The Navy's Good Conduct Medal is the oldest among comparable medals in the other military services, and at one time it was a badge of pride. Today, however, the medal's meaning is not all it used to be. The issuing process for the Good Conduct Medal should have stricter guidelines, or at least the Navy should adhere better to the current guidelines.
In 1865 the Navy decided that honorable service should be recognized upon a sailor's discharge. If the sailor was a fair seaman and gunner, and had required little attention because of his sobriety, cleanliness, and obedience, he was recognized with an "honorable discharge badge." If a sailor wished to reenlist, this badge was required along with his discharge papers. When a sailor received three badges, and he reenlisted a fourth time, he qualified as a petty officer.
In 1884, the design of the badge was changed and it began to be issued by the sailor's captain. In 1961, the Navy adopted the design in use today.