I am pleased to be able to announce to the House details of changes to eligibility for the award of campaign medals to personnel serving in Afghanistan and Iraq that have been approved by Her Majesty the Queen following recommendations by the military chiefs of staff. These amendments will be backdated to the start of both operations and will ensure that personnel who have served on both operations receive the recognition that they deserve.
The current eligibility criteria for the operational service medal (Afghanistan) and the Iraq medal require personnel to have served within the qualifying area for 30 continuous days. As a result, groups of service personnel who hitherto fulfilled their duty obligations during difficult and sometimes dangerous tours of duty but who did not meet the 30 days continuous service requirement were excluded from qualification for a medal. Examples of such groups include, but are not exclusively limited to, the aeromedical evacuation teams who have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq and who accompany injured patients back to the UK. Similarly, personnel based at the Kuwait support facility who conducted convoys into Iraq but who did not accumulate 30 continuous days service in Iraq have not qualified for the Iraq medal.
Personnel who deploy to or from the operational theatre for short periods to complete specific operational tasks, and subsequently return on one or more occasions, will now be allowed to accrue aggregate qualifying service in the defined medal earning area. The qualifying period for aggregate service will be 45 days which is longer than that required for continuous service in recognition of the intermittent rather than continuous exposure to risk and rigour. The eligibility criteria will distinguish between those on operational duty and visitors who will continue to be ineligible for medals on an aggregate basis.
Personnel who are evacuated from the operational theatre as a result of either death or wounding are awarded the appropriate campaign medal no matter how long they have served there and this will not change.
The inclusion of aggregate service will be retrospective to the start of both operations in Afghanistan (11 September 2001) and Iraq (20 January 2003). Individuals who believe that they meet the new criteria are invited to apply for the OSM (Afghanistan) or Iraq medal directly to the MOD Medal Office. Information will be promulgated internally to each service and externally (for those who have now left the armed forces) via service and ex-service organisations.