South-West Asia Service Medal (SWASM)

The official description, eligibility, criteria, and history of the South-West Asia Service Medal (SWASM).

South-West Asia Service Medal (SWASM)


The South-West Asia Service Medal recognizes service with or in direct support of operations against terrorism in South-West Asia.

Eligibility and criteria

The South-West Asia Service Medal is awarded for a minimum of 90 days cumulative service in direct support of operations against terrorism in South West Asia from 11 September 2001 to 31 July 2009. Direct support occurs when a member is deployed to a unit or organization outside Canada but not into a specific theatre of operations, and where his or her primary duty is to provide direct assistance on a full-time basis to the operations against terrorism in South-West Asia.

The medal with AFGHANISTAN bar is awarded for 30 days cumulative service between 11 September 2001 and 31 Jul 2009 in the theatre of operations, which is a subset of the United States Central Command Area of Operation Responsibility (USCENTCOM AOR). The theatre of operations is defined as the land, sea, or air spaces of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Suez Canal, and those parts of the Indian Ocean north of 5° South Latitude and west of 68° East Longitude.

CAF exchange personnel posted to foreign units or organizations in direct support of operations as described above are eligible for this medal.

The only civilians eligible are Members of the Public Service working for the CAF, Canadian civilians under contract with the CAF, and Canadian Police Officers serving under the authority of the CAF in the locations and with the units described at the link below and between the dates indicated. Foreign civilians are not eligible for the SWASM.

The only members of allied forces eligible are those who serve in approved locations on behalf of Canada. They are usually foreign exchange personnel who deploy with our units or personnel seconded to the CAF specifically to serve in our mission. In all cases, they must be on the CFTPO filling a Canadian position and they are usually assigned a CAF service number. Foreign personnel working in concert with the CAF or reporting to a Canadian superior in an international context are not eligible for Canadian service medals.

All service under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is not eligible for the SWASM but qualifies for the SOUTH-WEST ASIA ribbon to either the General Campaign Star or General Service Medal. See the pages for these medals for details.

Aircrew flying into the theatre accumulate one day of service for the first sortie flown on any day. Additional sorties flown on the same day receive no further credit.

The first and last days in theatre count as full days.

Visits and inspections do not constitute qualifying service. Specifically, visits for the purpose of leadership, familiarization, ceremonial, or morale by civilian or military VIPs as well as Staff Assistance Visits (SAVs), Staff Inspection Visits (SIVs), and specialist visits for the conduct of summary/criminal/administrative investigations, courts martial, Boards of Inquiry, trial evaluations, academic studies, surveys, or other similar administrative activities are excluded from qualification.

Any person who dies or is evacuated because of injuries or medical reasons directly attributable to service is deemed to have satisfied the time criteria set out above. Any recipient of the Medal with Afghanistan Bar who dies or is evacuated because of injuries or medical reasons directly attributable to service shall be credited the entire period the person would have served in theatre should the person have completed their tour of duty for the purpose of calculating eligibility for Rotation Bars.

The Medal, Afghanistan Bar, and Rotation Bars shall be awarded for honourable service. For more details, consult the Eligible Service List (internal link).


The South-West Asia Service Medal is a circular medal, silver in colour, 36 mm across, displaying:

  • on the obverse: The effigy of Her Majesty the Queen of Canada, wearing the King George IV State Diadem, facing right, circumscribed with the legend: “ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA” and at the base of the effigy the word “CANADA” flanked by two small maple leaves; and
  • on the reverse: A representation of the mythical figure of Hydra, a many-headed serpent of Greek mythology described as a multifarious evil not to be overcome by a single effort, symbolising international terrorism. Each head is different, symbolising the idea that evil is found in every part of the world and that its face is constantly changing. The Hydra is transfixed by a Canadian sword and over the design is the Latin phrase, “ADVERSUS MALUM PUGNAMUS” — “We are fighting evil”.

A claw at the top of the medal, in the form of a cluster of olive leaves representing peace, is attached to a straight, slotted bar.

The ribbon is 32 mm in width with a white stripe in the middle (12 mm), on either side of which are stripes of black (4 mm), red (2 mm), and sand (4 mm). The black represents the shock of 11 September 2001 for the world and the mourning of the victims of the terror attacks. The sand colour represents the challenges of the theatre of operations. The white is for peace, which is the ultimate aim of this operation. The red is for the blood that has been spilled on 11 September 2001 and in the ensuing campaign in the service of peace. Red and white are also the official colours of Canada as appointed by King George V in 1921.

The AFGHANISTAN bar to the medal is silver in colour with raised edges and bears the inscription “AFGHANISTAN”.

The rotation bars for the Medal are silver in colour with a raised edge and bear either one or five maple leaves.


Rotation Bar

Rotation Bars are awarded to recognize a further 180 days of eligible service following qualification for the Medal with AFGHANISTAN bar or the last Rotation Bar the person has earned. One bar bearing five maple leaves is worn in lieu of five bars bearing one maple leaf.

For more details, consult the Eligible Service List (internal link).

Note that those who received the SWASM without the AFGHANISTAN bar are not eligible for Rotation Bars.


The “AFGHANISTAN” bar to the medal is awarded to those who served for at least 30 days in the theatre of operations. See the relevant section under Eligibility and criteria above.


The medal shall be worn in sequence prescribed in the Canadian Orders, Decorations and Medals Directive, and in the following manner:

  • on the left breast, suspended from the ribbon described above, between the Somalia Medal and the General Campaign Star with ALLIED FORCE ribbon;
  • one bar is worn centred on the ribbon;
  • if multiple bars have been awarded, they shall be evenly spaced on the ribbon in the order earned, with the AFGHANISTAN bar worn the closest to the Medal;
  • when the undress ribbon is worn, a silver shied bearing 3 maples leaves conjoined on one stem shall be worn centred on the ribbon of the Medal to indicate the award of the AFGHANISTAN bar. A silver maple leaf shall be worn to indicate the award of a Rotation Bar, a gold maple leaf shall be worn to indicate the award of a second Rotation Bar and a red maple leaf shall be worn to indicate the award of a third Rotation Bar. If more than three Rotation Bars have been awarded, those devices shall be worn in combination so as to indicate the total number of Bars awarded; and
  • when multiple ribbon devices are worn on the undress ribbon, they shall be spaced evenly on the ribbon with the shield device taking precedence over the maple leaves and therefore being worn closest to the centre of the chest.


The use of a post-nominal is not authorized for this medal.

Historical Notes

The Medal was created by Her Majesty The Queen in 2002 and initially had only the AFGHANISTAN bar which was represented by a silver maple leaf on the undress ribbon. In 2009, as a result of the review of overseas service recognition, the SWASM regulations were amended and the eligibility for the medal was ended in order to standardize the recognition available in the South-West Asia theatre. On the same occasion, provision was made for rotation recognition through the award of rotation bars. Because these bars are represented by maple leaves on undress ribbons, the original recipients of the SWASM with AFGHANISTAN bar have to remove their maple leaf and replace it with the new silver shield device. Moreover, the recognition was changed from being mission-oriented to theatre-oriented. This means that where originally only those working in theatre as part of the Canadian contribution to the US-led Operation ENDURING FREEDOM were eligible, all CAF personnel in theatre (including military embassy staff for example), and those working with them, are now eligible provided they did not received another medal for their service (such as those who served under ISAF or UNAMA). As of 1 August 09, all service originally eligible for the SWASM with AFGHANISTAN bar has been transferred to the South-West Asia ribbon to either the GCS and GSM.

The concept for the medal was prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Carl Gauthier. The final design was produced by the Canadian Heraldic Authority at the Chancellery of Honours.

The inaugural ceremony took place on 20 September 2002 in the ballroom at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, where Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, CC, CMM, COM, CD, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, presented the medal to 35 representative recipients.

As of 31 December 2022,  12,762 medals have been issued;  12,442 of these with AFGHANISTAN bar.

The following is a list of members who have died while serving in the theatre of operations:

  • Berry G.R.
  • Boneca A.J. Cpl
  • Davis P.J. Cpl
  • Dinning M.D.J. Cpl
  • Dyer A. Cpl
  • Green R. Pte
  • Goddard N.K.S. Capt
  • Gomez F.O. Cpl
  • Klumpenhouwer A.M. MCpl
  • Leger M.D. Sgt
  • Mansell M.S.J. Cpl
  • Payne R.J. Cpl
  • Smith N.L. Pte
  • Turner W.M. Lt
  • Warren J.P. Cpl
  • Wilson T.J. Mcpl
  • Woodfield B.S. Pte

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