Service stripe

A Service stripe, commonly called a hash mark, is a decoration of the United States military which is presented to enlisted members of the of the U.S. Military to denote length of service. The U.S. Army awards each stripe for three years service, while the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard award each stripe for four years of duty. The concept of a service stripe dates back to the American Civil War where sleeve stripes denoted a successful completion of a standard enlistment.

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Sleeve stripes are only worn by enlisted personnel. Sailors wear their stripes on the bottom cuff of the left sleeve, whereas Marines wear them at the bottom cuff of both sleeves. Soldiers wear them on either the left or both sleeves, depending on the uniform worn. Service stripes are only worn on formal uniforms, and are not seen on the more common day-to-day working uniforms.

In contrast to the Good Conduct Medal, a service stripe is presented to an enlisted soldier upon completion of the specified term of service, regardless of the service memberís disciplinary history. For example, a Marine with several non-judicial punishments and courts martial would still receive a service stripe for four years service whereas, in the same situation, the Good Conduct Medal would be denied.

The Navy also issues gold service stripes to those service members with over twelve years service free of disciplinary action. In cases where a disciplinary infraction has occurred, the service member is not denied a service stripe but simply is issued the standard red stripe design. The Coast Guard issues gold and red service stripes, as well, but as a distinction between junior enlisted personnel (E-1 to E-6 who wear red service stripes) and Chief Petty Officers (E-7 to E-9 who wear gold).

The United States Air Force is the only branch of service which does not issue service stripes. The Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon is issued in lieu.


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