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Army: Ribbons

The following is a study of the Army regulations concerning ribbons. Most of the regulations are straight forward, but there are some exceptions that can be left up to interpretation.

Ripped from the Regs: Ribbons Configuration

You have your choice of spacing.

Ribbons are worn in order of precedence from the wearer’s right to left, in one or more rows, with either no space between rows or 1/8-inch space between rows.

Wear your ribbon rack three or four ribbons wide.

No more than four ribbons are worn in any one row.

You must wear at least three ribbons per row if you have enough ribbons.

Soldiers will not start a second row unless they are authorized to wear four or more ribbons.

Wear three or four wide at your option.

The determination of whether three or four ribbons are worn in each row is based upon the size of the coat and the position of the lapel.

You will wear your ribbons either three wide or four wide, but not both.

The first and second rows will contain the same number of ribbons (three or four) before starting a third row.

You may may start staggering the number of ribbons one you start a third row.

The third and succeeding rows will contain the same number of ribbons as the first two rows, but may contain less.

The top row may be centered or pushed to the left(wearer's right).

The top row is centered on the row beneath, or may be aligned to the wearer’s left, whichever presents the best appearance.

Ribbon Configuration Examples

You may choose to center or stagger the ribbons to the right. If you choose standard ribbons you will not have a choice of four wide due to manufacturing limitations. If thin ribbons are selected you can choose from any configuration you like.

Army Ribbon Example Configurations.

Ripped from the Regs: Device Configuration

Many of the regulations in reference to devices on ribbons are quite descriptive. Here we break them down to make them easier to see and understand.

Medium(5/16") size oak leaves are worn on ribbons.

Oak leaf clusters, 5/16 inch in length, are worn on service ribbons, the suspension ribbon of miniature medals, and unit awards.

Silver device take higher precedence than bronze, but lower than the V device.

A silver oak leaf cluster is worn in lieu of five bronze oak leaf clusters. It is worn to the wearer’s right of a bronze oak leaf cluster and to the left of the “V” device.

A limit of four oak leaves can be worn on one ribbon.

No more than four oak leaf clusters can be worn side-by-side on service ribbons. If the number of authorized oak leaf clusters exceeds four and will not fit on a single ribbon, a second ribbon is authorized for wear. When the second ribbon is worn, it is placed after the first ribbon; the second ribbon counts as one award.

Note: It has been argued that this regulation is merely a long explanation for use of a silver oak leaf, this is not our interpretation. This argument is strengthened by, "and will not fit on a single ribbon," in the previous regulation. Though all the other regulations seem to support the limit of four oak leaves.

Adding another award will likely remove the second ribbon.

If the receipt of future awards reduces the number of oak leaf clusters sufficiently (that is, a silver oak leaf for five awards), personnel will remove the second ribbon and place the appropriate number of devices on a single ribbon.

Wear only one V device per ribbon and it claims higher precedence than other devices.

Not more than one “V” device is worn on a ribbon. When worn with an oak leaf cluster or numerals, the “V” device is worn on the wearer’s right.

The numeral 2 represents a second award and the numeral one is only used for double digit numbers.

Arabic numerals, 3/16 inch in height, are issued in lieu of a medal or ribbon for second and succeeding awards...The ribbon denotes the first award, and the numerals starting with the numeral 2 denote second and subsequent awards.

A silver star represents five awards and assumes higher precedence than a bronze star.

A silver service star is worn in lieu of five bronze service stars. It is worn to the wearer’s right of a bronze service star and to the left of an arrowhead.

The arrowhead assumes higher precedence than stars.

The arrowhead is worn with the point facing upward, and is worn to the wearer’s right of all service stars. Only one arrowhead is worn on any ribbon.

These are the devices available for the Occupation Medal.

Berlin Airlift device. The Berlin Airlift device is a miniature replica of a C-54 aircraft and is worn on the suspension and service ribbons of the Army of Occupation Medal, with the nose pointed upward at a 30-degree angle, to the wearer’s right. When the device is worn on the suspension ribbon of the medal, it is centered above the “Germany” clasp.

These are the devices available for the Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

If worn alone, the “M” device is worn centered on the ribbon. When worn with the Ten-Year device, the “M” device is centered on the ribbon, and the Ten-Year device is worn to the wearer’s right. If a numeral is worn, it is placed on the ribbon to the wearer’s left, with the “M” device in the center and the Ten-Year device to the wearer’s right.

The following is a chart from the regulations describing the different good conduct devices:

Army Ribbon Example Configurations.


As for the rack builder we interpret the regulations concerning ribbons as follows:

  • Only 4 devices per row concerning oak leaf clusters (this includes V devices)
  • Bronze stars will be mounted 5 devices per row (this includes arrowheads)
  • Large gold stars will be treated the same as oak leaf clusters considering their size and equivalence to oak leaves

Note: These interpretations are based on physical spacing on the ribbon and the fact that bronze and silver stars(campaign stars) are not mentioned in the regulations with concern to quantity limits per ribbon, as is the same for the large gold stars and large silver stars.