One of the primary objectives of the United States Armed Forces is the defense of the United States, her territories and her allies. When a soldier or officer provides distinguished service over and beyond their normal call of duty, there are awards in place to recognize them.
In today’s post, we are going to provide some information on an award that is given that many people often get confused with another award. The award we are going to talk about today is the Defense Superior Service Medal.
It is not to be confused with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal which you can read about here. The Defense Superior Service Medal actually ranks just below the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. This is reflective in its design which I will explain further on in this article.
As the Armed Forces moved into more roles of Joint military activity, there seemed to be a call to recognize more of those members who provided great service in Joint duty. On February 6th, 1976, President Gerald Ford signed Executive Order #11904 which established the Defense Superior Service Medal. The Executive Order read that this award could only be presented in the name of the Secretary of Defense.
The primary people who are awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal are military officers of higher grades. The medal is awarded to those who are in a position of significant responsibility and provide superior meritorious service. The Defense Superior Service Medal coincides with the Legion of Merit, but it is awarded for Joint service.
The primary criteria for a service member to be eligible to win the Defense Superior Service Medal is they must be assigned or attached to a Joint Task Force, and the period they are being awarded for must exceed 12 months. Some astronauts have earned this medal; their 12 months included the training for the mission they were launched into space to complete.
Some well known names of recipients of the Defense Superior Service Medal include:
Command Chief Master Sergeant Ramón Colón-López who I wrote about in my book: Puertorriquenos Who Served With Guts, Glory and Honor.
and many more.
Every one of these recipients provided superior service during Joint military missions.
In order of wear on military uniforms, the Defense Superior Service Medal is just below the Silver Star, and it is just above the Legion of Merit. Any service member who is awarded more than one Defense Superior Service Medal will be given oak leaf clusters for each award after the first.
The design of the Defense Superior Service Medal
I had mentioned that the Defense Superior Service Medal ranks below the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. Because of their similarities, the decision was made that the design would be copied. The Defense Superior Service Medal is an exact replica of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal but instead of being gold the DSSM is silver.
The original design was by Mildred Orloff and sculpted by Lewis King Jr who both worked for the Institute of Heraldry. In the center is a pentagon with an eagle overlaying it. The eagle has a shield for a breastplate, and its talons clutch 3 arrows. At the top of all of this are 13 small stars and below is a laurel wreath. On the back at the top the words: For Superior Service are inscribed, and in the center: From the Secretary of Defense to and the awarded can have their name inscribed.
Do you know anyone who has been awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal? It would mean they served in an important position in Joint service. It is a prestigious award and anyone who wears it has the right to be proud.
If you have been awarded this great medal, please tell us more. We here at Part time Commander thank you for your service to the armed forces and the American people.