The criteria for a Good Conduct Medal are defined by Executive Orders 8809, 9323, and 10444. The Good Conduct Medal, each one specific to one of the six branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, is currently awarded to any active duty enlisted member of the United States military who completes three consecutive years of “honorable and faithful service”. Such service implies that a standard enlistment was completed without any non-judicial punishment, disciplinary infractions, or court martial offenses. If a service member commits an offense, the three-year mark “resets” and a service member must perform an additional three years of service without having to be disciplined, before the Good Conduct may be authorized.
During times of war, the Good Conduct Medal may be awarded for one year of faithful service. The Good Conduct Medal may also be awarded posthumously, to any enlisted service member who dies in the line of duty.
The Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal (CGGCM) was authorized by the Commandant of the Coast Guard on 18 May 1921, but not designed until 1923 and originally used enlistment bars as attachments, in the same manner as the Marine Corps and Navy Good Conduct Medals. In 1966, the Coast Guard began using bronze and silver 3/16-inch service stars to denote additional awards of the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal. Originally, the service requirement for the CGGCM was four continuous years of service. Starting on 1 July 1983, the service requirement was reduced to three years.