The Joint Meritorious Unit Award Ribbon

What many people notice about the different branches of armed forces of the United States is the competitive nature. Just consider the famed Army-Navy football game held annually. Or some of the jokes told about one branch about another. Here are some of my favorites:

The young Marine in a snide voice says to the old sailor, “I love you sailors. Whenever we go to fight, you give us a ride.” This caused raucous laughter in the bar. The old Chief looks over and says, “We love you guys too, giving you Marines a ride let the NAVY Brass believe it was OK to assign women to ships.”

There’s an ARMY guy and a Marine in the bathroom taking a leak, The Army guy zips up and starts to leave, The marine runs to stop him and says…”You know, in the Marines they teach us to wash our hands AFTER WE PEE.” Then the Army guy SAYS…” In the Army they teach not to pee on our hands!”

Now that you had a couple of laughs, we are back to the point of this post: Joint Service.

Yes, we all joke about one branch being better than the other, but the fact is: our country would be in bad shape if we were without any of them. So anyone who is a part of the:

  • Army

  • Air Force

  • Navy

  • Marines

  • or Coast Guard

deserve our thanks and respect. We need them all.

In today’s post we are going to review the Joint Meritorious Unit Award Ribbon. There could be multiple branches of service involved in one unit working jointly on a single or multiple missions.

On June 4th of 1981, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger established this award. He realized that because of the multiple joint missions the armed forces were undertaking, there needed to be an award for those units who went above and beyond there duties.

The Joint Meritorious Unit Award is granted by the Department of Defense. It can only be awarded to joint units that report through:

  • Unified

  • Combined

  • or Specified

commands, or are on joint missions under the knowledge and awareness of:

  • The Secretary of Defense

  • The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

  • or The Secretary of (Military Department) who is the agent for the Secretary of Defense.

Equivalent Service Member Award

The Joint Meritorious Unit Award is equivalent to a single service member being awarded The Defense Superior Service Medal.


A joint service unit member must have been present and involved in stated mission for 30 days or more to be eligible, or if the action was less than a 30 day period, they had to be present for 100% of the mission or action.

Commanders do have the ability to waive the 30 day restriction if said member performed direct contributions in the cited achievement/s. Individuals or units who were attached but not directly involved in the cited achievement are not eligible to wear the Joint Meritorious Unit Award Ribbon.

Multiple Awards

Any member who has been involved with units winning multiple Joint Meritorious Unit Awards will wear an oak leaf cluster for each extra award.

The First

In late 1982, the Department of Defense awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for the first time to the Electronic Warfare During Close Air Support Joint Test Force.

Final Thoughts

It is a great benefit to our great country that our service branches work together in joint service. Working together, they are developing first class defenses to guard our liberty.

Have you been a part of a joint unit? Have you been awarded the Joint Meritorious unit Award? We would like to hear about how and why your unit won this great award. Please explain in the comment section below.

Thank you for your service.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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1 thought on “The Joint Meritorious Unit Award Ribbon”

  1. OARDEC, Office for Administrative Review of Detained Enemy Combatants. Established to perform Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guntnmo Bay. We performed over 500 tribunals in less than six months. Since there had be no tribunals since WWII, we had to start from scratch on rules, proceedures etc. Members of OARDEC performed duties of Tribunal members (judges), Reporters (presenters of evidence), Personal Representatives (representing the detainee), court recorders, support staff etc. We were busy. Of note, not one individual award was recieved, only the JMSA.

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