While both military and civilian personnel receive medals for their operational service, there are some key differences to the awards.

Commander of JTF633 in the Middle East Major General Susan Coyle said those differences were often a talking point at farewell ceremonies in the Middle East when the awards were presented.

“When handing out these wonderful pieces of recognition, particularly with our Defence civilians, I have often heard conversations about who earns what,” Major General Coyle said.

“It is fascinating to see the interest the subject generates.”

Military personnel receive the Australian Operational Service Medal (AOSM), while the civilian medal is the Australian Operational Service Medal – Civilian.

Command Warrant Officer JTF633 Warrant Officer Jason Randell explained the differences.

“The Australian Operational Service Medal – Civilian, or AOSM-Civilian, is different to the medal that ADF members get in theatre, which in this case is the AOSM-Greater Middle East Operation,” Warrant Officer Randell said.

“The AOSM awarded to military personnel recognises service to a specific operation through the colour combination of the ribbon.

“The AOSM-Greater Middle East Operation recognises service on Operations Manitou, Accordion, Okra and Highroad by a ribbon of blue, black, green and light sand.”

Warrant Officer Randell said the AOSM-Civilian had a single ribbon of green, gold and purple, regardless of the theatre of service.

“In the case of the AOSM-Civilian, the bearer is awarded clasps to their medal, each distinguishing a different theatre into which they have deployed,” Warrant Officer Randell said.

“These clasps are unique to the civilian form of the medal and are awarded only on the first deployment to a specific theatre.”

He said the numerals affixed to the ribbon of the military award was a distinctive feature.

“The numbers recognises multiple tours,” he said.

“Those who are recognised with the civilian award do not get the numbers for multiple deployments to the same theatre.” 

Luke Collison is a Defence civilian who has deployed to support Middle East operations several times.

A former serving member, Mr Collison said the civilian award was great recognition for the sacrifices made by those who may not pick up a weapon but offer service to the nation.

“All medals are important,” Mr Collison said.

“I have an Australian Service Medal and a Long Service Medal from my 22 years in the Air Force, but I never deployed.

“As a civilian, this is my third deployment so I have a medal for Operation Slipper and received one for my first deployment on Operation Accordion.

“Rewarding civilians with a medal ensures they are recognised for their hard work and dedication working alongside the ADF.”