New eligibility rules for overseas service medals for current operations

March 1, 2020 by Tom MacGregor
Directory of Honours/Rideau Hall

The Government of Canada has introduced changes to the Canadian Armed Forces Honours and Awards system to ensure members’ service to Canada in recent (post-Afghanistan) operations is recognized in a more timely and appropriate manner.

The changes apply to medals for overseas service, generally reduce the time required to earn the medal, and open up some medals to civilian recipients that were formerly exclusively for the military.

The medals concerned are the General Campaign Star (GCS), the General Service Medal (GSM) and the Operational Service Medal (OSM).

The General Campaign Star (a) is issued to members of the Canadian Armed Forces and allied forces working with the CAF who deploy into a defined theatre of operations to take part in operations in the presence of an armed enemy.

The General Service Medal (b) is awarded to members of the CAF and allied forces who deploy outside of Canada, but not necessarily into a theatre of operations, to provide direct support in the presence of an armed enemy.

The Operational Service Medal (c) is awarded to CAF members and others who provide direct support to operations under dangerous circumstances outside Canada.

All three medals are issued with a ribbon specific to the theatre or type of service being recognized.

The changes are meant to reflect the new deployment patterns where CAF members more often deploy for short periods of time. There are new measures to ensure that anyone who serves at least one eligible day after the stated date is allowed to cumulate any previous accrued time toward the new criteria for the medal.

The criteria for rotation bars will not be changed, meaning that the first bar will continue to be awarded after a total of 210 eligible days and subsequent bars are awarded for every period of 180 days thereafter.

The chart (below) outlines the changes.

Eligibility for the Special Service Medal (d), which had been reserved for CAF members who performed a service under exceptional circumstances, has been amended to include Canadian civilians and members of allied forces working for the CAF from April 29, 2014, onward. This aligns the medal with other modern service medals which allow recognition of all members of the defence team.

The limitations on visits in theatre have been reduced. Now Technical Assistance Visits, Staff Inspection Visits, Staff Assistance Visits and specialist visits in theatre will be credited toward the appropriate medal. Visits for the purpose of command, familiarization, leadership and morale remain excluded from eligibility.

These changes are meant to reflect the evolving nature of current and future CAF operations while preserving the symbolic value and respect for the service medals involved.

For more information contact: Directorate of Honours and Recognition, National Defence Headquarters, 101 Colonel By Dr., Ottawa ON  K1A 0K2,

Phone: 1-877-741-8332

Click on chart to enlarge

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