This is a photograph published on the Presidential Library site of George H.W. Bush. We can clearly see that in this photograph, George W. Bush is wearing an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (AFOUA) and a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon (SAEMR) just below his pilot wings, however, on line 24 of his NGB22 National Guard discharge form dated October 1, 1973, George W. Bush has no awards listed:

The photograph above was also included in the information released by the Bush administration:

He is listed as a second lieutenant in this photograph, and we know for a fact he earned the wings as he graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training according to the record. As far as the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon is concerned, he obviously earned that ribbon while he was an Airman prior to his commission as evidenced by line 24 of the NGB22 filed when he was discharged as an Airman:

The Bush administration has also provided a military biography:

The awards listed here are the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal, but no mention is made of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. It also lists his dates of service with units. Other than his time training, he was assigned to the 111th Fighter Intercept Squadron and it’s parent organization, the 147th Fighter Intercept Group. His discharge date from the Texas National Guard was October 1, 1973.

The above photograph had to have been taken some time between his qualifying as a pilot in 1969 and his promotion to First Lieutenant on November 7, 1970.

So what about the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award? In the United States Army, unit awards can be worn on a temporary basis. If you are transferred into the unit that has received an award, you wear that award until you transfer out of that unit. I contacted the Air Force Personnel Center and asked whether the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award was ever authorized for temporary wear. This was their answer:


All assigned or attached people who served with a unit during a period for which a unit award was awarded are authorized the appropriate ribbon if they directly contributed to the mission and accomplishments of the unit.

Additionally, there isn't a "temporary" wear of AF Outstanding Unit Awards for AF personnel.

So to finally solve the mystery of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, I contacted the Air Force History support Organization. I requested all dates of all awards of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award received by the 147th Fighter Intercept Group and the 111th Fighter Intercept Squadron. The answer I received was shocking. This unit had received this award only once. The dates of the award are as follows quoting directly from the source at the AFHSO:

147th Fighter Interceptor Group AFOUA 1 Oct 73-30 Sep 75 DAFSO GB 164/77

111 Fighter Interceptor Squadron AFOUA 1 Oct 73-30 Sep 75 DAFSO GB 164/77

This states explicitly that the units received the Air force Outstanding Unit Award for the time period from October 1, 1973 to September 30, 1975. George W. Bush’s discharge date from the 111th FIS and the 147th FIG was October 1, 1973. Clearly, these units did not receive an award of the AFOUA until after George W. Bush had been discharged, and well after the date the photograph in question was taken.

This means, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that George W. Bush was photographed wearing a ribbon he clearly did not earn.


Source of the photograph:
Air Force Personnel Center: /
Air force History Support Office: /
USA Today source of documents used in this report:
Source for ARG22:
Source for NGB22:
Source for copy of photograph:
Source for "military biography":

(Images and text this page courtesy Walt Starr, from Democratic Underground. Nice work Walt!)