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Neck Medal Bling




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Last week I had the chance to attend the premier professional development forum for soldiers, the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army. Full disclosure here, it is no secret that I am AUSA Senior Fellow and long-time supporter so let me just get in a plug. I believe regardless your profession that you should align with an advocacy group that represents your ideals and beliefs, and for me it is AUSA. With that unpaid announcement done the topic I wanted to get a gut check from my readers on is neck medals.

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Now I am not talking about our nations highest award the Medal of Honor, which of the official US decorations is one of two neck orders that is hung on something other that a suspension ribbon on the dress or mess uniform. The MOH was not always worn around the neck, the first incarnations was suspended from a ribbon and worn on the coat breast, it was in 1944 when was attached to a light blue colored moiré silk neck ribbon. An interesting peace of trivia is that the Legion of Merit is another official decoration that is not only worn as a suspension medal, it is awarded in one of four degrees, with the Commander degree worn around the neck. The Legionnaire degree is awarded to US forces, but the Commander degree  can only be awarded to the equivalent of a U.S. military chief of staff or higher position, but not to a head of state.

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At this meeting I came in contact with a senior noncommissioned officer wearing what I believed to be a regimental award around his neck while in his “class A” ASU. Now look, I get it. There is nothing worse than some overly anal nit-picking retiree telling today’s force how to run things or how screwed up it has gotten since we left, but look there are pet peeves and then there are enforcing standards. Personally, it doesnt matter to me if it was a Regimental award, an Audie Murphy Club medallion, Dr. Mary E. Walker award or the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris award regimental awards are classified by AR 670-1 as a quasi-military decoration and can only be worn while in uniform while attending the event. The regulation is so clear on the position that it even expounds in para. 22-12, section d., that says neck medals “will not be worn to and from the event.”

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This is not about neck medal envy either. I have been awarded not only two regimental awards and a Hall of Fame recognition that are suspended from a ribbon worn around the neck, but I would never wear them all at the same time. It has been more than a few times I have seen senior noncommissioned officers (mostly) wearing enough neck bling at the same time to shame Flavor Flav and Audie Murphy himself. In keeping with the rule-set that to be in compliance with the regulation he would need to have been attending the Saint Barbara’s Association’s gathering of Sergeant Audie Murphy Club members, to be put on as they enter the gathering, and removed as they left. And how to wear these things, under the lapel, over the lapel, cinched up close or letting your freak flag fly with it at the full-length of the ribbon?

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Okay, you get the picture. The thing that was unsettling to me most was that this leader was in view of some of the highest ranking people in the Army gathered in one place and no one applied an on-the-spot (OTS) correction, so I figured I was just out of touch. I recall being awarded the Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharpe as a first sergeant, I was proud as my company commander awarded me medallion #411. When he handed me the decoration box and certificate from my Regimental Association in it appeared an extract of the regulation,  and instructions and directions for how to wear it properly. According to my instructions neck medals should be worn up tight, not loosely at the end of the ribbon. It was always a treat when I got to go to the Ordnance Ball or my multi-functional sustainment units branch get-together’s and show off our branch pride. But I never wore it outside of a Ball or Dining In/Out, which is the appropriate time and place.

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And other than the initial presentation I would never have considered wearing in it my ACUs, yet I don’t know how many times I have seem SAMC Club members in parades and graduations doing just that. Now I am smart enough to know that everything is waiverable it seems and in this case there is a provision that gives commanders the authority to use their prerogative and allow neck medals to be worn at events, which I feel is mostly reserved for events of the type of nature of a unit-sponsored Ball, not for any event that Joe goes to in his ASUs (or ACU/OCP). But even if that was the case (its their prerogative after all), surely it cannot just be arbitrarily approved at the lowest level of command? I mean if the Division Commander is holding a Dining In that Bravo Company 1/23 Bn commander can dictate what his soldiers can and cannot wear? I would suggest that the authority for wear resides at a lot higher level that what that NCO was likely to muster.

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I am not a hater of neck medals or of people who wear them at my self-declared inappropriate places, but if you have followed my writings in the past you know I am a champion of appropriately written standards and am the scourge of ambiguity. If we are going to allow neck medals then we should enforce the rules on them, something as mainstream as neck medals should have appropriate standards. If no standards exists, lets come up with something. There is no instructions in either AR 670-1 or DA Pam 670-1 about multiple medals and maybe there should be, even though an individual is not likely to be in a position to wear more than one, according to the regulation. And maybe as an Army leaders should tighten the shot group when it comes to where and hen to wear neck orders, and consider this blog post as a refresher on the rules.

Like always I may be over thinking it, so you tell me your thoughts below?

/topsarge
CSM Dan Elder, USA, Retired
@dandotelder

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Dan Elder
Military Programs at milMedia Group
Dan is a leadership coach, management consultant, and change agent who has mentored hundreds of leaders at all levels. A retired Command Sergeant Major with more than 26-years serving soldiers and their families, he has deployments to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq. Dan's culminating assignment was as the senior enlisted advisor of a major Army Command (USAMC) and as the Army's senior enlisted sustainer. He served on the Sergeant Major of the Army's Board of Directors and is author, editor or advisor to a number of soldier-related books and articles. Working as an independent consultant and small-business owner in Killeen TX, Dan continues to serve soldiers as a Blogger, Podcaster and Speaker. He was selected as the first enlisted Senior Fellow for the Association of the United States Army and was inducted to the US Army Sergeants Major Academy Wall of Fame, and the US Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame

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3 thoughts on “Neck Medal Bling

  1. What about the poor guy who only has 5″ of ribbon vs. the one flaunting 9″ or 10″ of manly ribbon and just letting it swing ? Sound a little too Freudian? It is – and for the same reason

  2. Patrick O'Driscoll

    Hello CSM,

    I liked your article. You may have written it a while back, I didn’t see the date.
    In any case I was active duty in the USMC and 5 yrs in the ARNG. I have been a uniform consultant for the film industry for the last 20 years for those who think it’s important.
    As someone who has been through the uniform regs of all the services endless times I see mistakes all the time on actual service members. Stuff like wearing an infantry cord when you are no longer in an infantry duty position or seeing former combat arms soldiers wear now in support branches wearing their former affiliation RUI instead of the support branch RUI they are supposed to wear. When doing a soldier with a MOH (usually in a period piece) movie tech advisors are constantly telling me it shouldn’t be worn in ribbon form with the other ribbons on the service dress uniform. It should, on the ASU as service dress it should be worn as a ribbon except the day of the presentation of course. It’s simply not to be worn in miniature but full size with mess dress.
    I have never researched the regimental awards awards you mentioned. Thanks for the info. How to wear multiple awards worn from the neck is addressed in DA Pam 670-1 22-9. You are right the highest award should be worn high on the neck and the next highest hanging below it. Usually those are foreign orders of knighthood.
    Please keep spreading the worn on proper wear of the uniform. We should all strive to wear them correctly.

  3. Mr. Culp

    CSM (R) Elder,
    Firstly, thank you for your continued service.

    I would like to address a few points of discussion:

    1. “regimental awards are classified by AR 670-1 as a quasi-military decoration and can only be worn while in uniform while attending the event.”

    You are partially correct. AR 670-1 states that “The badges are worn only while the wearer is actually attending meetings or functions of such organizations, or on occasions of ceremony.” The latter […on occasions of ceremony] is distinctly separate from the former […functions of organizations…], which in legal terms precludes that an ‘occasion of ceremony’ is not consanguineous with an ‘organizational function.’ In example, one may wear their Audie Murphy Club Medallion to a specific Audie Murphy organizational function, and later, wear it at a Veteran’s Day parade (an occasion of ceremony), and even later, wear it to the Army Ball (an occasion of ceremony), while fellow service members at the ball display their particular civic, quasi-military, and/or international organizational medallion.

    2. “The regulation is so clear on the position that it even expounds in para. 22-12, section d., that says neck medals “will not be worn to and from the event.”

    This is partially true as well. AR 670-1 states “Personnel will not wear these badges to and from such meetings or events.” The phrase “meetings and events” refers to the “functions of such organizations, or on occasions of ceremony,” respectively.

    3. “In keeping with the rule-set that to be in compliance with the regulation he would need to have been attending the Saint Barbara’s Association’s gathering of Sergeant Audie Murphy Club members…”

    Negative. Please refer to the answers to quotes one and two. If further proof is needed, we can also look at AR 670-1, 23-1 (Occasions for wear), a. “As used in this regulation, the phrase “occasions of ceremony” means occasions essentially of a military character, at which the uniform is more appropriate than civilian clothing. These functions include, but are not limited to: military balls, military parades, weddings, and military funerals; memorial services, meetings, conferences, or similar functions of associations formed for military purposes, of which the membership is composed largely or entirely of current or honorably discharged veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States.”

    4. “And how to wear these things, under the lapel, over the lapel, cinched up close or letting your freak flag fly with it at the full-length of the ribbon?”

    DA Pam 670-1, 22–9 (Multiple neck ribbons, broad sashes, and stars), “Decorations with neck ribbons are worn with the neckband ribbon around the neck, outside the shirt collar and inside the coat collar, with the medal hanging over the necktie.”

    5. “Okay, you get the picture. The thing that was unsettling to me most was that this leader was in view of some of the highest ranking people in the Army gathered in one place and no one applied an on-the-spot (OTS) correction, so I figured I was just out of touch.”

    Why did you not apply that OTS, CSM?

    6. “But I never wore it outside of a Ball or Dining In/Out, which is the appropriate time and place.”

    This is partially true. Please refer to AR 670-1, 23-1 (Occasions for wear).

    7. “…surely it cannot just be arbitrarily approved at the lowest level of command?”

    You are correct. AR 670-1, pg. i (Proponent and exception authority), “The proponent of this regulation is the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–1. The proponent has the authority to approve exceptions or waivers to this regulation that are consistent with controlling law and regulations. The proponent may delegate this approval authority, in writing, to a division chief within the proponent agency or its direct reporting unit or field operating agency in the grade of colonel or the civilian equivalent. Activities may request a waiver to this regulation by providing justification that includes a full analysis of the expected benefits and must include formal review by the activity’s senior legal officer. All waiver requests will be endorsed by the commander or senior leader of the requesting activity and forwarded through their higher headquarters to the policy proponent. Refer to AR 25- 30 for specific guidance.”

    8. “There is no instructions in either AR 670-1 or DA Pam 670-1 about multiple medals and maybe there should be, even though an individual is not likely to be in a position to wear more than one, according to the regulation.”

    AR 670-1, 22–9 (Multiple neck ribbons, broad sashes, and stars), b. “An individual may not wear more than two decorations with neck ribbons at one time. The decoration with the highest precedence is worn suspended above the other.”

    DA Pam 670-1, 22–9 (Multiple neck ribbons, broad sashes, and stars), a. “An individual may not wear more than two decorations with neck ribbons at one time. The decoration with the highest precedence is worn suspended above the other.” “Decorations with neck ribbons are worn with the neckband ribbon around the neck, outside the shirt collar and inside the coat collar, with the medal hanging over the necktie.”

    Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Wear em’ loud, wear em’ proud… but only wear two!

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