The Achievement Medal was first proposed as a means to recognize the contributions of junior officers and enlisted personnel who were not eligible to receive the higher Commendation Medal or the Meritorious Service Medal.
Each military service issues its own version of the Achievement Medal, with a fifth version authorized by the Department of Defense for joint military activity. The Achievement Medal is awarded for outstanding achievement or meritorious service not of a nature that would otherwise warrant awarding the Commendation Medal. Since the Achievement Medal is designated as an award solely for junior personnel, it is generally only awarded to officers in the pay grade of O-4 and below and enlisted personnel below the grade of E-7. Award authority rests with local commanders, granting a broad discretion of when and for what action the Achievement Medal may be awarded.