Thousands of U.S. troops who have deployed in support of the mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, are now eligible for a new medal, officials announced.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made announced the creation of the Operation Inherent Resolve medal during a change of command ceremony on Wednesday at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Carter segued into the announcement while noting that CentCom's outgoing leader, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, and his successor, Army Gen. Joe Votel, have both "across their careers ... demonstrated what can be described as inherent resolve.
"It is fitting then, that as we mark the change of command between these two leaders, that we introduce today the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal," the secretary said.
"I am pleased to announce today, by the president's order and upon [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.] and my recommendation, that our sailors, soldiers, airmen, and Marines serving in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve are eligible for this medal and distinction," he added.
"As we continue to accelerate our counter-ISIL campaign, we will continue to depend upon the men and women of CentCom," Carter said. "It is you who provide us the flexibility to respond to any threat across a critical region."
President Barack Obama on Wednesday issued an executive order establishing the medal to service members who "serve or have served in Iraq, Syria, or contiguous waters or airspace on or after June 15, 2014."
With the operation still going on, an end-date for medal eligibility has yet to be established.
To qualify for the new medal, a service member must have been present in Iraq, Syria or the contiguous waters or airspace of either country on or after June 15, 2014, for at least 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days, according to the Defense Department.
Service members who were killed or were medically evacuated from the campaign theater due to wounds or injuries immediately qualify for award, as do members who engaged in combat.
Troops awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for their service in Iraq and Syria after the start of Operation Inherent Resolve remain qualified for the older medal. They can apply to their military branch to be awarded the new medal, but may not receive both medals for the same act, achievement or period of service, officials said.
Service members serving deployed outside of Iraq and Syria for Operation Inherent Resolve will continue to be awarded the expeditionary medal.