U.S. Awards to UK Service Personnel

In March 2003, the Embassy received Diplomatic Note TXN 395/008 (PDF – 1.17mb) from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the State Department equivalent, along with a copy of the UK Government’s rules governing the acceptance and wearing of foreign decorations by UK citizens.  A copy of the documents is attached for your information.  Generally, Her Majesty’s Government does not allow Crown Servants (which includes the military) to accept or wear foreign awards without permission.  This permission is granted only in the most exceptional circumstances: either for services related to the saving or attempted saving of life; or for individuals who carry out extraordinary acts during a national emergency or during military operations, such as acts of bravery within a combat zone.

Following these guidelines, the Defense Attaché Office (DAO) and the U.S. Embassy London are unable to grant concurrence on award recommendations (Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal and Air Medal) without first obtaining permission from the FCO.  If the proposed award relates to actions in combat or direct support of combat operations in theater (for example, service in Afghanistan or Iraq), we will forward the details to the FCO for review and it is likely they will approve the award.  However, if a British service member has been nominated for a British award or honour during the same period, the FCO will not grant permission to accept the U.S. medal.

In July 2009, the FCO, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence, delegated blanket authority to the Defense Attaché to approve the awarding of the Meritorious Service Medal, service commendation medals and service achievement medals.  This decision was made to simplify and speed the process of awards approval.  However, these award recommendations must still meet the same requirements as stated above.

If the proposed award is not for actions in combat or in direct support of combat operations in theater, it is likely to be refused.  Awards which will be refused include those proposed for duties undertaken while the subject was an exchange officer attached to a U.S. unit, where the subject was not involved in combat or an emergency of any kind.  General “end of tour” awards will not be approved unless the award is combat-related (for background, the UK does not give end of tour awards to its personnel).  In this case, we advise that the command present the service member with some other token of recognition or personal gift.  The British rules state that no permission is required for awards that are not designed to be worn (note:  all U.S. Medals are designed to be worn).  While the DAO is supportive of recognizing the many fine exchange personnel that are working alongside our own forces, we are obliged to adhere to the rules established by Her Majesty’s Government and cannot provide concurrence on an award recommendation that does not meet their requirements.

If the award does meet UK Government requirements, please send DAO (DAOLondon@state.gov) copies of the proposed citation and the narrative/summary of action, and the award recommendation forms.  Due to software restrictions, please submit these documents in either a Microsoft Word document, “.pdf” or “.jpg” format.