The medal (pictured below) is awarded for noncombat meritorious achievement or service that is incontestably exceptional and of magnitude that clearly places the individual above his peers while serving in one of the assignments for which the medal has been designated.
This medal was established by Executive Order 12019 on November 3, 1977, when President Carter signed the order establishing it. The Defense Meritorious Service Medal is awarded to military personnel serving with or assigned to a number of joint activities including The Secretary of Defense, Organizations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Headquarters of Joint Commands. Other joint activities and specified commands such as Military Assistance Advisory Groups and Joint Missions; and jointly manned staffs within Allied Command Europe, Allied Command Atlantic,the NATO Military Committee, and military agencies associated with functions of the military or other joint activities as may be designated by the Secretary are also included.
The medal was designed by Mildred Orloff and sculpted by: Lewis J. King, Jr., both of the Institute of Heraldry. It is a one and one-half inches in diameter overall, consisting of a circular wreath of laurel tied with a ribbon at the base; in the center is a pentagon shape, superimposed over the pentagon is an American eagle with wings upraised and overlapping the wreath, standing on the bottom edge of the pentagon. On the reverse the medal has the inscription, "Defense Meritorious Service" in three horizontal lines; and around the bottom are the words, "United States of America," with space between for engraving the recipient's name.
The ribbon has three light blue and two white narrow stripes in the center flanked by a wide stripe of white and wide stripe of purple red edged by a narrow stripe of white.