With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan technically over, the Pentagon is drawing up new rules for recognizing troops deployed in support of operations in those countries.
Defense officials announced Monday that effective immediately, troops who have deployed more than once in support of a major operation in the Middle East and have earned more than one Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal will be authorized to wear a small bronze "service star" on their GWOT Expeditionary Medal.
Last year, the Pentagon revived the GWOT Expeditionary Medal as a way to recognize service members deployed to Iraq as a part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The Iraq Campaign Medal was closed at the end of 2011 with the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.
The GWOT Expeditionary Medal was established in 2003 and for years was used mainly to recognize troops who deployed overseas in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan but did not actually put boots on the ground in either country. That included pilots and sailors who provided support from surrounding land and sea areas.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is revising regulations for recognizing troops serving in Afghanistan. Troops there will likely continue to be eligible for the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, but at the moment they're technically ineligible for that award because the Afghanistan mission this year is no longer officially part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Operations in Afghanistan involving the roughly 10,000 U.S. troops who remain were recently renamed Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Pentagon personnel officials are finalizing the paperwork that will add Operation Freedom's Sentinel to the list of approved missions eligible for the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
The operations approved for the GWOT Expeditionary Medal include Inherent Resolve, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Enduring Freedom and Nomad Shadow, a small mission providing intelligence to Turkey.
Only one GWOT Expeditionary Medal is authorized for each operation. For example, a service member who earned one medal for supporting OEF on a past deployment and is later awarded a second GWOT Expeditionary Medal for supporting OIR is now eligible to wear the service star to denote the two awards.
Troops may receive one GWOT-EM bronze service star for each of the five operations they serve in, up to four total. If they deploy in support of the same operation more than once, they will not receive another silver star for their GWOT-EM ribbon.
UPDATE: This version of this story was updated on Feb. 10 to correct the description of the service star. It is bronze, not silver.