Looking at the ribbons adorning my khaki uniform one might conclude that I'm just a Navy Reservist. Adjacent to the ribbon representing my Navy Good Conduct Medal (NGCM) is the ribbon representing the Navy Reserve Meritorious Service Medal (NRMSM). Both were earned for good conduct, the first while on active duty and the second after joining the reserve. But the distinction between these two medals has lost relevance in today's Navy. It's time to revisit the origins, meaning, and future of these awards and create one medal common to the active and reserve components.
Not many people realize the Navy Good Conduct Medal is our nation's third-oldest continuously presented award and the Navy's second-oldest after the Medal of Honor. It also is noteworthy that the medal is the earliest of any of the services' good conduct medals. The original award, issued in 1870, was a Maltese cross with "Fidelity-Zeal-Obedience" on the obverse and was suspended by a red, white, and blue ribbon. This cross was phased out by 1884, replaced by a medallion highlighting the USS Constitution on the obverse and "Fidelity-Zeal-Obedience" on the reverse.