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.[1][2]

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 current Navy Good Conduct Medal is issued to every active duty enlisted sailor who completes three years of honorable and faithful service since 1 January 1996. For prior awards to personnel between 1 November 1963 and 1 January 1996, four years of service were required. The four year requirement also applies for award of the Navy Good Conduct Medal from its original establishment until 1 November 1963.

Additional awards of the Navy Good Conduct Medal are denoted by bronze and silver 3/16 inch stars; silver stars are worn in place of five bronze ones.[7] The reverse side of the medal has three words, “FIDELITY ZEAL OBEDIENCE” superimposed in a semicircle. Upon 12 years of service, sailors are also allowed to wear gold-colored version of their petty officer insignia, something usually seen with those with the rate of chief petty officer or petty officer first class and above, but occasionally petty officer second class. Prior to June 2019, those 12 years had to be infraction-free. It is extremely rare in the contemporary U.S. Navy, but provisions do allow for sailors rated petty officer third class to wear gold rate insignia, provided they meet the same requirements.