ARLINGTON, Va. — For the first time, sailors and Marines downrange are eligible for noncombat awards from other branches of the service, officials said.

The changes in the Secretary of the Navy Awards Manual affect sailors and Marines on temporary duty downrange with other branches of the military, officials said.

Of the roughly 11,200 sailors serving ashore in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, about 8,000 are augmentees, the majority of whom are under the command of other branches of the service, said Navy spokesman Lt. Trey Brown.

The Marine Corps did not respond to a Stars and Stripes query about how many Marines downrange were under the command of other services by deadline on Monday.

Under the old system, a Marine Expeditionary Unit could be deployed to a combat zone under the command of the Army, but the Marines would be ineligible for Army awards, officials said.

In those circumstances, the Army could only recommend that Marines receive an equal Navy award, a Defense official said.

Now the Army and other services can issue noncombat awards, such as the Army Commendation and Achievement medals, directly to Navy and Marine Corps personnel under their command, the official said.

The changes do not affect combat awards such as the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and Legion of Merit, the official said.

The changes came about because a growing number of sailors and Marines are serving with other branches of the military in combat zones, said Navy Capt. Beci Brenton, a spokeswoman for the secretary of the Navy.

“Commanders in theater asked the question whether it was feasible to have their sailors be awarded noncombat achievement and commendation medals from other services,” Brenton said.

The changes affect sailors and Marines serving at least six months in a combat zone, meaning they receive Imminent Danger Pay, according to a June 15 memo from William Navas, assistant Navy secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.

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