The Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced major changes in the awarding of three wartime medal awards: The National Defense Service Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Medal, and the Inherent Resolve Medal.
The National Defense Service Medal is awarded to all service members who have completed basic or officer training and who have served on active duty during wartime, the most recent of such wartime periods being from Sept. 11, 2001, to this past Dec. 31, 2022.
According to the Military Times, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin signed the memo ending the awarding of the National Defense Service Medal on August 31, 2022, which was the 1st anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. This marks an important shift from a wartime to a peacetime posture for the United States military. This is so even though we still have some troops engaged in combat operations in Syria, Somalia, Kenya, and elsewhere at this time.
Previously, the National Defense Service Medal awards were given to Korean War service members who served on active duty from June 1950 to July 1954, to those who served on active duty in Vietnam from January 1961 to August 1974, and to those who served on active duty from August 1990 to November 1995.
The Pentagon has also changed the authorization of the Global War on Terrorism Medal to those who have served on active duty since 2003. From now on, this award will be given only to those troops who participate in a counterterrorism operation for at least 30 consecutive days. This, then, remains a viable award to troops still engaged in places like those mentioned above.
The Inherent Resolve Medal has been previously awarded to those who were attached to units in Syria and Iraq and who had served there for at least 30 consecutive or non-consecutive days. As of July 1, 2022, it will now only be awarded to those who serve in Syria, which will include its air space and up to 12 nautical miles out to sea.
As the DoD has indicated, these decisions are to reflect the fact that the United States is changing its operational footing from a wartime to a peacetime stance. This does not mean that there are no more combat operations going on in very dangerous places in the world at present. The Army spokesman for the DoD, Maj. Charlie Dietz, told the Military Times, “The Department of Defense still continues worldwide counterterrorism operations.”
The positive message that we can take away from this announcement is that these medal authorization changes are an indication that the longest wartime authorization period for the National Defense Service Medal award, 21 years, is finally over. We hope and pray that there will be no reason for this wartime award to be authorized in the near future, or for that matter, ever again.