The current phase of the war in Afghanistan, Operation Freedom's Sentinel, is now a qualifying operation for award of the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the GWOT Service Medal, defense officials recently announced.

Service members now deployed to Afghanistan continue to be recognized through award of the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, a move announced Feb. 19 by the Pentagon. However, troops deployed abroad in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, but outside of the Afghanistan Campaign Medal area of eligibility, are now eligible for the two war on terrorism medals.

Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright approved the eligibility, retroactive to Jan. 1, in a memorandum signed March 11.

Those service members deployed in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel who have previously been recognized with the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for other qualifying operations are eligible to wear a service star on the medal or ribbon device.

About 10,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, and the military mission there is slated to end by December 2016.

The phase of the war known as Operation Enduring Freedom ended Dec. 31. The new mission does not involve direct combat operations and instead limits the mission of U.S. troops to advising and assisting the Afghan forces and, potentially, some targeted counterterrorism missions.

Full eligibility criteria for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service medals are contained in Department of Defense Manual 1348.33, Volume 2, Manual of Military Decorations and Awards: DoD Service Awards Campaign, Expeditionary, and Service Medals.

Additionally, lists of operations and areas of eligibility are available.

Service members should contact their military departments for more information.