Ideas for Recommending Soldiers for Awards

Today, I want to share some helpful tips about recommending Soldiers for awards.  I am a big believer in the power of recognition.  Most people crave recognition. They will do anything for it. Most Soldiers work hard and deserve to be recognized.  In addition, I’ve never heard of a Soldier turning down an award.  Have you?

As a supervisor, or leader, you have the responsibility to recognize the people who work for you when they go “above and beyond” what is expected of them.  Above and beyond is a VERY subjective term.  Some leaders can’t think of any reason to recommend someone for an award while other leaders believe that Soldiers should get an award just for doing their job! Personally, I believe there is a happy balance between these two extreme viewpoints.

I believe that most people have “moments of greatness” when they do something exceptional.  Even your low performing Soldiers can have some shining moments if you pay attention.  As I see it, NO SOLDIER should go more than six months without receiving some type of award.  Six months is a long time and if you’re doing your job right as a supervisor, you should be able to identify SOMETHING to recognize the Soldier for.

When it comes to recommending Soldiers for awards, I’m focusing this article on Certificate’s of Achievement, unit coins, Army Achievement Medals, and Army Commendation Medals.  Medals work best, but even time off, words of praise, and gifts such as a plaque can work well.  These awards typically apply to company grade officers and below and mid-level NCOs and below.  But even high ranking NCOs and officers deserve to be recognized.

I’m going to cover 15 good reasons to recommend someone for an award.  These are just some examples to get you thinking.  The award that you choose to use is totally up to you and your chain of command.

1.  Shooting 40 out of 40 with their M4 Rifle

2.  Graduating a military school as an Honor Grad or the Distinguished Grad

3.  Scoring a 300 or higher on the APFT

4.  Completing a duty or job above their paygrade

5.  Doing anything significant to help out another Soldier

6. Writing or developing a unit SOP

7. Performing an additional duty to a high standard

8. Receiving a high score during an inspection

9. Doing anything to save the unit money and time

10. Reorganizing an office or building

11. Solving any type of problem the unit is experiencing

12. Mentoring and developing others

13. Improving morale in the unit

14. Encouraging and motivating others to reenlist

15. Helping the unit win any type of contest or competition

Once again, these are just 15 ideas for recommending Soldiers for awards.  This is by no means an “all inclusive” list. Instead, the list is just designed to get you thinking about different ideas to look for and use.

The bottom line is that you have a responsibility to recognize the people you lead.  Keep your eyes and ears open and look for “moments of greatness” when your Soldiers step up to the plate and do more than is expected of them. Do that and you will be able to find many good reasons to submit one of your Soldiers, or subordinate leaders, for an award.  They deserve it!

What are your thoughts?  What type of awards do you typically recommend people for?  What criteria do you use? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from you.


chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “Ideas for Recommending Soldiers for Awards”

  1. I have heard leaders, both civilian and military, say something on the lines of, “they get paid, they don’t need an award.” This saddens me to hear things like this. These same leaders wonder why they don’t get the amount of respect that other leaders do.

    Everyone needs a “pat on the back” at times. Doing an exceptional job is the perfect moment to give that recognition the soldier deserves. It will create higher morale and other soldiers will take notice; after all, they want recognition too.

    Thank you for the many reasons to give awards. Hopefully leaders will read this and do what it is saying.

    1. There seems to be a lot of controversy about awards. I don’t think you should give away medals like hot cakes, but there are lots of creative ways to award people.

      1. Yes, you are right. There is a point when giving out too many awards makes it a non useful tool. It will get to the point where it is just expected. I believe awards do need to be given sparingly, but they need to be given. In a way, you could use them to create friendly competition. They can take mediocre soldiers and turn them into hard workers. Handled correctly, awards can be a great tool for leaders.

  2. Theresa Williams

    It is so important to recognize your soldiers, and I personally believe especially important for your mid-level and lower NCOs, and I know that some people don’t see the importance of this and, for some, being this observant is just not one of their strengths. But that’s kind of the point. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses; we need to focus on our strengths but continue to develop our weaknesses as well. You can’t be a better leader, NCO, officer, soldier, or person unless you are trying to even out your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths. I especially commend the idea of recognizing someone for doing a job above his pay grade–this happens all the time and, in my experience, is rarely acknowledged.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with you about the benefits of positive encouragement and recognition. I loved what you said about a leader’s responsibility to notice and affirm the positive work of the people they lead. I have worked under some very poor leaders and I have worked under a few incredible leaders. When my leaders spent their time focusing on the good I was doing, I was so much more motivated to improve the areas I struggled in. It truly helps improve the whole morale of the team.

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