Combat Action Ribbon
The Combat Action Ribbon (colloquially "CAR"), is a high precedence United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States Marine Corps military decoration awarded to United States sea service members "who have actively participated in ground or surface combat."
|Combat Action Ribbon|
|Awarded for||Active participation in ground or surface combat on or after December 7, 1941|
|Presented by||United States Department of the Navy|
United States Department of Homeland Security
|Eligibility||Satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or maritime engagement|
|Established||Navy Combat Action Ribbon (U.S. Department of the Navy): February 17, 1969|
Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon (U.S. Department of Homeland Security): July 16, 2008
|First awarded||Navy Combat Action Ribbon: 1969 (retroactive to March 1961)|
|Next (higher)||Navy and Marine Corps: Service achievement medals|
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Commandant's Letter of Commendation
|Equivalent||Air Force and Space Force: Air Force Combat Action Medal|
|Next (lower)||Presidential Unit Citation|
|Related||Combat Infantryman Badge (U.S. Army infantry and special forces equivalent)|
Combat Medical Badge (U.S. Army medical equivalent)
Combat Action Badge (U.S. Army non-infantry equivalent)
Coast Guardsmen, Navy sailors, and Marines active in clandestine, stealth or special operations are deemed eligible for consideration of the award.
The U.S. Navy first authorized the Combat Action Ribbon on 17 February 1969. The CAR is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps with the ranks of or lower than captain and colonel respectively.
Coast Guardsmen in Vietnam riverine warfare operations were deemed eligible for award of the Navy Combat Action Ribbon (the Coast Guard did not have its own Combat Action Ribbon until 2008).
Air combat does NOT meet the criteria for the Combat Action Ribbon; naval aviators, naval flight officers and enlisted naval aircrewmen, while in the performance of aerial flight, are eligible for consideration for the Air Medal, although this award requires far more combat exposure over a prolonged period.
The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon was authorized on 16 July 2008, and may be awarded to members of the Coast Guard in the rank of captain and below, "who have actively participated in ground or maritime combat."
The Navy Combat Action Ribbon was originally retroactive to March 1961; in 1999 it was made retroactive to 7 December 1941.
The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon is retroactive to 1 May 1975 (during the Vietnam war Coast Guard members were awarded the Navy Combat Action ribbon).
For a military member to be awarded a Combat Action Ribbon evidence must establish the member engaged the enemy, was under hostile fire, or was physically attacked by the enemy. The service member must have demonstrated satisfactory performance under enemy fire while actively participating in a ground or surface engagement. The Combat Action Ribbon will not be awarded to personnel for aerial combat, since the Strike/flight Air Medal provides recognition for aerial combat exposure; however, a pilot or crewmember forced to escape or evade, after being forced down, may be eligible for the award. Direct exposure to the detonation of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) used by an enemy, with or without the immediate presence of enemy forces, constitutes active participation in a ground or surface engagement. Eligibility under this criterion is retroactive to 7 October 2001.
The Combat Action Ribbon is awarded only to individual service members. The CAR cannot be awarded to a military unit, station, or group, although multiple individual service members may be nominated for the award stemming from the same combat action(s).
A Combat Action Ribbon is not automatically received; only after consideration of specified criteria, the member's service command may award the CAR.
Evidence must show a service member was engaged in direct combat, not indirect or present in an area where combat is occurring; mere presence in a combat zone does not qualify a servicemember for the award.
A service member who serves in special operations, who by the nature of their mission, are restricted in their ability to return fire, and who are operating in conditions where the risk of enemy fire was great and expected to be encountered, may be eligible for the Combat Action Ribbon.
The Combat Action Ribbon is a ribbon-only decoration in contrast to military branches that award a badge or medal. Compare: the U.S. Army awards the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge, or Combat Medical Badge. U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force combat participant is awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM), which includes both full and miniature size suspension medals and a ribbon.
The Combat Action Ribbon is worn in order of precedence on a member's "ribbon rack" displayed on the left (or right) side of a service member's uniform. The outermost blue stripe is always to the wearer's right; only one Combat Action Ribbon is authorized for wear, with each additional CAR award signified with a 5⁄16 inch gold star attached to the ribbon. For example, two CAR awards are signified with the CAR ribbon and one gold star device. Three awards are signified with the ribbon and two stars.
In full dress uniform, medals are worn on the member's left side, because the Combat Action Ribbon is not a medal, the ribbon is worn on the right side of the member's uniform. The CAR is the highest rated ribbon in the U.S. military decorations order of precedence and is superseded only by medals of meritorious achievement and combat valor.
An individual whose eligibility has been established in combat in any of the following listed operations may be authorized award of the Combat Action Ribbon. Only one award per operation is authorized. This listing is not all-inclusive, as the Combat Action Ribbon has been awarded in minor operations, as well as for specific actions.
1. Southeast Asia: 1 Mar 61 to 15 Aug 73.
2. Dominican Republic: 28 Apr 65 to 21 Sep 66.
3. USS LIBERTY (AGTR 5): 8 Jun 67 to 9 Jun 67.
4. USS PUEBLO (AGTR 2): 23 Jan 68.
5. Operation FREQUENT WIND (Saigon evacuation): 29 to 30 Apr 75. (No ships qualified. )
6. Operation MAYAGUEZ: 15 May 75. (No ships qualified.)
7. Grenada: 240ct83 to 2 Nov 83. (No ships qualified.)
8. Lebanon: 20Aug82 to 1 Aug 84. (No ships qualified.)
9. Persian Gulf
(a) COMNAVSPECWAR Task Unit Tango: 22 Sep 87.
(b) USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG 58) : 14 Apr 88.
(c) Operation PRAYING MANTIS: 18 Apr 88.
(d) USS ELMER MONTGOMERY (FF 1082) and USS VINCENNES (CG 49) : 3 Jul 88.
(e) Persian Gulf MCM Operations: Specific units during the periods 19 Nov 87 to 1 Apr 88; 14 to 20 Apr 88; 20 to 23 Apr 88; and 2 Aug 90 to 10 Sep 91.
10. Operation JUST CAUSE (Panama) : 20 Dec 89 to 31 Jan 90. (No ships qualified. )
11. Operation SHARP EDGE: 5 to 24 Aug 90. (No ships qualified.)
12. Operation DESERT STORM: 17 Jan 91 to 28 Feb 91.
(a) The Secretary of the Navy approved the CAR as an
exception to policy for the following ships that operated north of 28.30N.and west of 49.303 from 17 Jan 91 to 28 Feb 91-
USS ADROIT (MSO 509)
USS BEAUFORT (ATS 2) USS CARON (DD 970) USS DURHAM (LKA 114) USS FORD (FFG 54) USS PAUL F. FOSTER (DD964) USNS HASSAYAMPA (T-A0 145) USS IMPERVIOUS (MSO 449) USS AVENGER (MCM 1) USS BUNKER HILL (CG 52) USS CURTS (FFG 38) USS FIFE (DD 991) USS FORT MCHENRY (LSD 43) USS HAWES (FFG 53) USS HORNE (CG 3 0) USS JARRETT (FFG 33) USS USS KIDD (DDG 993) USS LEADER (MSO 490) USS MACDONOUGH (DDG 3 9) USS MISSOURI (BB 63) USS NASSAU (LI-IA 4) USS NICHOLAS (FFG 47) USS OLDENDORF (DD 972) USS PORTLAND (LSD 37) USS RALEIGH (LPD 1) USS VREELAND (FF 1068) USS WORDEN (CG 18) USS LASALLE (AGF 3) USS LEFTWICH (DD 984) USS MCINERNEY (FFG 8) USS MOBILE BAY (CG 53) USS NIAGARA FALLS (AFS 3) USS OKINAWA (LPH 3) USNS PASSUMPSIC (T-A0 107) USS PRINCETON (CG 59) USS TRIPOLI (LPH 10) USS WISCONSIN (BB 64)
(b) The following ships were approved for the dates indicated-
USNS COMFORT (T-AH 2 0) 26 Feb 91
USS GUAM (LPH 9) 25 to 26 Feb 91 USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2) 26 Feb 91 USS OGDEN (LPD 5) 25 to 26 Feb 91 USS MISSOURI (BB 63) 12 Feb 91 and 25 Feb 91 VC-6 Detachment EODMU Detachments USS RICHMOND K. TURNER (CG 20) 19 to 24 Feb 91 USS VALLEY FORGE (CG 50) 16 to 28 Feb 91 USS LEADER (MSO 490) 23 Mar 91
13. El Salvador: 1 Jan 81 to 1 Feb 92.
14. Operation RESTORE HOPE (Somalia): 5 Dec 92 to 31 Mar 95. (No ships qualified. )
15. Cambodia: 1 Jun 92 to 15 Nov 93.
16. Operation ASSURED RESPONSE (Monrovia, Liberia) : 7 to 18 Apr 96. (No ships qualified.)
17. Kosovo Campaign: 24 Mar 99 to 27 Jan 00.
18. Operation ENDURING FREEDOM: 11 Sep 01 to 28 Dec 14.
19. Operation IRAQI FREEDOM: 19 Mar 03 to 18 Dec 11.
Combat Action Ribbon versionsEdit
The Combat Action Ribbon is currently authorized with a U.S. Navy/Marine Corps design, and as of 2008, a U.S. Coast Guard version.
The Navy CAR covers the Navy and Marine Corps since the establishment of the CAR in 1969. Additionally, the award was made retroactive to 7 December 1941.
Prior to 2008, eligible U.S. Coast Guardsmen were awarded the Navy Combat Action Ribbon(because in most conflicts and wars Coast Guard members usually operated with or under the U.S. Navy). From 2009 forward, Coast Guard members who engage in combat are now awarded the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.
Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard veterans are advised to submit requests about eligibility or other matters to their respective branches to inquire about the Combat Action Ribbon or other awards of this nature.
The Navy Combat Action Ribbon ("CAR") was established during the Vietnam War by a Secretary of the Navy Notice, dated February 17, 1969, with retroactive award to 1 March 1961. The Navy CAR is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps (and Coast Guard, when operating under the control of the Navy during a war or national emergency), with the grade of captain/colonel and below, who have actively participated in ground or surface combat.
Marines, Navy sailors, or Coast Guardsmen who are awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Action Badge, or Combat Action Medal while assigned to United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Space Force units, or who earned such for prior service in the U.S. Army, Air Force, or Space Force, may be authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon upon application to the Department of the Navy (or Department of Homeland Security, as applicable).
In January 2013, the awarding criteria were expanded to include dangerous exposure to IEDs, mines, and scatterable munitions, be it the detonation of such or direct action taken to disable, render safe, or destroy such; servicemembers may be deemed eligible if the IEDs are detonated or specifically emplaced by the enemy. Previous eligibility applied only to exposure to IEDs actually detonated by the enemy. Eligibility under this criterion is retroactive only to 7 October 2001.
Blanket lists of units and operations whose members or participants are deemed to be "in-combat", and thus potentially eligible, can be found in OPNAVNOTE 1650 (for specific units and ships) and in chapter 2, appendix E, of recent SECNAVINSTs (for specific operations and ships) though, "Neither service in a combat area nor being awarded the Purple Heart Medal automatically makes a service member eligible", and specific sailors and marines may receive the ribbon in recognition of individual actions or various minor operations.
In 2017, sailors from USS Nitze, USS Mason, USS Ponce, and USS San Antonio were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon after their ship was fired upon by rebels off the coast of Yemen in 2016, one of the few instances in the 21st century when U.S. Navy sailors aboard a commissioned warship were awarded the ribbon for combat occurring at sea. In 2005, the USS Kearsarge was awarded the ribbon as well.
World War II and Korean WarEdit
In October 1999, World War II and Korean War veterans became retroactively eligible for the Navy Combat Action Ribbon by Public Law 106-65 on 5 October 1999, which permitted the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) to award the Combat Action Ribbon to a member of the Navy or Marine Corps for participation in ground or surface combat during any period on or after 7 December 1941, and before 1 March 1961, if the Secretary determines that the member has not been previously recognized in an appropriate manner for such participation. Two specific blocks of time were later designated by then SECNAV Danzig: Dec. 7, 1941 – Apr. 14, 1946 (World War II), and June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1954 (Korean War)
Coast Guard CAREdit
In 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard began awarding a Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon (CGCAR), that is somewhat similar in design to the Navy Combat Action Ribbon.
Prior to 2008, Coast Guard members earning a Combat Action Ribbon received the U.S. Navy CAR because in times of conflict and war the Coast Guard in combat areas typically operated with or under the U.S. Navy. For example, in the Vietnam War's Operation Market Time the U.S. Coast Guard had at any one time approximately 1,200 Coast Guard members participating in brown water navy riverine warfare operations. Those Coast Guard members were awarded the U.S. Navy Combat Action Ribbon by the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam.
The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon (CGCAR) was established by the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security on 16 July 2008, in ALCOAST 361/08. The Coast Guard version of the CAR is awarded to members of the Coast Guard who have actively participated in ground or maritime combat. Satisfactory performance under fire with the enemy is required.
With its own Combat Action Ribbon, as of 2009 USCG members will receive the Coast Guard CAR regardless if a member is operating in conjunction with or under the control of the U.S. Navy. Those USCG members awarded the U.S. Navy CAR prior to 2009 are authorized to continue wearing the Navy award despite the availability of the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.
Criteria for the CGCAR also include personnel with direct exposure to the detonation of an improvised explosive device used by an enemy, and for personnel who serve in clandestine/special operations, or who are restricted in their ability to return fire, where the risk of enemy fire was great.
The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon is authorized for:
- Operation Allied Force (Kosovo)
- Operation Desert Storm
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
Other minor operations and specific actions may allow the award, as determined by the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Only one award per operation is authorized.
Initially, all other similar military awards from other services were required to be converted to the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon in order to be worn on the Coast Guard uniform, but the policy was modified effective January 1, 2009 to allow wearing the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, Air Force Combat Action Medal, and Army Combat Infantry/Medical/Action Badge for service prior to May 1, 1975, and which cannot be converted to the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon.
Additional awards of the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon are denoted by 5⁄16 inch gold stars on the ribbon.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 16, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Info" (PDF). media.defense.gov. 2017.
- "COMDTINST M1650.25E Medals and Awards Manual" (PDF). August 15, 2016. pp. 2–12, 2–13. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2016. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
- "ANNOUNCEMENT OF CHANGES TO THE ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR THE COMBAT ACTION RIBBON > United States Marine Corps Flagship > Messages Display". www.marines.mil. June 15, 2007. Retrieved November 29, 2020. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "NAVY AND MARINE CORPS AWARDS MANUAL" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 22, 2020. Retrieved January 10, 2008.
- "MARADMIN 038/13". Archived from the original on January 31, 2016.
- Jamie McIntyre, CNN Washington Bureau. "CNN.com – Navy gives USS Cole crew awards – September 5, 2001". edition.cnn.com.
- Ziezulewicz, Geoff (November 3, 2017). "Four ship crews receive Combat Action Ribbon".
- Affairs, This story was written by Journalist 2nd Class Bretta Heath, USS Kearsarge Public. "Kearsarge Awarded Combat Action Ribbon".
- Pub.L. 106–65 (text) (pdf) Oct. 5, 1999, STAT.588, G, Sec.564, "Retroactive Award of the Navy Combat Action Ribbon"
- DOD Press Release, March 21, 2000, Retroactive Combat Action Ribbon "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Retrieved May 13, 2015
- Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon @ Foxfall medals  Retrieved May 13, 2015[better source needed]
- Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon – Official Coast Guard All Hands blog[dead link]