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There were recorded cases of Navy enlisted personnel who were awarded both the Good Conduct Medal and the Specially Meritorious Service Medal who wore two red service ribbons on their Navy service uniforms. The current Navy Good Conduct Medal dates from 1961 and is issued to every active duty enlisted sailor who completes three years of honorable and faithful service since 1 January 1996; four years of service were required since 1 November 1963.

There was slight oddity during the Spanish–American War when the Navy created the Specially Meritorious Service Medal which also had an all red suspension and service ribbon. military awards that two awards had identical ribbons.

Officially, the Good Conduct Medal is awarded for exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity in active Federal Military service.

It is awarded on a selective basis to each soldier who distinguishes himself/herself from among his/her fellow soldiers by their exemplary conduct, efficiency, and fidelity throughout a specified period of continuous enlisted active Federal military service.

It is extremely rare in today's Navy, but provisions do allow for Petty Officer Third Class to wear gold rate insignia, provided they meet the same requirements.

The Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal was established on 20 July 1896. The clasp was eliminated after 1935 and the medal has remained unchanged in appearance since that time.

The medal was originally a ribbon and medal suspended from a clasp bearing the words "U. Since its inception in 1896, the name of the recipient was engraved by hand on the reverse side of the medal until stamping the name on the medal began during World War II (numbered on the rim) and was done completely by 1951.

Prior to 10 December 1945, four years of honorable creditable enlisted service was required in the Marine Corps for award of the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

In 1953, the Marine Corps adopted bronze and silver 3/16-inch service stars to denote additional awards of the Good Conduct Medal, replacing enlistment bars showing each honorable period of service.