The Legion of Merit

Monday August 13, 2012

What is it?

When the U.S. Army created the Legion of Merit in 1942 to recognize meritorious service, it became the first American decoration awarded to citizens of other nations. It has since been presented to thousands of U.S. allies and partners from more than 30 countries. In addition to military leaders, kings, presidents and prime ministers are among those honored with the LOM.

What has the Army done?

The LOM is more than a medal. It is a means of honoring allied leaders for supporting the shared objectives of America's alliances, and a vehicle for strengthening partnerships and building coalitions. U.S. Army Europe has presented LOMs to hundreds of deserving leaders from across its 51-country area of responsibility to salute their achievements and create bonds of service that encourage further multinational engagement and pay dividends in theater security cooperation strategy, training and force interoperability. In recent months, for example, Austrian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Edmund Entacher; Gen. Ants Laaneots, former commander of the Estonian Defence Forces; and Poland's Land Forces commander Lt. Gen. Zbyigniew Glowienka and II Mechanized Corps commander Maj. Gen. Jerzy Biziweski, have earned the medal.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has encouraged innovation in building partner capacity and theater cooperation efforts that support EUCOM's strategy of active security. USAREUR's presentations of the LOM and annual Legion of Merit Conference are innovative ways of supporting that goal. Each year for more than three decades the conference has brought together dozens of active and retired LOM recipients from across Europe, all highly regarded and influential in their respective nations -- to build relationships that promote shared objectives.

Why is this important to the Army?

Partnerships and alliances are vital to 21st-century forces that must take on hybrid, often nontraditional and non-state threats as part of multinational coalitions. In a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in May, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said building partners in the North Atlantic alliance and others is a cornerstone of current U.S. defense strategy. USAREUR and U.S. Army engagement through innovations such as the Legion of Merit, along with state-of-the-art training and exercises, has helped assure peacetime and contingency access to resources vital to today's battles and built coalitions ready to fight and win side by side. As a result of USAREUR's engagement, today 90 percent of the forces in Afghanistan come from the European theater.

Resources:

U.S. Army Europe

U.S. European Command partnerships site

George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

Naval Postgraduate School Global Center for Security Cooperation

Institute of Heraldry Legion of Merit page

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- Capt. Christopher Combest, a system manager for the Mission Training Center from the Brigade Modernization Integration Division.

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