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If you have never heard of Navy Department Awards Web Services, or NDAWS, you’re not alone. Officials recognize many sailors may be unfamiliar, and they’re getting the word out.
You can access NDAWS at http://awards.navy.mil, where the Navy has a plethora of information regarding awards.
The website is actually the front end of a massive database with records of more than 2 million awards the Navy has given since at least 1963.
"The database tracks awards for individuals, Navy Achievement Medal and above," said Harry Craney, director of management on the staff of the chief of naval operations. "It is the definitive source of awards for the Navy."
Armed with your Social Security number, you can log on through the Web and see what awards the Navy has records on for you.
The site also maintains a database of unit awards. Though they aren’t tagged to individuals, sailors can see what unit awards were given to commands they served at. This includes the eligibility dates for the awards.
Often, because those awards are given to commands, months or years after operations are over, sailors miss out. So be sure to periodically check the site for updates.
The Navy has issued new rules on how awards are entered in service records.
Already in effect, they will make it easier for sailors to update their records — even allowing them to submit award documents directly to personnel command.
While easier for legitimate awards to be recorded, officials hope the same set of rules will close a loophole that has allowed at least one sailor to dupe the system and sneak fake valor into his own record.
The changes were announced by the chief of naval personnel earlier this year in NAVADMIN 016/13.
Sailors for years complained that they'd repeatedly have to send award documents to selection boards because their service records were not being updated to reflect earned decorations.
"Sailors were dissatisfied that they would send in copies of award certificates over and over, including in selection board packages," said Chief Personnelman (SW/AW) Jeremy Johnson, who serves in the records branch at Navy Personnel Command.
The problem? Two internal Navy systems were not set up to share information, resulting in more work for the sailors.
But that has changed.
Now sailors submit awards paperwork directly to NPC. NPC will fact-check that information with the Navy Department Awards Web Services, or NDAWS, database. NDAWS tracks the awards for all members of the Navy and units. If your award is listed there, it means it is valid and acceptable to be included in your service record.
Voila, no more having to resubmit documents.
If it's not found in NDAWS, you'll get a notification via mail that provides you with further steps to make sure it gets added.
There are NDAWS experts within your chain of command who can assist you. You can find these authorities by visiting http://awards.navy.mil. You can also contact your admin office for help.
Stopping fake valor
So if this is easier for sailors, how is it simultaneously harder for fakers?
By mandating that awards must first be in the NDAWS system before they'll be allowed into your personnel file, officials hope to prevent cases like that of Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (NAC) Grady Nations, who made false claims of valor and went so far as incorporating a phony citation into his record.
In 2010, Nations convinced his command that he was due a Distinguished Flying Cross, which he claimed came from an Air Force mission. For proof, he did produce a citation — a falsified version of an award his father had received while serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
The forged certificate made it all the way to his permanent record, where it sat for a year until it was discovered by officials and expunged.
Nations was convicted Aug. 28 of unlawfully wearing the medal and ribbon and making false official statements about his eligibility for the award — not of creating the forged certificate and submitting it to Navy Personnel Command.
Sources told Navy Times it was easier to prove that Nations had fraudulently submitted an award he knew he didn't rate than proving that he'd done the forgery himself.
The court awarded him no jail time for this crime, but he did receive a dishonorable discharge. Under that discharge, he'll be reduced in rank to E-1, at which time he'll also forfeit all pays and allowances.
Navy officials say Nations' ruse would never have gone so far had the new system been applied to his claims to the award.
According to the investigation, the personnel support detachment for Nations' command, Naval Operational Support Detachment Nashville, Tenn., claimed the DFC was "verified" before it was sent to NPC to be put in his record. And since NPC wasn't required to check with NDAWS, either, it slipped through and into Nations' official record.
"In 2010, there was no requirement to cross-check the awards against [NDAWS]," testified Jim Giger, records management policy branch head at NPC, at Nations' trial.
In July, 2012, even before Nations was convicted, NPC began to verify all awards as internal policy, but with the release of the fleetwide message, the policy is now Navy-wide.