The Ribbon Rack Guide to the Air Force

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  1. Dropped munitions on someone or something the generals thought was important.
  2. Foiled a terrorist plot … or herded baby ducklings off a busy road.
  3. Finance deployment medal.
  4. Wounded in combat … or, special ornament for appearance on “Say Yes to the Dress.”
  5. Retired, PCS’d, and planned a fun run.
  6. Kept a decent log book and MPF didn’t lose the paperwork.
  7. Refueled the guy that assisted the guy that dropped the bomb on someone or something the generals thought was important.
  8. PCS’d, deployed for a year to watch TCNs clean the bathrooms, and planned a bake sale.
  9. Did redundant work on an unneeded staff “deployed” to a location with 24-hour bottomless ice cream.
  10. PCS’d and planned an airshow.
  11. Got shot at … or at least shot near … or was adjacent to someone who did.
  12. No one knows what this one means. It just shows up.
  13. Assigned to four units that met all bureaucratic metrics.
  14. Make it five.
  15. Current and qualified member of arbitrarily chosen career fields.
  16. No verified felonies for three years.
  17. Served during an arbitrarily defined period of time that seemed to vaguely signify a war … back when we declared them more often.
  18. Total mystery. It just shows up in a record review.
  19. Back before everyone got stationed in Southwest Asia, there used to be a medal for going there.
  20. Sure, we started multiple wars in the darkest corners of the world without a plan or proper resources, locking you into endless war. But hey, we gave you this ribbon.
  21. And this one, too.
  22. Delivered aid to a country that later became a sworn enemy.
  23. Spent a few years getting deployed from Germany or Japan instead of CONUS. Got paid more housing allowance than authorized, but good news … finance took it back all at once.
  24. A relic of the quaint period where “deployment” meant 45/+ days away from home. It would make more sense to award these for time spent at home, which is a more remarkable achievement.
  25. Fogged up a mirror and registered a pulse (most of the time) for 20 years.
  26. Graduated from residence enlisted PME … back when that was still a thing.
  27. Eagerly assimilated in BMT and registered a decent run time.
  28. Guy in the next firing position hit the wrong target a few times.
  29. Because we need BMT graduates with no stripes to be somehow distinguishable. This ribbon just means you’re in the Air Force … and in this case, prior enlisted.

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