The Meritorious Unit Commendation is a mid-level unit award of the United States military which is awarded to any military command which displays exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service, heroic deeds, or valorous actions.
Each military service issues its own version of the Meritorious Unit Commendation. The United States Army version is typically referred to as the "Meritorious Unit Commendation" while the other military branches use the service name as a prefix (for example Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation). The Meritorious Unit Commendation is abbreviated (and often pronounced) as "MUC".
The Meritorious Unit Commendation is awarded to units for exceptionally meritorious conduct in performance of outstanding services for at least six continuous months during the period of military operations against an armed enemy occurring on or after 1 January 1944. Service in a combat zone is not required, but must be directly related to the combat effort. CONUS based units are excluded from this award as are other units outside the area of operation. The unit must display such outstanding devotion and superior performance of exceptionally difficult tasks as to set it apart and above other units with similar missions. The degree of achievement required is the same as that which would warrant award of the Legion of Merit to an individual. Only in rare cases will a unit larger than a battalion qualify for award of this decoration. For services performed during World War II, awards will be made only to service units and only for services performed between 1 January 1944 and 15 September 1946. Effective 1 March 1961, the Meritorious Unit Commendation was authorized for units and/or detachments of the Armed Forces of the United States for exceptionally meritorious conduct in performance of outstanding services for at least six continuous months in support of military operations. Such service is interpreted to relate to combat service support type activities and not to the type of activities performed by senior headquarters, combat, or combat support units.
The Meritorious Service Unit Plaque was established by War Department Circular No. 345, dated 23 August 1944. The circular provided that military personnel assigned or attached to an organization were entitled to wear the Meritorious Service Unit Insignia on the outside half of the right sleeve of the service coat and shirt, four inches above the end of the sleeve. Additional awards were to be indicated by a gold star to be placed on the plaque. War Department Circular No. 54, 1946, provided that additional awards would be indicated by placing a golden numeral inside the wreath.
In April 1947, the Army approved a new design of the Meritorious Service Unit emblem that replaced the sleeve insignia and on 16 May 1947, announced the Meritorious Unit Commendation, provided for wearing of the Meritorious Unit Commendation emblem, and provided for the display of the Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer, which was scarlet with the name of the applicable theater of operations in white letters.
The emblem is worn by all members of a cited organization and is considered an individual decoration for persons in connection with the cited acts and may be worn whether or not they continue as members of the organization. Other personnel may wear this decoration while serving with an organization to indicate the unit has been awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
On 11 April 1949, TAG advised D/PA that the stock position was such that it would not be exhausted prior to 1959. By Comment 2, 1 March 1960, DCSPER stated that for planning purposes the new Meritorious Service Unit emblem would be authorized for wear on or after 1 January 1961, with wear of the old one prohibited for wear after 30 June 1962. However, the stock level was still so high that it was not introduced into the supply system until 14 July 1966.
The Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation was established by order of the Secretary of the Navy on July 17, 1967. It is awarded in the name of the Secretary of the Navy to units of both the U.S. Navy and United States Marines. To justify this award, the unit must have performed service of a character comparable to that which would merit the award of a Bronze Star Medal, or achievement of like caliber in a non-combat situation, to an individual.
The MUA is awarded to Air Force units for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding achievement or service in direct support of combat operations for at least 90 continuous days during the period of military operations against an armed enemy of the United States on or after September 11, 2001. The unit must have displayed such outstanding devotion and superior performance of exceptionally difficult tasks as to set it apart and above other units with similar missions. The degree of achievement required is the same as that which would warrant ward of the Legion of Merit. Superior performance of normal mission will not alone justify award of the MUA. Service in a combat zone is not required, but service must be directly related to the combat effort. Squadrons, groups, and wings may be recommended for this award. The MUA is not awarded to any unit or unit component previously awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (AFOUA), the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award (AFOEA) or unit awards from other service components for the same act, achievement, or service. The component commander will automatically consider all disapproved MUAs for the AFOUA.
The MUA ribbon is worn immediately before the AFOUA. Subsequent awards are denoted by oak leaf clusters.
The Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation was established in November 1973 and is awarded in the name of the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. Additional awards of the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation are denoted by gold award stars. The Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation may also be awarded with the Operational Distinguishing Device.