.
3. Criteria: Although the Afghanistan Campaign Medal was specifically designed by the United States' Army Institute of Heraldry, its associated criteria specifies that any servicemember, of any service branch, can earn this medal for wear. While 99.9% of cases will be such, qualifications for the receipt of this medal does not explicitely require that a servicemember actually touch 'boot-to-ground' in Afghanistan. In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, on or after October 24th, 2001, a United States' armed forces servicemembers can qualify for this award even if they venture into the airspace over which the Afghanistan Campaign is/was being conducted.
-- Just so long as a servicemember is attached (or assigned) to a unit that is/was participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan, for 30 consecutive days, they will qualify for the honorable wear of this ribbon and medal. If a unit is/was not in the Afghanistan theatre of operation for 30 consecutive days, a servicemember can still qualify for this medal if the unit was there for 60 non-consecutive days, as well. As you can see, the receipt of this medal, for an individual servicemember, is not directly associated with a soldier's own occupation of a the Afghanistan campaign theatre, but, rather, their assigned/attached unit's days in theatre. With this in mind, qualification for this medal/ribbon will be legitimately had if a sevicemember even flew through the airspace of Afghanistan while his/her attached unit was stationed on the ground.
-- For those servicemembers, in rare situations, that don't meet the previous criteria for receipt of the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, additional criteria are set out in order to ensure that all forseeable gaps in potential recipients are covered. For example, a United States' Military service member may have not been attached/assigned to a unit that has been in theatre for 30 consecutive days (or 60 non-consecutive days), however, they may have very well been engaged in serious combat with the enemy. Per the additional criteria laid out, these criteria may also make a servicemember eligible for this award:
- Regardless of their service time in Afghanistan, a servicemember will qualify for this award if they were actively involved in direct combat with the enemy in which grave danger, or death, were real viable possibilities with consideration to the circumstances. In this situation, the United States believes that these servicemembers should still qualify for this award because they were actively engaged in the Afghanistan Campaign directly, irregardless of their unit's time in country.
- Because of the sacrifice required, if a servicemember is injured or killed, while in Afghanistan during the stated time period, they will qualify for this award. This particular criteria specifically recognizes the soldier member who, while possibly not actively engaged in direct combat that could injur or kill them, they may have been injured (or killed) as the result of an unsuspecting rocket attack that breached the confines of their compound. In such circumstances, a servicemember may not have been actively engaged in a firefight, however, their tent or living quarters may have been struck unsuspectedly. While rare, these situations have occurred. In order to qualify, a soldier must be killed (posthumous awarding), injured, or wounded, and must require medical evacuation from Afghanistan.
- Each servicemember, irregardless of how many tours they service in Afghanistan, will only be awarded one Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
In April 2008, the DoD authorized service stars to recognize service members for participating in the following campaigns:
-- Liberation of Afghanistan: September 11th, 2001 - November 30th, 2001
-- Consolidation I: December 1st, 2001 - September 30th, 2006
-- Consolidation II: October 1st, 2006 - Date to be Determined (DTBD)
- How-to Use an Online Military Ribbon Rack Builder
- How-to Assemble Your Military Ribbons in the Correct Order of Precedence on Your Military Ribbon Rack
- How-to Build Your Own Military Ribbon Rack Now
- How-to Build Your Own Military Ribbons Rack
- How-to Use an Online Military Ribbon Rack Builder for Your Military Ribbons
- How to Wear Military Ribbons