Good Conduct Medal

The Good Conduct Medal

The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard all have their form of the Good Conduct Medal. Established during World War II, the Good Conduct Medal is given to soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen enlisted who have behaved themselves appropriately and not had any non-judicial punishments, court-martials, or other offenses. This behavior must be for three consecutive years.  If a member of the military has such an infraction on their record, the three-year timeline for good behavior restarts. It is possible for members of the military to achieve ten such awards in a 30-year career. The following sections will describe the way to recognize the Good Conduct Medal as well as explain the multiple awards differences. 

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Description of Good Conduct Medal

Good conduct medals from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard
Husnock / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain  

The Good Conduct Medal is a Bronze medal 1 ¼ inches in diameter. It bears an American Bald Eagle standing with wings outspread on a closed book and sword enclosed by the words, "efficiency honor fidelity." On the reverse side, a wreath consisting of a laurel branch on the left side of the medal and an oak branch on the right side encloses a five-pointed star and a scroll between the words "for good" and "conduct." In the case of successive awards, clasps are positioned on the ribbon.

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Criteria For Achievement

The Good Conduct Medal is awarded on a selective basis to a soldier who while in active Federal Military duty set themselves apart from their comrades by exemplary conduct, efficiency, and fidelity throughout a set time of uninterrupted enlisted active Federal military service. Every three years served after August 27, 1940, meets the criteria for a qualifying period of service. For the first award only, if separated before three years, the Good Conduct Medal can be awarded when a minimum of one year is completed, or for one who died in the line of duty before finishing one year of active Federal Military duty. The award must be sanctioned by the immediate commander and must be proclaimed in permanent orders.

Active Guard Reserve personnel are eligible for the Good Conduct Medal as of September 1, 1982. The qualification time of Active Guard Reserve may begin at a time during the three years just before September 1, 1982, as long as no part of that time of service was included in a time for which the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal was awarded.

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Background on the Medal

On June 28, 1941, the Good Conduct Medal was sanctioned for soldiers finishing three years of active service after June 28, 1941, by Executive Order 8809. Executive Order 9323, dated March 31, 1943, modified the standards for the authorization of the award to three years of service after December 7, 1941, or for one year of service if at war. It was further revised by Executive Order 10444, dated April 10, 1953, to sanction award for three years of service after August 27, 1940, or one year service after December 7, 1941, during a period of time in which the United States is at war and award for the first award for service after June 27, 1950 if service was ended during a period of fewer than three years, but more than one year.

Mr. Joseph Kiselewski was the designer of the Good Conduct Medal. The Secretary of War approved the medal design on October 30, 1942. The symbolism of the award includes the eagle with its wings outspread signifying vigilance and superiority. The horizontal sword signifies loyalty, and the book stands for knowledge gained and ability achieved. The lone star on the reverse side represents merit, and the laurel wreath and oak leaves symbolize reward and strength.

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Distinguishing Multiple Awards

In the case of a second or multiple awards, a clasp with a loop is displayed on the ribbon. For the second through fifth awards, a bronze clasp with as many loops as awards is displayed. For the sixth (one loop) through tenth awards (five loops) there is a silver clasp. A gold clasp represents the eleventh (one loop) through the fifteenth award (5 loops).