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Air Force Combat Action Medal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Air Force Combat Action Medal
Air Force Combat Action Medal.png
U.S. Air Force Combat Action Medal
TypeMedal (Service/Achievement)[1]
Awarded forActive participation in ground or air combat[1]
Presented byUnited States Department of the Air Force[2]
EligibilityAirmen and guardians in the grades of E-1 through O-6
StatusCurrently awarded
Established15 March 2007
First awarded12 June 2007 (retroactive to 11 September 2001)
Total awarded posthumouslyYes
Air Force Combat Action ribbon.svg
Next (higher)Service achievement medals[3]
EquivalentNavy and Marine Corps: Navy Combat Action Ribbon
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon
Next (lower)Air Force Presidential Unit Citation[3]
RelatedCombat 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, Special Forces or Medical equivalent)

The Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM)[4] is decoration of the United States Air Force and United States Space Force to recognize airmen and guardians for active participation in ground or air combat.

The AFCAM was first awarded on June 12, 2007 to six airmen who were engaged in air or ground combat off base in a combat zone during Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan, October 7, 2001 – December 28, 2015) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq, March 19, 2003 – September 1, 2010).[5][6] The medal is retroactive from September 11, 2001 to a date to be determined and may be awarded posthumously.


For an airman or guardian to wear the AFCAM, members must provide proper documentation to their commander which includes a narrative explanation of the airman or guardian's involvement in combat activities to the first O-6 (Colonel) in their operational chain of command on an AF Form 3994.[7] The application will be processed through the chain of command and eventually be approved or disapproved by the Commander of Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR).[8]

Nomination of the award of the AFCAM will be restricted to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who on or after September 11, 2001 were under any of the following conditions:[9]

  • Deliberately go into the enemy's domain (outside the wire) to conduct official duties, either on the ground or in the air, and have come under enemy fire by lethal weapons while performing those duties, and are at risk of grave danger.
  • While defending the base (inside/on the wire), and must have come under enemy fire and engage the enemy with direct and lethal fire, and are at risk of grave danger.
  • Are personnel in ground operations who actively engage the enemy with direct and lethal fires also may qualify even if no direct fire is taken, as long as there was risk of grave danger and meets other criteria.

Retroactive awards prior to September 11, 2001 are not authorized.

It is worn after the Air Force Achievement Medal and before the Air Force Presidential Unit Citation.

The AFCAM may be awarded to members from the other Armed Forces and foreign military members serving in a U.S. Air Force or U.S. Space Force unit, provided they meet the criteria for the award.[1]

Ribbon devices

According to USAF Memo, June 25, 2015, Air Force Instruction 36-2803, December 18, 2013 (Change 1, June 22, 2015): AFCAM, Authorized Device: A gold star will be worn to recognize subsequent operations when approved by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (, pages 148-49).[10] However, in AFI36-2903, gold stars are not included in the AF list of authorized ribbon devices (11.4, page 224); service/campaign stars (316" bronze/silver star) are the only star devices authorized for wear. Also, no ribbon device is authorized for wear in AFI36-2803 to denote subsequent awards of the AFCAM, which normally would be oak leaf clusters. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard authorizes a 516" gold star to denote subsequent awards of specific decorations and a 316" bronze service star is worn on the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal to denote a subsequent operation.[11]

Note: This may be the beginning of a first time wearing of a gold star device by a member of the Air Force on any one of their awards: General Tod Wolters, U.S.A.F., publicly wears a 316" gold star on an AFCAM service ribbon on his uniform since at least September 2013 (the gold star for the AFCAM is not listed on his August 2015 AF biography awards list).[12][13] Wolters has fought in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.[13][14][15] However, as of 2019, General Wolters no longer wears the device on the AFCAM ribbon.[16]

Medal design

Billy Mitchell's SPAD XVI he flew in World War I with a Lewis twin machine gun mounted in the rear cockpit. The aircraft is now located at the National Air and Space Museum.
Billy Mitchell's SPAD XVI he flew in World War I with a Lewis twin machine gun mounted in the rear cockpit. The aircraft is now located at the National Air and Space Museum.

In conjunction with the Army Institute of Heraldry, the medal was designed by Susan Gamble, a professional artist and Master Designer for the U.S. Mint, and wife of Mike Gamble, an Air Force colonel. She was quoted by The Washington Post as saying, "It was just a real pleasure to give this back to the Air Force that's been part of my life."[17]

Gamble based the silver medal's design and ribbon color (scarlet with ten yellow stripes) from the circular insignia[18] painted on planes which were piloted by Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell, including a French-built SPAD XVI (SPAD 16) fighter aircraft he piloted in France during World War I.[19] His SPAD 16 (single-engine, two-seat, reconnaissance and bomber aircraft) is currently displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.[20] Mitchell is generally known as the father of the U.S. Air Force.[21]

A laurel wreath surrounds the medal's eagle emblem executed in a simple, linear Art Deco style. The eagle with a national flag shield with thirteen perpendicular stripes on its breast faces right, over the right talon clutching arrows (represents the power of war), to reflect that this is a combat medal. The left talon clutches an olive branch (represents the power of peace). The eagle which symbolizes Mitchell's military rank insignia of colonel,[18] has above it a five-pointed star which represents Mitchell's wartime promotion to the temporary rank of brigadier general in October, 1918. The reverse side of the medal contains two rows of words written on a scroll at the center of the eagle, "U.S. Air Force" and "Combat Action".

The ribbon's diagonal stripes at first could not be manufactured in the United States; but military medals cannot be manufactured outside the U.S. This design problem was resolved when a mill in Bally, Pennsylvania, Bally Ribbon Mills, bought a new loom specifically to weave the diagonal stripe. A Rhode Island firm, Ira Green Inc. in Providence, made the metal parts.[17] The AFCAM is the only U.S. military award to have a diagonally patterned ribbon, much like the British Distinguished Flying Cross and Netherlands Airman's Cross. The AFCAM service ribbon has five stripes.

First recipients

First award - June 12, 2007

The AFCAM was presented for the first time to six Airmen (five men and one woman) by the Air Force Chief of Staff, General T. Michael Moseley (now retired), at the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia:[5][17]

First award (posthumous)

The AFCAM was presented posthumously for the first time to:


  1. ^ a b c "Air Force Memorandum, AFCAM, pp. 148–49, 25 June 2015, Retrieved April 16, 2016" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 January 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Production publication" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-01-27. Retrieved 2016-04-17.
  3. ^ a b "Awards and Decorations". Air Force Personnel Center Library. Air Force Personnel Center. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Air Force Combat Action Medal, Air Force Personnel Center, posted 4 August 2010, last accessed 18 March 2013". Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  5. ^ a b J oint Base Andrews, airmen receive first AF Combat Action Medals, By the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs, 6/12/2007
  6. ^ "Congressional Research Service, U.S. Periods of War and Dates of Recent Conflicts, February 27, 2015" (PDF).
  7. ^ "AF Form 3994". Archived from the original (xld) on 2012-02-08. Retrieved 2012-08-11.[clarification needed]
  8. ^ "News".
  9. ^ "Air Force Memorandum, AFCAM, p. 148-49, 25 June 2015, Retrieved April 16, 2001" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 January 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Air Force Memorandum, AFCAM, p. 148-49, 224, 25 June 2015, Retrieved April 16, 2016" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 January 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  11. ^ [1] Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  12. ^ "Lieutenant General Tod Wolters, USAF, saluting on September 24, 2013".
  13. ^ a b "LIEUTENANT GENERAL TOD D. WOLTERS > U.S. Air Force > Biography Display".
  14. ^ "Factsheets : Operation Enduring Freedom".
  15. ^ "Factsheets : Operation Iraqi Freedom".
  16. ^ "Commander".
  17. ^ a b c "For Today's Air Force, a New Symbol of Valor" by John Kelly, June 13, 2007. The Washington Post, p. B03. Accessed June 13, 2007.
  18. ^ a b "General William Mitchell Biography".
  19. ^ "Billy Mitchell Archives - This Day in Aviation".
  20. ^ Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, SPAD XVI, Retrieved April 17, 2016
  21. ^ "William 'Billy' Mitchell -- 'The father of the United States Air Force' once liv".
  22. ^ "While you were sleeping . . . Commandos were in action > Air Force Special Operations Command > Display".
  23. ^ "They called her 'The Angel of Death'".

External links

Media related to Air Force Combat action Medal at Wikimedia Commons

This page was last edited on 1 July 2021, at 13:17
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