WASHINGTON (AP) _ If you're joining the military and want some medals on your uniform, the Army is the place for you, according to a survey reported Monday.

Last year, the Army awarded 253,287 medals, compared with 120,534 for the Air Force, 22,072 for the Navy and 5,871 for the Marine Corps, said the survey which focused on the five personal decorations that can be given during peacetime for superior achievement.

The highest is the Distinguished Service Medal, followed by the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Commendation Medal and the Achievement Medal.

The survey was prepared by the Navy and reported by the independent Navy Times newspaper.

Almost one-third of those in the Army received some type of award, followed by about 20 percent of the people in the Air Force, 3.8 percent of those in the Navy, and 3 percent of those in the Marine Corps.

Most of the awards distributed last year were Achievement Medals. The Army gave 155,952 of them, the Navy presented 12,520, the Marines 3,587, and the Air Force 43,106.

Lt. Col. Greg Rixon, an Army spokesman, said Monday that the Army's high tally on this medal reflected an effort to use it as a morale-builder.

''There is a difference in our attitude,'' Rixon said. ''Compared to the Navy and Marine Corps, we don't hesitate to award the Army Achievement Medal to an individual for doing his job well.

''We don't focus on whether the individual has gone far beyond what is required by his duty assignment.''

The Achievement Medal, Rixon said, can be awarded to a soldier on the spot without lengthy written justification and review.

''We don't have anything else tangible that we can award,'' the spokesman added. ''We can't give him a (salary) bonus. We think the award of this medal makes a difference - that there is a real change in attitude and pride when we recognize a soldier for having done his job well.''

Meantime, the Marine Corps ''doesn't pay a lot of attention to volume,'' said Fred Anthony, who heads the Marine medals branch.

''Our general policy is that Marines must perform up to a level of excellence to be decorated,'' he added. ''An award that is given out routinely doesn't have much significance.''

As for the top awards, the Army again was the leader, presenting 106 Distinguished Service Medals and 2,117 Legion of Merit medals. By comparison, the Air Force awarded 60 Distinguished Service Medals and 933 Legion of Merit awards, compared with 25 and 605, respectively, for the Navy and 4 and 112 for the Marines.