The Army Commendation Medal Overview

The Army Commendation Medal is a “mid level” award designed for acts of heroism and meritorious achievements.  It was created in 1945 (for the U.S. Army).  When used properly, this is a very effective award to recognize soldier achievements.  Unfortunately, most leaders don’t know much about the ARCOM, or they don’t use it effectively.

In the paragraphs below, I want to teach you the basics about the Army Commendation Medal so you know the ins and outs of how it works.

The Basics

  • Normally, the first O-6 Commander in the chain of command is the approving authority
  • ARCOM is worth 20 promotion points
  • All enlisted soldiers and officers up to the rank of Colonel can receive the award
  • The ARCOM is higher than an Army Achievement Medal and lower than the Meritorious Service Medal
  • Up until 1960 this award was only a ribbon, not a medal
army commendation medal
The Army Commendation Medal


There are many different achievements that can qualify for an ARCOM.  Ultimately, it is up to the O-6 Commander to determine what they will require.

I’ve seen ARCOMs issued for PCS awards, for doing a good job at Annual Training and for preparing/passing large inspections.  From my personal experience, I’ve noticed that this award is typically reserved for E-5s and above and company grade officers.  Of course, there are sometimes exceptions to the rule.  In combat, you can also receive an ARCOM for acts of valor.

Sample ARCOM Citation

Please note that this is a sample that I made up myself.

For exceptional meritorious service while serving a Supply Sergeant with A Company, 735th Quartermaster Battalion from 1 October 2008 to 3 January 2011.  SSG Smith maintained 100% accountability of 416 different MTOE items valued at $7.5 million.  He helped the unit deploy to Iraq and return with zero equipment losses.  In addition, he helped the unit receive the Army Supply of Excellence Award.  This reflects great duty upon SSG Smith, his unit, and the United States Army.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. Top 12 Military Awards for Valor
  2. The Selling Of Military Awards
  3. Ideas for Recommending Soldiers for Awards
  4. The Writer: The Comprehensive Guide for Writing Awards Book Review
  5. Army ETS Awards Ideas

Some Ideas About Issuing An Arcom

As mentioned earlier, ARCOMs can be issued for a wide variety of actions by members of your unit. Here are just a few ideas:

  • A willingness to excel above and beyond normal duties.
  • Quick thinking in detrimental situations.
  • Aiding younger or less experienced members.
  • Finding methods that save the Army money and time.
  • Performing duties for an absent member.
  • etc…

Final Thoughts

My best advice to you is to use the ARCOM to award significant achievements by the junior leaders in your unit.  Don’t issue EVERYONE an ARCOM for the sake of it.  For smaller achievements use the AAM, the COA or unit coin.  For bigger achievements, use the ARCOM.  It’s worth 20 promotion points and is a “quality” award that will be appreciated by your good soldiers.

If you’ve ever received an ARCOM, I would love to hear from you.  Please share your citation or story with the rest of our community.  Just leave a comment to this post to do so. If you have any questions, you can also post those below and I will do my best to provide an answer.

10 thoughts on “The Army Commendation Medal Overview”

    1. It has been awarded since 1945 for service back to 1941. I don’t believe there are any known statistics that show just how many of these have been awarded. I would be apt to say that the number is quite high. I searched the wide variety of sources I have, and I just cannot find an answer to your question Jerry. Sorry. If you do ever find an answer, please share it with us.

  1. Terrance Jackson

    I received my ARCOM while a PFC performing my Unit Armorer duties. Who would had thought doing my duties as a armorer for an infantry unit ( repaired deadline M2’s and M19’s at a 30 level at our FOB) would get a award reserved for NCO’s and Officers.

  2. I received three ARCOMs during my time in the Army and thought they were a great award. It’s one of those awards that commanders can use at their discretion. Some commanders will give an ARCOM for just about anything.

  3. Katelyn Hensel

    An ARCOM seems like a wonderful incentive to achieve in the Army. Junior leaders, while still demonstrating the traits and strength of their superiors, always seem to be a bit more unsure of themselves and are always looking to achieve something. Giving them something to strive for will keep them focused and driven on tasks that are absolutely important for the unit. I also agree about not giving them out like pancakes. It’s the law of supply and demand and you’ve got to keep the demand for the ARCOM’s high to drive an achieving force in your junior officers.

    1. The ARCOM is a really good award. Unfortunately, it’s one of those awards that can be given for a simple achievement and for a service award. It’s frustrating when you get the award for your accomplishments over a three year period of time and your peer gets it for something they did on one day. Ultimately, it’s up to the Colonel who signs off on them to determine whether the achievement or service merits the ARCOM award.


  4. What does ARCOM stand for? I think members of the military deserve to be honored and recognized for helping protect our country and what is stands for. It’s also an incentive for soldiers as they pick up more promotion points which will help them build rank.

    1. ARCOM stands for Army Commendation Medal. It’s generally used with E-4s to E-6s and junior officers. It can be given for achievement or for a ETS or PCS award. I consider it a good award. I earned a few during my career and were proud of my ARCOMs.

      1. I received two ARCOMs during my time in the Army. They were worth some good promotion points, too. I always wanted to get a MSM, but that was typically reserved for more senior folks.

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