HomeAboutFact SheetsDisplay

Defense Superior Service Medal

U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons

U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons

BACKGROUND

The Defense Superior Service Medal was established by Executive Order 11904 on Feb. 6, 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford signed the order formally establishing this medal.

 

CRITERIA

The DSSM (pictured above) is awarded by the Secretary of Defense to military officers who perform exceptionally with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, special or outstanding command in a defense agency or any other joint activity designated by the secretary. The service rendered will be similar to that required for award of the Legion of Merit. At the time of its creation it was decided that this medal would be obtained at the lowest possible cost and with as little involvement as possible.

 

For these reasons and because it would rank just below the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for similar service, it was decided to use the same design as the DDSM, except that it would be finished in silver rather than gold and the inscription on the reverse would be properly modified.

 

MEDAL DESCRIPTION

The medal was designed by Mildred Orloff and sculpted by Lewis J. King, Jr., both of the Institute of Heraldry. In the center is a silver-rimmed, light blue enameled pentagon. Surrounding this, at the top, are 13 five-pointed stars, and at the base is a wreath of laurel and olive leaves, superimposed on the pentagon and wreath, is an American eagle facing left with wings outstretched, holding three arrows in its talons. The reverse is inscribed at the top: “For Superior Service,” and on the pentagon: “From The Secretary of Defense To.”

 

RIBBON DESCRIPTION

The ribbon has a narrow center stripe of red, flanked on either side by equal stripes of white, light blue and gold.

 

AUTHORIZED DEVICES

Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat “C” and Remote “R” Devices

 

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR COMBAT “C” DEVICE

The "C" device was established to distinguish an award earned for exceptionally meritorious service or achievement performed under combat conditions on or after Jan. 7, 2016 (this is not retroactive prior to this date).

 

The device is only authorized if the service or achievement was performed while the service member was personally exposed to hostile action or under significant risk of hostile action:

  • While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States

  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or

  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party

The use of the "C" device is determined solely on the specific circumstances under which the service or achievement was performed. The award is not determined by geographic location. The fact the service was performed in a combat zone, a combat zone tax exclusion area, or an area designated for imminent danger pay, hardship duty pay, or hostile fire pay is not sufficient to qualify for the "C" device. The service member must have been personally exposed to hostile action or under significant risk of hostile action.  

Rank/Grade will not be a factor in determining whether the "C" device is warranted, nor will any quotas, official or unofficial, be established limiting the number of "C" devices authorized for a given combat engagement, a given operation, or cumulatively within a given expanse of area or time. 

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR REMOTE “R” DEVICE

The "R" device was established to distinguish an award earned for direct hands-on employment of a weapon system that had a direct and immediate impact on a combat operation or other military operation (i.e. outcome of an engagement or specific effects on a target). Other military operations include Title 10, United States Code, support of non-Title 10 operations, and operations authorized by an approved execute order. 

The action must have been performed through any domain and in circumstances that did not expose the individual to personal hostile action, or place him or her at significant risk of personal exposure to hostile action:

  • While engaged in military operations against an enemy of the United States; or

  • While engaged in military operations involving conflict against an opposing foreign force; or

  • While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in military operations with an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party

Qualifying Career Fields

The "R" device may be awarded to Airmen who, during the period of the act, served in the remotely piloted aircraft; cyber; space; or Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance career fields on or after Jan. 7, 2016 (this is not retroactive prior to this date).

 

Basis for a Decoration

  • The "R" device is only authorized for a specific achievement (i.e. impact awards) and will not be authorized for sustained performance or service (i.e. end-of-tour, separation or retirement decorations)

  • Recognition for direct and immediate impact shall be based on the merit of the individual's actions, the basic criteria of the decoration, and the "R" device criteria

  • Performance of a normal duty or accumulation of minor acts will not justify the "R" device. The act must have been: performed in a manner significantly above that normally expected and sufficient to distinguish the individual above members performing similar acts

  • A decoration should only be recommended in cases where the event clearly merits special recognition of the action (i.e. achieving a strategic objective or saving of lives on the ground)

WEIGHTED AIRMAN PROMOTED SYSTEM POINT VALUE: 7