On March 15, 2007 the secretary of the Air Force approved establishment of
the Air Force Combat Action Medal to recognize any military member of the
Air Force (airman basic thru colonel) who actively participated in combat
(ground or air). The principal eligibility criterion is that the individual must
have been under direct and hostile fire while operating in unsecured space (outside the defended perimeter), or physically engaging hostile forces with
direct and lethal fire.
The Commander, Air Force Forces is the award authority for the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM). The award criteria for the Air Force
Combat Action Medal (AFCAM) are similar to that of other U.S. services
but are more specific with regard to combat conditions criteria. Personnel
who earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge or Combat Action Ribbon while assigned with the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps may submit a copy of that award, along
with other documentation required in this message, to the COMAFFOR for consideration for award of the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM).
The Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM) may be awarded to
members from the other U.S. armed forces and foreign soldiers serving in
a U.S. Air Force unit, provided they meet the award criteria.
Combat conditions defined:
For the purposes of this award, the combat conditions are met when:
-- Individual(s) deliberately go outside the defended perimeter to conduct
official duties - either ground or air, and
-- Come under enemy attack by lethal weapons while performing those
-- Are at risk of grave danger
-- Individual(s) are defending the base (on the defended perimeter), and
-- Come under fire and engage the enemy with direct and lethal fire, and
-- Are at risk of grave danger; also meet the intent of combat conditions for
Additionally, personnel in ground operations who actively engage the enemy with direct and lethal fire may qualify even if no direct fire is taken--as long
as there was risk of grave danger and other criteria are met. Central to the integrity of this combat recognition is the adherence to these combat
Criteria - ground:
-- Individual must be in combat conditions as defined in combat conditions defined above. Combat must take place in a combat zone defined as a
geographic area designated by the president via executive order or a qualified hazardous duty area in which a member is receiving Imminent Danger Pay or Hostile Fire Pay. Individual must be physically present, at risk of grave danger and performing in accordance with the prescribed rules of engagement
-- Personnel outside the defended perimeter must be fired upon by the enemy with lethal weapons; returning fire is situation dependent and not necessarily a precondition of award. Risk of grave danger to the individual must be
detailed in the award submission
-- Encampments, compounds and protected areas (inside the defended
perimeter) will normally not qualify as venues for this award unless the
individual is serving in a defensive capacity, taking fire and engaging the
enemy. Augmenting a defensive fighting position and taking fire, regardless official duties, would also qualify as combat action if all other criteria were
met. Receiving mortars, responding to alarm condition, reporting to bunkers,
do not independently constitute combat action for the purpose of this award. However, should combat conditions arise out of such events then exceptions
to policy with full justification can be submitted
-- Personnel eligible for the award of the Purple Heart do not automatically qualify for the combat action medal. Purple Heart recipients must apply for
the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM) through the appropriate award channels.
Criteria - air:
-- Individual must be flying as authorized aircrew members on aeronautical
orders in direct support of a combat zone and in combat as define in combat conditions. Combat must take place in a combat zone defined as a geographic area designated by the president via executive order or a qualified hazardous
duty area in which a member is receiving Imminent Danger Pay or Hostile
Fire Pay. Individual must be physically present, at risk of grave danger and performing satisfactorily in accordance with the prescribed rules of engagement
-- Individual must be performing assigned duties. Traveling passengers,
including aircrew manifested as passengers, on an aircraft are not eligible based solely on their presence if the aircraft were to come under fire.
The AFCAM may be awarded for qualifying service from Sept. 11, 2001 to a date to be determined. Retroactive awards prior to Sept. 11, 2001 are not authorized.
There is no minimum time-in-theater requirement to qualify for the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM). Only one Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM) may be awarded during a qualifying period. Subsequent qualifying periods will be determined by the secretary of the Air Force. Only one award
per operation is authorized. Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom
are considered one operation. Subsequent operations will be approved by the
Air Force chief of staff and will be indicated by the use of gold star on the
ribbon and medal.
Requests for exceptions to policy established here or in future instructions must be justified and forwarded though command channels. Home station will route request through major command commander to the COMAFFOR to vice commander of the Air Force. The Air Force vice commander has been designated decisional authority by the secretary of the Air Force for all Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM) exception to policy requests. In-theater requests for exception will route through COMAFFOR to the Air Force vice commander.
The Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM) is awarded as a medal and ribbon only and is worn according to current medal and ribbon instructions. There will be no patch or badge equivalent for wear on the ABU, BDU and
other functional uniforms that are worn for daily duties and deployments.
Further guidance will be added to AFI 36-2803. The Air Force Combat
Action Medal (AFCAM) shall be worn directly between the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Force Presidential Unit Citation.
Authorized devices: Gold star