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Navy & Marine Corps Awards and Decorations
Air Medal
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Authorization. Executive Order 9158 of 11 May 1942, as amended by E.O. 9242-A of 11 September 1942.

Eligibility Requirements. In adjudging the appropriate awards for the various members of a flight crew, the pilot responsible for flying the aircraft is sometimes eligible for a higher award than other members of the flight crew. However, in a two-seat aircraft where the pilot and crewmember constitute a team and function as an integral part of the weapons system, both would generally be eligible for the same award. A crewmember other than the pilot should not be precluded from receiving a higher award if circumstances so indicate. Each case will be considered on its own merits. The Air Medal may be awarded in two categories:

Individual Award. Awarded to persons who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States, distinguishes himself/herself by heroic/meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight under flight orders. A 3/16 inch bronze star is worn to denote first individual award of the Air Medal. Gold stars are worn to denote second and subsequent individual awards of the Air Medal.

Strike/Flight Award. Awarded to persons who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States, distinguish themselves by meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight operations under flight orders. Bronze numerals are worn to denote total number of Strike/Flight Awards. Strike/Flight awards can only be approved within the parameters (area, time, etc.) established by the Secretary of the Navy; delegated authority of this award is specific in nature and always in writing.


Strike. Those sorties which deliver ordnance against the enemy, land or evacuate personnel in assault or engage in search and rescue (SAR) operations which encounter enemy opposition.

Flight. Those sorties which deliver ordnance against the enemy, land or evacuate personnel in assault or engage in Search and Rescue operations which encounter no enemy opposition.

Direct Combat Support Mission. Those missions which include reconnaissance, target combat air patrol, electronic countermeasures (ECM) support, psychological warfare, patrol operations in support of coastal surveillance, etc., which do not necessarily involve delivery of ordnance against the enemy, or landing or evacuating personnel in assault or engaging in Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. However, those direct combat support missions that encounter enemy opposition equivalent to that encountered by a strike should be considered as a strike sortie. Examples are photo reconnaissance, target combat air patrol (TARCAP) and ECM aircraft that are endangered by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and surface to air missiles (SAMs). Administrative and logistical flights between established airbases or secure areas and/or ships are not considered qualifying as direct combat support sorties.

Modifications. Awarding authorities are authorized to deviate from the above criteria, when appropriate, with due regard to hazard and exposure incurred in sustained aerial flight operations.

Requirements. The award of the Air Medal on a strike/flight basis shall require 20 points.

  • 10 strikes (1 strike = 2 points), or
  • 20 flights (1 flight = 1 point), or
  • 50 missions (1 mission = .4 points), or
  • 250 flight hours in direct combat support missions that do not encounter enemy opposition (25 hours = 2 points), or
  • A combination of these, using the appro­ priate ratios, i.e.: 3 strikes = 6 points 8 flights = 8 points *10 missions = 4 points 25 hours = 2 points 20 total points = 1 S/F AM

*NOTE: (Time flown on 'missions' are not counted as 'hours')

Special Provisions

Only personnel under flight orders are eligible to receive the strike/flight award of the Air Medal.

The individual award of an Air Medal, or other personal decoration for a particular sortie, should not preclude that sortie from counting toward eligibility for a strike/flight award of the Air Medal.

Officers of the rank of captain/colonel (O-6) or above shall not be eligible for the award of the Air Medal on a strike/flight basis unless the sorties involved were actually required in the performance of their regular duties. Recommendations involving officers in this category, regardless of the current extent of delegated award authority, shall be forwarded via the chain of command to SECNAV for approval.

Combat Distinguishing Device. The Combat Distinguishing Device may be authorized for single mission Air Medals for valor (heroism) after 4 April 1974.

Periods for Strike/Flight Air Medals. Only areas in which Strike Flight Air Medals could have been earned/awarded:

  • Vietnam 4 Jul 65 - 28 Mar 73
  • Grenada 23 Oct 83 - 02 Nov 83
  • Lebanon 01 Oct 83 - 31 Oct 84
  • Libya Mar 86 - Apr 86 18-19 Apr 88
  • Operation PRAYING MANTIS 20 Dec 89 - 31 Jan 90
  • Panama 17 Jan 91 - 28 Feb 91
  • Operation DESERT STORM Aug 92 - TBD
  • Operation SOUTHERN WATCH 1 Jul 92 - 20 Dec 95
  • Operation DENY FLIGHT 15 Dec 95 – TBD
  • Operation Joint Endeavor 15 Dec 95 – TBD
  • Kosovo 24 Mar 99 – TBD

(Note: The operational commander receives specific delegated award authority from SECNAV. Specifications for each area of operations must be adhered to in addition to the basic guidance of this chapter. Local guidance must be consulted for clarifications.)

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