Leadership: August 8, 2000


The US Army has many awards and decorations, and these are (mostly) shown on the Class-A or Class-B uniforms by ribbons (the infamous "fruit salad" seen on television at Pentagon briefings). If a soldier receives a second award of the same medal, he wears one ribbon, but adds a small bronze oak leave to it. Regulations allow four oak leaves, and a ribbon with four bronze oak leaves denotes a total of five awards of that medal. Regulations do not allow more than four oak leaves, but if the soldier has a sixth award he wears a silver oak leaf (denoting five awards) on the ribbon (which itself represents the sixth, or rather the first, award). The four oak leaf limit, however, means that a soldier could show he had won nine awards (the ribbon, a silver leaf, and three bronze leaves) or even eleven awards (the ribbon with two silver leaves) but there was no way to display a tenth award of the same medal. This was not really a problem until the 90s, when awards of the Achievement Medal became so common that an outstanding soldier might easily receive ten or more during a career. The Army has now adopted the Air Force regulation on this critical issue, which provides that a soldier with ten of the same awards wears two identical ribbons, one with the oak leaf clusters and the other without any. While it is good to know that the Army has found a way around this problem, someone needs to ask why so many medals are being given out.--Stephen V Cole


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