How to Set Up Medals on Dress Blues

Written by henry randolph
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Decorated with military bling, the uniformed services' dress blues are splendid formal attire equivalent to the civilian tuxedo that service members wear to ceremonial or festive occasions on and off military bases. Each service's Uniforms and Decorations Manual specifies how to pin medals on their version of dress blues with military precision. Service members must strictly follow these instructions; in the military, you get respect not just for what decorations you've earned but how you wear them.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Regular-size medals
  • Medal mounting bars (various sizes)
  • Mounting bar locking pips
  • Blue Dress uniform
  • Ruler

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  1. 1

    Ceremonial dress blues require regular size medals, except in the Air Force, which prescribes service ribbons instead. (Mess or dinner dress uniforms, the military's version of the cutaway, require miniature medals.)

  2. 2

    Sort your medals according to category and rank-in-category, as specified in your Uniforms Manual. Lay them out in a row on a flat surface, with the highest-ranking medal in the leftmost spot (the wearer's right), followed by all the other medals in descending order of importance, left to right.

  3. 3

    Beginning with the most senior medals, and preserving their order, slide as many of them onto a mounting bar of appropriate size as your Manual specifies (varies by branch of service and medal size). This will become the top row of medals on the uniform. Continue until every medal is fitted on a bar. The last (lowest) row of medals may or may not be completely filled. Note: The Medal of Honor alone does not go on a bar with other medals; instead, it is suspended by a ribbon around the recipient's neck and rides centred high on the chest on top of the uniform.

  4. 4

    Refer to your Uniforms Manual to determine where to place the first bar of medals on the uniform. Push the bar's mounting pins through the uniform coat's cloth and lining at the selected location. Holding the bar in place with one hand, pinch open one of the spring-loaded locking pips the bar comes with and push it all the way down on a pin protruding inside the coat. Release the tension to have the pip grab the pin tightly. Repeat with the remaining pips and pins.

  5. 5

    Manoeuvre the remaining medal bars and fasten them as described in the previous step so that they line up precisely as illustrated in your Manual. If done correctly, the rows will overlap one another so that only the top row will display the complete medals with ribbons; for the rows below it, only the metallic parts of the medals will show.

Tips and warnings

  • When pinning the medals on, it helps to have the uniform coat suspended on a hanger or chair back. Make sure the uniform cloth is stretched taut under the medal bar when pushing the pins through. Use a ruler to double-check that the medal rows are located correctly and pinned on straight.
  • Be careful when pushing the medal bar mounting pins through so that they don't puncture your fingers as they penetrate the inside of the coat.

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