WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Volunteerism is a staple of the Air Force’s servant culture.
For me, giving back to my community is just one way I can show that I care and see myself as contributing member of a shared “backyard”.
Volunteering has many benefits for Airmen, but one of the most tangible is the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (MOVSM). Service members can earn this award for direct, sustained, and consequential volunteerism, and they can earn it multiple times.
I earned my first MOVSM while stationed at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. For the five years I was stationed there, I partnered with the local “Adopt-A-Street” program. Once every three months we went out and cleaned up trash.
The definition of volunteer service is left intentionally vague, allowing service members like me to choose from a wide variety of activities that can qualify for the medal.
The MOVSM is intended to recognize exceptional community support over time, not a single act or achievement. That service should be to the civilian community, including the military family community. It should be significant in nature and produce tangible results, and it should reflect favorably on the military service and the Department of Defense.
I don’t volunteer to win medals, but recognition for earned accomplishments reflects the dedication members have not only to their missions, but their communities as well.
Every change of duty station has brought me the opportunity to embed myself within a local organization of my choosing. It is important for me to recognize that as a military member, I share neighborhoods, schools, parks, etc., with my local neighbors.
As I’ve navigated my Air Force career, I’ve strived to mold myself into the best versions of “me.” That’s been a pillar of my personal and professional growth, and volunteering has been an important part of that.
I would encourage others to become stakeholders in their own success, and their communities. This is a balancing act, but I believe Airmen should strive to perfect it over time.
Military leadership top to bottom also encourages volunteerism from service members for many of these same reasons.
However, I’ve observed over the years that there are many Airmen who don’t have the MOVSM. It’s surprising to me that so few Airmen have this award despite it being around for almost three decades and the fact that I know that many Airmen do volunteer on a regular basis.
I asked myself, “Why?”
Searching the internet, I found surprisingly few articles about the MOVSM, and asking around, I’ve heard that some Airmen and even NCOs don’t know what it takes to get the award, or even that it exists.
If you are an Airman, or are a leader who knows of an Airman, who has regularly contributed to community organizations, events, and volunteer opportunities, I encourage you to apply for this medal. No Airmen should miss out on an opportunity to have their impact on their community highlighted on center stage!
Just as the definition of “volunteer service” for the purposes of the award are left deliberately vague, so too are the time requirements to earn it. Individual commands may create their own specific requirements, like 500 hours of service over a two-year period. Otherwise, approval authorities must simply ensure that the service being honored warrants the special recognition afforded by this medal. The volunteer service must also be documented.
Authorized by Executive Order 12830, by George H. W. Bush on Jan. 9, 1993, The MOVSM is a bronze in color, 1 3/8 inches in diameter bearing on the obverse, five annulets interlaced enfiled by a star and environed by a wreath of laurel. On the reverse is a sprig of oak between the inscription "OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER SERVICE" at the top and "UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES" at the bottom.
Learn more about the MOVSM by referencing DoD 1348.33-M for specific individual eligibility requirements and recommendation procedures and format and Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2803 for sample MOVSM Recommendation/Decision Memorandums.