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Awards & Decs: Realizing the relevance of recognition

Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- Awarding military members for their service and performance has been a long tradition throughout the history of the U.S. Armed Forces. When the Air Force was established in 1947, Airmen were still permitted to receive most U.S. Army decorations. By 1962, after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Air Force began to create its own system for member recognition.

All military personnel on active duty and members of Guard/Reserve components participating in authorized periods of training are eligible for consideration for a U.S. military decoration. For all members, the act, achievement, or service must be done as part of an Air Force mission, and members must meet specific criteria for each award.

Most personnel are familiar with the three traditional ribbons that every Guardsmen receive at the beginning of their careers after initial training: the Air Force Training Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, awarded to all military members serving in a period of national emergency, and the Global War on Terrorism Medal, awarded to all military members performing service in the War on Terror. The Air Force Training Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal are awarded after the completion of initial training and the GWOT Medal is awarded after the completion of technical school training.

Aside from these ribbons, those that attend basic military training also have the chance to earn the BMT Honor Graduate Ribbon, awarded to the top ten percent of BMT graduates, and the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon. Those who qualify as "expert" on small arms weapons including the M-16 rifle or issue handgun can still receive this award outside of BMT.

"There are a lot of different ribbons out there," said Master Sgt. Daphne Janes, the base NCOIC of career enhancements and employment. "It's just a matter of [members] really going through them and seeing whether or not they're eligible for them."

Receiving additional awards throughout one's career takes time and understanding of the process, on top of meeting the award requirements. All decorations are submitted for one of four reasons, outstanding achievement, meritorious service, heroism, or act of courage.

Other common awards that fit into these categories are the Air Force Achievement Medal, the AF Commendation Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Active duty members typically receive one of these awards every three years, Janes said. This is partially due to their constant change in duty stations. As members of the guard, we do not necessarily change locations that frequently, but we do often switch career fields or specific job duties within the same work center, which still deserves recognition, Janes said.

Once eligibility is determined, anyone can go into vPCGR and nominate a member for an award. It is a user-friendly program that has instructions on the web page of how to submit the needed information and what to do with it, Janes said.

This applies to everyone, whether they are in a leadership position or just a unit member. Anyone who witnesses or has knowledge of someone performing an act that deserves recognition can request an award.

It is really important that the actual supervisors and the members go into the system and ensure that the proper recognition is happening. If someone does a job for three to four years and then switches career fields, whether they did an outstanding job or even just their job, they should be recognized for it, Janes said.

There are also several state awards that members may be eligible for including the Massachusetts Service Medal, Emergency Service Ribbon, Defense Expeditionary Ribbon, Defense Service Ribbon, and Desert Storm Service Ribbon.

Many people from our base have been asking about the Air Force outstanding unit award after the results of our June 2011 Unit Compliance Inspection. State headquarters and the National Guard Bureau are responsible for this type of an award, but the necessary paperwork should be underway for us to be recognized for our efforts, Janes said.

The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal is another great award available to all members of the Armed Forces. Eligibility requirements include service to the civilian community, including the military family community, significant in nature and produce tangible results, reflecting favorably on the Military Service and the Department of Defense, and of a sustained and direct nature. The MOVSM is intended to recognize exceptional community support over time and not a single act or achievement. Further, it is intended to honor direct support of community activities.

More than 60 members of our base have been awarded this medal.

"That number should be much higher and can be easily raised," said Lt. Col. Wilson, the commander of the Logistics Readiness Squadron here. "We need to educate people about the medal and the supervisors how to put people in for it. It very easy to push through vMPF."

Community service is one of the 2012 goals that we can track by how many of these are awarded. As an example of past service from wing members, a group cleaned houses in Springfield that were hit by the Tornado. The recruiting team formed the group and helped the organization Rebuilding Together Springfield this past October, Wilson said.
Unit members and their supervisors should be responsible for promoting awards and encouraging recognition amongst their shops, Wilson said.

It's easy to get busy with other work tasks and put recognition on the back burner until it's time for war, a big exercise, or someone to retire. Even just doing your day-to-day business for four years before moving on to something else should be recognized, Janes said.

The goal is to educate the base so that people know awards are not difficult to put into the system and that they have help if they need it, Janes said.

Members are encouraged to login to vMPF and check on their ribbons and to let someone know if they're missing anything or eligible for an award, Janes said.

If you think you are eligible for an award, fill out the AF Form 104 and submit it to your orderly room with proper documentation. They verify the info and it goes to personnel, who verify it again prior to updating the records, Janes said.

Master Sgt. Janes will be holding an awards and decorations class on Saturday, February 4, during UTA, from 10:30 to 11:30 in Building 1 on the second floor. She will be going over the links that can be found on sharepoint, walking everyone through the system, and showing them how to put into an actual award.

Additional information on how to write awards can also be found at www.airforcewriting.com, epublishing, and through the AF Tongue and Quill.