Army Approves New Award Devices for Combat

The new C device and R device are shown. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Human Resources Command
The new C device and R device are shown. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Human Resources Command

The Defense Department is adding two new award devices -- a C device for personnel who distinguish themselves under combat conditions and an R device for service members such as drone pilot who "remotely, but directly, contributed to a combat operation," according to the chief of the Army awards branch.

The new devices are similar to the distinguished V device for valor, which was authorized decades ago for wear on Army ribbons.

Both are described fully in Military Personnel Message 17-095, titled "Implementation of Department of Defense Guidance for the Newly Established 'C' and 'R' Devices," dated March 15.

In the past, awards such as the Army Commendation Medal did not outwardly denote extraordinary service related to combat, Lt. Col. R. Arron Lummer, chief of Awards and Decorations Branch, the Adjutant General Directorate, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said in a March 28 press release.

"Soldiers were not appropriately recognized with the awards system as it was, so this change across DoD does just that," Lummer said.

The Army was the first to publish guidance and authorization to wear the devices when the MILPER came out this month, but guidance will likely vary slightly between the Joint Staff and the other services, Lummer said.

C for Combat

There's a subtle but important distinction between the V and C devices, Lummer said.

The valor V device "is for combat heroism, limited to a singular achievement where a soldier demonstrated valor in combat against an armed enemy," he said.

The combat C device is earned "through service or achievement under combat conditions," Lummer said. The intent of the C device is to distinguish a particular award as having been earned in combat, since not all military awards are exclusively combat-related.

For example, the Bronze Star Medal will not merit a C device because the medal itself recognizes service or achievement in a combat theater. The Army Commendation Medal, however, can be awarded in combat or in peacetime, so a C device would distinguish that service or achievement in combat, Lummer said.

But to qualify for the C device, the soldier must be in an active area of combat where "the soldier was personally exposed to hostile action or in an area where other soldiers were actively engaged," he said.

Unlike the Combat Action Badge -- which is awarded when a soldier is personally engaged or engages the enemy -- the C device can be awarded to a soldier even if he or she was never personally engaged, so long as the "service or achievement being recognized was in an area where such enemy actions occurred," Lummer said.

R for Remote

The R device is rated when a soldier contributes to a combat operation remotely, such as when an unmanned aerial system operator places ordnance on a high-value target from a location away from the combat area, Lummer said.

That UAS operator likely would qualify for the new R device if he "delivered ordnance or identified the target and was then able to talk or walk effects onto that target, whether from a raid on the ground or designating targeted munitions delivered from somewhere else," he said.

The new C and the R devices are the same color, size and font as the existing V device, Lummer said. Instructions on wear of the C and R devices borrowed heavily from similar instructions on how to wear the V device.

Both new devices will most likely be awarded with the Army Commendation Medal, but there are others.

The C device could also be worn with the:

-- Distinguished Service Medal;

-- Legion of Merit;

-- Distinguished Flying Cross;

-- Air Medal; and

-- Army Achievement Medal.

The R device could also be worn with the:

-- Legion of Merit;

-- Meritorious Service Medal; and

-- Army Achievement Medal.

The new devices, however, are not intended to be awarded for past conflicts, including the majority of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The devices are retroactive only to Jan. 7, 2016, when the Defense Department authorized them, so any award approved prior to that is not eligible for a C or R device, Lummer said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

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