WASHINGTON — The V device worn on Army Commendation Medal and other awards stands for “valor.” The device was authorized decades ago for wear on Army ribbons.
The V device is still around, but joining the V now are two new devices: the “C” and “R” devices, where C denotes “combat” and the R means “remote.” 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.” That message was published March 15.
There's a subtle but important distinction between the V and the C, said Lt. Col. R. Arron Lummer, chief of Awards and Decorations Branch, The Adjutant General Directorate, U.S. Army Human Resources Command.
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.” The intent of the C device is to distinguish a particular award as having been earned in combat, because not all military awards are exclusively combat-related awards.
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.
A typical scenario for a C device, he said, could be on an award recognizing a Soldier’s meritorious service over the course of a deployment in a combat-zone, commonly called an end-of-tour award.
Another example may be to recognize a specific achievement made by a Soldier during a deployment, even if it is not directly-related to combat. The catch, Lummer said, is the C device is intended to recognize that the particular award was earned under combat conditions.
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. This is not to say the Soldier must qualify for a combat badge,” states the MILPER.
Lummer clarified that combat badges, like the Combat Action Badge, are awarded when a Soldier is personally engaged or engages the enemy. A 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 added that it would be “highly unlikely, but possible” for a Soldier to not have a combat patch but be awarded a C device. In particular, a Soldier could be serving in a non-combat, contingency location but, due to the fluid nature of military operations, the situation may escalate into a combat situation, then rapidly de-escalate back to stability operations again.
The remote R device is rated when “a Soldier remotely, but directly, contributed to a combat operation,” Lummer said.
That Soldier can be from any military occupational specialty, but a good example, he said, is an unmanned aerial system operator who places ordnance on a high-value target from a location away from the combat area.
Lummer said a 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.”
The determination a commander must make is if the Soldier’s actions from outside the operational area (not exposed to or at risk to hostile action) directly affected combat operations.
How it’s worn
Instructions on wear of the C and R devices borrowed heavily from similar instructions on how to wear the V device, Lummer said.
The new C and the R devices are the same color, size and font as the existing V device, he said. Like the V, he said, the most common award the C and R will be worn with is most likely 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
Army Achievement Medal
The R device could also be worn with the:
Legion of Merit
Meritorious Service Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Using as an example the Army Commendation Medal, if three ARCOMs were earned, that ribbon would contain two oak leaf clusters. If one or more of those ARCOMs were awarded with a C device, only one C device would be worn on the inboard side of the oak leaf clusters closest to the heart, he said.
In the same example, if a different ARCOM was awarded with a V or an R, only one of each device would be worn. According to Lummer, the V has the highest precedence, followed by the C and then the R. Lummer also highlighted that a Soldier cannot receive multiple devices for the same service or achievement. If a Soldier is awarded an ARCOM for a valorous act against an armed enemy, they receive only the V device, even though the valor obviously occurred under combat conditions.
As with all decorations, the C and R are part of the “commander's program,” Lummer said, “designed to maintain good order and discipline and support morale and esprit de corps.”
In the past, awards such as the Army Commendation Medal did not in and of themselves outwardly denote extraordinary service related to combat, Lummer said.
“Soldiers were not appropriately recognized with the awards system as it was, so this change across DoD does just that,” he said.
Lots of questions, interest
Lummer said publication of the MILPER message has generated a lot of questions about the new C and R devices. Chief among those questions is if the devices are retroactive in nature — can they be worn, for instance, by Soldiers who have earned medals in past conflicts, such as Vietnam or Korea., for instance.
The answer, he said, is that the devices are retroactive only to Jan. 7, 2016, when the secretary of Defense authorized them, so any award approved prior to that day is not eligible for a C or R device.