The Army Superior Unit Award emblem worn to signify award of the Army Superior Unit Award is 1 7/16 inches wide and 9/16 inch in height. The ribbon is contained within a 1/16 inch wide Gold frame with laurel leaves. The ribbon has five stripes. The first stripe is 17/32 inch of scarlet followed by 1/32 inch of yellow, and a middle stripe of 1/4 inch of green, next is 1/32 inch of yellow followed by 17/32 inch of scarlet. The streamers are the same pattern as the emblem ribbon.
The Superior Unit Award may be awarded during peacetime for the outstanding meritorious performance of a difficult and challenging mission carried out under extraordinary circumstances. For the purposes of this award, peacetime is defined as "any period during which wartime or combat awards are not authorized in the geographical area in which the mission was executed." Extraordinary is defined as "when they do not represent the normal day-to-day circumstances under which the unit normally performs its peacetime mission or may be reasonably expected to perform". The unit must display such outstanding devotion and superior performance of exceptionally difficult tasks to distinguish it apart from and above other units with like missions. The Superior Unit Award may be given for operations of a humanitarian character.
Battalion size and smaller or comparable units, which have been organized under TOE and similar type organizations organized under TDA, are eligible for the award of the Army Superior Unit Award. Usually, headquarters type units would not be eligible for the award. Rarely will a unit larger than a battalion meet the qualifications for the award of this decoration.
A plan to implement the Army Superior Unit Award was sent to Major Army Commands (MACOM) on 18 March 1981 as a part of the Army Cohesion and Stability Study (ARCOST) of 1980. The proposal was supported by the fact that the then current Army unit awards were awarded only for combat service. The award was not approved even though all MACOM\ and most of the Army Staff supported the proposal.
It was proposed by the Vice Chief of Staff, Army, in 1984, that a Peacetime Unit Award is created and submitted for approval. In April 1985, the Secretary of the Army (SECARMY) approved the Army Superior Unit Award for "meritorious unit performance of a uniquely difficult and challenging mission under extraordinary circumstances that involved the national interest. " However, only one award was approved with the present criteria. It went to 3d Battalion, 502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. Nearly 200 of the 248 soldiers that were killed in the plane crash in Gander, Newfoundland, were from the battalion and were on their way home in December 1985 from duty with the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Desert. The criteria were changed by the SECARMY in July 1986, deleting the words "unique" and "national interest".
A lapel pin to be worn by all recipients of the Army Superior Unit Award was requested by The Adjutant General (TAG) in a memorandum to the Secretary of the Army on 17 September 1991. This proposal was given as the award was being presented to units having significant numbers of civilians assigned, that were not being recognized for their efforts. The Secretary of the Army approved the proposal on 12 December 1991, thus permitting the issue of an emblem to both military and civilian personnel.
This change permitted the issue of an emblem to both military and civilian personnel. The Secretary of the Army approved the recommendation on 12 December 1991.
All members of the unit cited for the award are approved to wear the emblem of the Army Superior Unit Award. The emblem is thought of as an individual decoration for those in connection with the cited acts and is approved to be worn if they continue as members of the unit or not. Other personnel serving with the unit are approved to wear the emblem to show that the unit is a recipient of the Army Superior Unit Award.
Army awards and decorations are approved accordance to the guidance contained in Army Regulation 600-8-22. Rules for the proper wear of Army awards and decorations can be found in Army Regulation 670-1. The policy for display of unit awards on guidons and flags and supply of streamers is found in AR 840-10.