The Meritorious Unit Commendation is a decoration that the U.S. military can award to any unit that displays exceptional merit, valor or service. The citation is third in order of prestige, behind the Presidential Unit Citation and the Valorous Unit Award. Members of cited units are authorized to wear a special ribbon with a design that varies according to the branch of service that awarded the commendation.
The Meritorious Unit Commendation can be issued at the behest of the secretaries of either the Army, Navy or Air Force, as well as in the name of the Commandant of the Coast Guard. The commendation has occasionally been awarded across services, as in 1986, when the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation was awarded to a unit of the Air Force. To be considered eligible, the unit under consideration must have performed actions of such a caliber as to justify awarding the Bronze Star to an individual.
The citation was first established on Jan. 1, 1944, by the order of the Secretary of the Army, to recognize outstanding contributions to the war effort against the Axis. Noncombat units were eligible for the award, provided their contribution was made in direct support of combat operations.