The Navy is rolling out a Navy Arctic Service Medal this year, serving as an extension of the existing Navy Arctic Service Ribbon.

The creation of the medal comes as the Navy has ramped up operations and exercises in the Arctic in recent years, and as Navy leaders have called for a strong military presence in the region as global warming opens more waters to navigation in the frigid territory.

Those eligible for the medal are enlisted sailors and officers in the Navy and Marine Corps who were assigned to a unit that conducted an ice-covered strait transit, such as the Bering Strait or Barrow Strait, or a unit that conducted a transit of the North Pole, the Navy said in a statement Monday.

Those assigned to a submarine that “conducted a vertical surfacing through ice, including through an arctic polynya, or ice picked against the ice canopy,” or a submarine that “conducted at least seven days of classified military operations while under the marginal ice zone or pack ice,” are also eligible, the Navy said.

Likewise, those whose commanding officers determine they were assigned to an ice camp or an operations center set up on an ice floe are also eligible for the medal.

Civilians serving in these units also qualify to receive the medal.

The Navy said to expect distribution no sooner than later this year. The chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps will proceed with setting up an administrative process to retroactively grant the the Navy Arctic Service Medal.

The Navy first created the Navy Arctic Service Ribbon in 1987 for those who completed 28 days of service in the Arctic Circle after January 1, 1982.

The service released its “Blue Arctic” strategy for the region in 2021, urging the sea service to “operate more assertively” there.

It also cautioned that Russia is reopening old bases in the Arctic and “reinvigorating” regional exercises, which it expects to continue, and warns that China will also bolster its naval activity “on, below and above Arctic waters.”

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