Army ETS Awards Ideas

Today, I want to give you some insight about Army ETS Awards.  I served in the Army for a while, and one of the things that bothered me most was when a Soldier ETS’d from the Army and they didn’t get anything from the unit.  This really bothers me.

I’ve also met lots of leaders who resent Soldiers for leaving the Army.  I’ve never understood this.  If you have a stellar Soldier (or an average Soldier) that decides to ETS from the Army, don’t blackball them or make them feel bad for their decision.  Instead, let them know that you APPRECIATE everything they have contributed to the Army and that the door is always OPEN if they ever change their mind and want to come back in the Army.  This one “mindset” alone can have a significant impact on morale and retention.

I’d also like to share some of my thoughts on Army ETS Awards.  I hope you read this with an open mind.

Idea # 1: Awards Should Be Tied to Contributions, Not Rank

I’ve always believed that the Soldier’s contributions should determine the award they get.  I don’t believe that awards should be tied to having a certain rank.  In other words, I’ve know some Specialists who should have got a Meritorious Service Medal for their service and I’ve met some senior NCOs that shouldn’t have gotten more than a Certificate of Appreciation for their service.  Just because you wear a certain rank shouldn’t make you ineligible for an award you deserve.  As a leader, you should make sure you submit your Soldier for an award they DESERVE based upon their contributions.  Of course, you can’t control whether or not your boss will approve the award, but you can at least do your part and put the Soldier in for the award you think they deserve.

army ets awards
Make sure you put your Soldiers in for an ETS award

Idea # 2: Everyone Should Get an Award

Some people might disagree with me, but I believe that everyone should get an ETS Award of some type. Even if they can’t get a medal because they are flagged or ineligible, you can still do something special for them.  Or, if they don’t deserve a medal, you can do a Certificate of Appreciation, a unit coin, or Commander’s Certificate.  But never let anyone leave your unit without some type of award in their hand.

Idea # 3: Go Above and Beyond

If you have a great Soldier, you obviously want to put them in for a formal ETS Awards, such as an Army Commendation Medal or Army Achievement Medal.  But, you should also give them something personalized from the people they served with.  This could be a shadow box, a picture of the section with everyone’s signatures, a plaque, a meal out with the entire section, or a signed unit t-shirt.  Give your Soldier something they will cherish forever.  Personally, I’ve always cherished the personal gifts I received during my career much more than any medal that was pinned on my chest.  And I’m sure many other Soldiers feel the same way.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading my thoughts on Army ETS Awards.  Here’s the bottom line.  Do your job as a leader and make sure your Soldiers get some type of award when they ETS from the Army.  Show them that you appreciate their efforts by giving them a medal (if they are eligible or deserving) and also give them a personalized gift to remember the people they served with.  This will have a huge impact on morale and retention.

What are your thoughts? If you have comments or questions, just post them below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes

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9 thoughts on “Army ETS Awards Ideas”

  1. Shali Claudio

    There’s a way that a soldier cannot receive an ETS Award? Im struggling with this right now..

  2. So, I agree that all Soldiers should be shown some kind of sign of appreciation for their service. With that being said, I think it’s insulting to get say an ARCOM for 14 years of service and to top it off have to write it myself. Do I write it or say eff it and drop dimes on my “stellar” leadership when it comes time to clear and they ask for a copy of said award?

  3. I’ve always believed that it’s a responsibility of the leaders of each company to recognize the soldiers who ETS out. These soldiers gave their time and their efforts to the military and they deserve to be recognized for that. I think leaders that don’t get their soldiers ETS awards don’t understand that those soldiers deserve recognition, whether they were the best soldier you had, or the worst.

    1. Spot on Chad. Recognizing Soldiers is an important task, and it’s very easy to do. All a leader has to do is sit down behind a computer and type up an award! It only takes a few minutes. Even “average” Soldiers should get a formal ETS Award to thank them for their service. It’s a great way to “finalize” someone’s service and let them leave the military on a positive note.

      Chuck Holems

  4. Civilian HR authorities will tell you that while money matters, recognition is more important to most people, especially recognition in front of their peers. My squadron has a “Tip of the Saber” award program which allows the troops and companies to nominate personnel for what is essentially an impact award. The squadron CO and CSM come to the unit and present the trooper with a knife (and not just some little pocketknife, either) and an AAM. I make use of the program whenever possible and have had three of my guys recognized in the past several months. I don’t know how much the other units do this, since the squadron CO commented to the formation at the last presentation that “It seems like I’m always coming to Charlie Troop to present these awards.” My reply was, “That’s because we believe in recognizing our people, sir.” That particular award was to an E-3 who was working at his civilian job in west Texas when we were activated for Hurricane Isaac. When we found out how quickly we were going to be departing for New Orleans, I had his leader call him and tell him to stand down and not worry about coming in since he wouldn’t reach the unit before we left. Well, he came anyway, driving all the way to New Orleans in his own vehicle at his expense, because he said he wanted to be with his guys for the mission. You don’t find that kind of dedication every day.

    1. Your “Tip of the Saber” program sounds exceptional. Keep up the good work and keep recognizing your Soldiers. It will pay off immensely, especially in the areas of morale and retention.

      Chuck Holmes

  5. I recently had a Soldier ETS who had served for 20+ years, both in the Marine Corps. as well as in the Army National Guard. He was a great Soldier who would bust his hump any way he could if you asked him to. To show my appreciation, I got him a Jody Harmon print and got it personalized to recognized his achievements and service to his county. When I presented it to him in front of his peers, he was a bit teary eyed. You can never under estimate what a simple recognition can do for a Soldier.

    1. That was a great thing of you to do, Justin. Everyone who serves should get something when they get out or retire, even if it is a simple gift. I’m sure your Sergeant will appreciate that Jody Harmon print more than any other award he received during his 20+ year career. I hope everyone reading this post will take a note of this and make sure that no one under their supervision ever ETS’s, transfers or retires without getting something to show for their service.


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