Distinguished Warfare Medal for Armchair Warriors

American troops may now earn the fourth highest combat medal from the comfort of their desk chair.


American troops may now earn the fourth highest combat medal from the comfort of their desk chair.

Atlantic Wire (“Pentagon to Start Awarding Medals for Drone Strikes and Cyberattacks“):

The Defense Department is reportedly inventing a new medal designed to reward soliders who fight battles from the safety of their computer consoles. The Associated Press says the Pentagon is creating a new ribbon, called the Distinguished Warfare Medal that will be given for “extra achievement” related to a military operation. That would include drone pilots operating unmanned planes from halfway around the world, or even hackers who launch a successful cyberattack on an enemy. Unlike all other combat-related medals, this would be the first one that you can be awarded without actually putting your life on the line.

While the move will undoubtedly rankle some of the infantrymen and Special Forces veterans who get shot at on a near daily basis during their combat deployments, the Pentagon is eager to find some way to recognize the achievements of those who are fighting modern battles, but just happen to be doing so from a computer lab or flight simulator instead of the war zone. Since a growing number of military operations don’t actually call on soldiers, sailors, or pilots to risk their lives anymore, the Armed Forces are not handing out as many of their more traditional combat medals as they used. Despite being perpetually at war since 2001, there have only been 10 Medals of Honor given out since the September 11 attacks, and the number of Navy and Air Force Crosses awarded has actually declined.

Yet a successful drone pilot creating air cover for a squadron on the ground can save just as many lives as one who takes a bullet for fellow solider. That’s not the same level of heroism, obviously, but it only seems fair that they get some recognition for their contributions. And “real pilots” will still insist that they not share the same medal with drone operators. As one Air Force colonel told Politico last year, “The basic fact of the matter is no one is shooting back at you. That makes a big difference. Combat pilots respect drone pilots, but I think we’d be uneasy about it if they were to get the same award.”

This is naturally causing some consternation among the vets and active troops in my Twitter stream. It sounds really silly. But it makes some sense given how our medal system has evolved.

Essentially, this is a Distinguished Flying Cross with a new name so as not to hurt the feelings of people who fly manned aircraft. It’ll rank one notch below the DFC but have the same requirements. Which, while it was news to me as a former Army officer, does not include heroism in battle unless you happen to be in the Army. In the other three services (Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force), one can earn a DFC for “extraordinary achievement” that didn’t involve getting shot at by the enemy and get a “V” device denoting valor for the award if earned for “heroism.” Since the Army does not award the DFC other than for heroism, the “V” device is redundant and therefore not available.

It strikes me that it would make more sense to make this equivalent to an Air Medal, which has since 1942 been awarded for “meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.” As with non-Army DFCs, the Bronze Star, the service-specific Commendation and Achievement Medals, there is a “V” device for heroism awards. I don’t think anyone would object to awarding drone operators and cyber warriors, even outside the geography of a combat zone, an Air Medal equivalent award for superior achievement in the performance of their duties. A DFC equivalent? That’s a BFD.

Alas, we’ve screwed up our awards system with the proliferation of what I call “FOGO Achievement Medals,” non-combat awards essentially available only to very high ranking (flag or general officer) personnel.

So, while the Medal of Honor sits atop the food chain, followed by the Distinguished Service/Navy/Air Force Cross, there are now six medals available for Distinguished (non-heroic) Service. That’s followed by the Silver Star, which is available only for heroism in combat and then two more non-combat awards, the Defense Superior Service Medal (high rank, joint service) and the Legion of Merit (middle rank, non-heroic). Then comes the DFC. Then a quartet of service-specific medals for non-combat heroism, with the Soldier’s Medal the most well known. Then comes the Bronze Star, which is awarded for heroism or superior achievement in combat. Then the Purple Heart, for wounds in combat. And then approximately nine hundred awards for low level achievement or being someplace you were ordered to be for long enough.

Out of all those medals, then, we had only three awards—the Medal of Honor, the Crosses, and the Silver Star—for which heroism in combat is a requirement and two more—the DFC and the Bronze Star—that are combat-only awards that can be awarded for heroism or not. And only the top two of those—the Medal of Honor and the Crosses—aren’t outranked by medals available for outstanding performance of paperwork while wearing stars on one’s collar.

In that context, I’m not sure that there’s any reason for complaint about an award between the DFC and Bronze Star that one can earn from a leather chair in Nevada.

UPDATE: I’ve replaced the top photo of an array of generic medals with one of the actual Distinguished Warfare Medal. It looks too much like the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for my tastes.

UPDATE 2: Air Force Major Dave Blair, an MQ-1 Predator instructor pilot, fights back against the notion that drone warriors don’t take risks in comparison to those who pilot actual planes.

…what is the differential risk between 10,000 feet and 10,000 miles in current conflicts? When a manned aircraft with two spare engines scrapes the top of a combat zone, well outside the range of any realistic threat, why do we consider that scenario “combat” yet deem a Predator firing a Hellfire in anger “combat support”?


Recalling one particularly vociferous (and inebriated) F-22 pilot, who emphatically asserted that “fighting a war via video teleconference isn’t very honorable,” we might say the same for firing a missile beyond visual range from a fighter cloaked with stealth technology. It would be hard to imagine that the same individual would feel compelled to activate his radar transponder upon contact with the enemy, just to restore honor to his kill by mitigating his technological defenses. The decentralized control system of the Predator fits no less well in the category of technological defenses.

This is a fair argument and one made, in a different context, by a former colleague who’s a Tomcat driver. It’s true: In most of our recent conflicts, our dominance of the skies is such that our pilots face essentially no risk from enemy air defenses, much less enemy fighters. Of course, they’re nonetheless flying several thousand feet above the earth at several hundred knots; that’s inherently dangerous in a way that handling a joystick in an office chair isn’t. To say nothing of landing on a carrier at night.

But Blair’s absolutely right on one point: Those piloting drones to put rounds on target are absolutely combat arms, not combat support, forces. At least, every bit as much as those of us in the field artillery.

Blair continues,

I do not believe that RPA operators are in less danger than their manned counterparts. In fact, I assert that it may well be the other way around. Recall that the individuals killed in the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 on the Pentagon received the Purple Heart, a combat medal. This war is global, and our enemies have global reach as well. If we found ourselves in our enemies’ position, would we spend the time and attract attention attempting to purchase a high-profile missile when a terror attack on RPA operators in the continental United States would produce better results? God forbid that scenario comes to pass, but I argue strongly that the differential risk of being an RPA operator in this war is at least that of an in-theater pilot.

I’ve always thought it odd to award to Purple Heart to the 9/11 victims. While the attack was an act of war, and presaged a war in which US forces are still engaged as combatants, those killed that day were not in a combat zone and not engaging in combat operations. Still, even though they had no idea until it was too late, they were indeed at risk and it’s hard to begrudge them a medal that’s awarded for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And, while Blair makes an interesting point about drone operators as potential targets, he’s citing a theoretical risk. Until and unless the enemy targets a stateside ops center, I’d calculate the differential risk based on who’s been killed and wounded in this war. I’m guessing those manning flying machines are ahead–or, depending on how you look at it, behind–in that score.

Finally, Blair observes,

“The Department of Defense’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap predicts a force made up almost entirely of RPAs by the middle of this century,” he concludes. “On the current trajectory, the only Air Medals will be the ones in history books.”

Why is that a bad thing? It’s certainly better to stop awarding antequated medals than to lower the standards for earning them.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It strikes me that it would make more sense to make this equivalent to an Air Medal, which has since 1942 been awarded for “meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.”

    My old man was awarded 2 Air Medals, 1 in WWII and the 2nd in Korea, I think. As I recall, the citations did not mention any specific act, just above and beyond that which was normally expected. He was a radar operator on a B-29, and the citation for WWII was for several bombing raids. In Korea he flew a number of missions where they dropped propaganda.and the citation is hazy in my memory so I can’t say.

    Overall I would say this is a nothing burger, but then again, I never rode in a cigar tube at 20,000 feet with a bomb bay full of high explosives and flak shells exploding all around me and several Zeros trying to crash into me, getting hit multiple times and having 2 engines catch fire and having to dump the bombs while the tail gunner was arming the bombs and having the bomb bay doors get stuck and then climb into the bomb bay while my plane is on fire and losing altitude and having to go into the bomb bay to retrieve said tail gunner while my pilot is arguing with our “buddy” plane about whether we should dump it in Tokyo bay and hope a sub can pick us up or not (“FWCK THAT SH!T” said the pilot) then flying back to Iwo Jima and crash landing because 1 landing gear did not deploy……

    Well, let’s just say I am not sure my old man would agree with me.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I suppose I should mention that on that mission, nobody got anything (except the tail gunner, instead of one shot of whiskey, he got 10 shots at the debriefing). Nor did they get anything in particular on the other occasions they almost got blown out of the sky. That was just part of the job. As too exactly what my old man did on those missions that got him the Air Medal? I’ll never know. He never said.

  3. 11B40 says:


    Is there a reason why the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals are shown face down ???

    But anyhow, the crux of the issue is the difference between medals for “merit” and medals (not ribbons) for “valor”. The inclusion of “Warfare” in the name will blur that distinction for most primary English speakers in a kind of “Everybody gets a trophy” way. This may, in fact, be the goal in the on-going hollowing out of our military.

    Interestingly, in a “camel is a horse designed by a committee” kind of way, in the Army, Bronze Star and Army Commendation medals can be awarded for “merit” and with the addition of what is referred to a “V device” for valor.

  4. electroman says:

    We’ll call in “the REMF ribbon”. I’m a retired USAF O-6, BTW. And yes, I’m kidding. I think.

  5. SC_Birdflyte says:

    In different wars, servicemen establish their own hierarchies, with certain exceptions (e.g., the Medal of Honor). My father won the Air Medal in 1943 for completing five combat missions over Germany. If he’d made it to ten, he’d have gotten the DFC. But in the group history, only the Bronze Star with “V” winners, the Silver Star winners, and the Distinguished Service Cross winners got specific mention. You might note that the Combat Infantryman’s Badge is one that gets universal respect from Army veterans.

  6. Tyrell says:

    I did not hear Mr. Hagel tell how he would handle the North Koreans. I do not have an opinion concerning his nomination for Sec. of Defense. I will defer to the opinions of military veterans concerning that. My concerns are Iran, intelligence, and the Russians. We must be alert and ready for any Russian mischief in Western Europe.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    My father received The Bronze Star in WWII. He got it for going behind enemy lines with his crew in Burma. They repaired a downed aircraft, made a makeshift runway and flew the plane out. The idea that someone could get a Bronze Star sitting in a chair in Nevada really offends me.

  8. george says:


    Overall I would say this is a nothing burger, but then again, I never rode in a cigar tube at 20,000 feet with a bomb bay full of high explosives and flak shells exploding all around me and several Zeros trying to crash into me, getting hit multiple times and having 2 engines catch fire and having to dump the bombs while the tail gunner was arming the bombs and having the bomb bay doors get stuck and then climb into the bomb bay while my plane is on fire and losing altitude and having to go into the bomb bay to retrieve said tail gunner while my pilot is arguing with our “buddy” plane about whether we should dump it in Tokyo bay and hope a sub can pick us up or not (“FWCK THAT SH!T” said the pilot) then flying back to Iwo Jima and crash landing because 1 landing gear did not deploy……

    Well, let’s just say I am not sure my old man would agree with me.

    That kind of puts it in perspective – I think I’d be able to do that remotely (ie control a robot to do it), but doing it in person is a completely different thing.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    This may, in fact, be the goal in the on-going hollowing out of our military.

    If only they would throw out those disgusting fags, right 11B40? Uncle Sam weeps for his country…

  10. Motopilot says:

    About that cigar tube… it was flying at 30,000 feet with outside temperatures of 56 deg below zero. The early B-17s had open gunner hatches, so that was pretty much the temperature inside as well. They were in the air for long hours and had to deal with the obvious “call of nature”. At first they used to use a metal bucket to take a dump in, but there was too much trouble with the bucket sticking to their skin (think tongue on the frozen swing set) and exposing their skin to the cold air, so they stopped doing that and they just pissed and shit in their clothing.
    On and on. And this is to say nothing of the sheer terror of actual combat. For more info, read “Bomber Pilot” by Philip Ardery and “The Cold Blue Sky” by Jack Novey. Fascinating reading! Not anything like sitting at a computer in a temperature controlled room operating a remote control drone.

  11. Anderson says:

    Pilots risk getting shot at. This award debases the very concept of “medal.”

    Proficient drone jockeys should be content with typing in their initials when they make the top-20 kill list.

  12. Just Me says:

    It won’t take long for this medal to get its own catchy, dismissive nickname-something like “I killed people from my chair” or similar.

    People in the military really know which medals count and involve real risk and real valor and which ones don’t. I think in the end this doesn’t matter much.

  13. refn says:

    Yeah, it takes a real courage to sit behind a computer and lob bombs at people on the other side of the earth. Heroic, really.

  14. A Pilot says:

    I had to spend 20 missions, 6 to 10 hours in length, over Afghanistan to receive an Air Medal. I got to sleep in a tent. Now some guy sitting in a barcolounger in Vegas is going to be considered to have done more for the combat effort in a single mission. Flying a drone with 2 50-lb warheads. I can just hear the war story: “There I was. I just dropped the kids off at school, and my wife had just dropped off my lunch at the squadron. I was wall-to-wall with weapons, so I let them have them both.”

  15. RGardner says:

    @refn It is easy to lob barbs at folks if you are yourself an armchair quarterback.

    Or, as @electroman said, “REMF Ribbon” I was thinking the same words myself even before I read his comment.

    But the world and warfare has changed since 1945ish. Imagine that. Soldiers are no longer cannon fodder, unless going up against a Islamist bunch of nutjobs.

    This comparison of the good old days versus reality today isn’t new. I was Navy, in Submarines. In 1991 (OMG, ancient history) there was massive discussion over whether the crew of the USS Louisville (and later USS Pittsburgh) should be awarded the war patrol pin (first since WW II) despite preparing the batlefield with her Tomahawk launches (basically taking out the electrical systems and air defense systems before the invasion). They weren’t in harms way, but if they’d failed the casualties would have been 100x fold.

    My bottom line: We’re not in WW II, change happens.

  16. Bob says:

    You know if you REALLY want a combat medal, I heard a rumor that the Army (at least) is now accepting re-classifiers into Infantry and (for a little more effort) Special Forces. Does this new participant medal mean that Maryland will quickly issue the appropriate license plate (for a small fee)??
    The logic that they’re also saving lives, if taken not much further, should enable bomb assemblers and flak-vest makers to also receive their unique wartime medals. I participated in an online survey to improve the M4 – do I get a medal for that? Same risk.

  17. Jen says:

    A few years ago, there was an examination of the psychological impacts of those who were operating the drones “from the comfort of desk chairs.” Although they are not getting shot at, there was a significant psychological toll of a different sort: they were “at war,” including much of the stress of determining whether their targets were actually the enemy or possibly a group of civilians (or, worse yet, enemy hiding with a group of civilians) and making those life and death determinations every day. They then went home each evening with that stress, yet without any of the support systems provided to those physically in battle, and without people really understanding exactly what they are going through.

    I think we need to be really careful about being “offended” by this. These folks are doing important and psychologically taxing work that has the incredible benefit of lessening the need for more troops on the ground and in harm’s way. We should be honoring them, and a different class of medal seems to do that.

  18. James Joyner says:

    @RGardner: There’s no doubt that warfare is changing. For example, it’s an insult to the daredevils who earned their jump wings in 1941 to award the same badge to those, like myself, who earned them in 1989. In 1941, jumping out of an airplane while in flight was an act of unbelievable heroism; by 1989, it was incredibly safe, basically requiring nothing more than dealing with one’s fear of heights.

    @RGardner and @Jen:

    I’m not arguing that those people who perform in an outstanding fashion in drone or cyber warfare shouldn’t get awards recognizing their achievement. It’s conceivable to me that they could be worthy of, say, a Legion of Merit under the right circumstances. Certainly, a Bronze Star. What I can’t fathom is how they could possibly be worthy of something akin to a Distinguished Flying Cross given that they’re not in harm’s way.

  19. cSpind says:

    In regard to the Distinguished warfare medal…I agree that we need to provide recognition to those who are flying drones. The HVT’s (High Value Targets) who have been taken out by Drones in the last few years read like a Who’s Who of Al Qaeda’s top 10. No one is shooting at the F-16 that drops a bomb in Afghanistan because the F-16 never gets close enough to be threatened by anything they have on the ground there. Being ranked just below the DFC (which by the way was awarded to Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindberg both for achievements in civil aviation) was also awarded to the F-16 pilot who dropped the bomb on Musab al-Zarqawi after he was located and tracked by drones. It seems only fair to recognize those who not only spend countless hours Finding Fixing tracking and targeting the bad guys even if they do it via a satellite connection.

  20. Tom Currie says:

    Only the US Air Farce will consider this medal as being above the Bronze Star — the rest of the services will recognize that it is a very small step above the Achievement Medal (typically given for showing up for work on time most days).

    The one good thing about this new medal is that it should reduce the number of Bronze Stars being given by the US Air Farce to these chairborne rangers who work a regular 8 hour shift, in airconditioning, with breaks at the snack bar, and drive home each night to sleep in their own comfy bed.

  21. 11B40 says:


    So, my “Distinguished Tubefare Medal” suggestion is going just about nowhere ???

  22. COMBAT_VET says:

    You have got to be kidding me???? Why is the MSM not sufficient? This is how the SECDEF is going to leave his mark??? Shame on him and anyone who supports this. What these UAV pilots and anti-cyber people do, no doubt is a great thing….but to create and award them a medal that is higher than the Bronze Star is a lot of hooy!!! I can tell you that for twenty years all of the cold war veterans, DAV, VFW, worked hard to get the Pentagon to create and award a medal/ribbon to those who served during the cold war. The militaries response then was it cost too much money. Instead they issued them a Certificate for their service during that time. During this current time of downsizing and cost cutting especially, we should not be creating any more medals when we have all we need to recognize these people. I say if a certificate was good for the cold war vets…it’s good for the UAV pilots and anti-cyber people!!!
    Klaus E. Marshall
    Major (Retired) (Vietnam-era vet, Desert Storm Vet, Afghanistan Vet)

  23. James Joyner says:

    @COMBAT_VET: Klaus: I got that lame certificate. It’s in a file cabinet somewhere. But I never really expected to get anything for serving during the Cold War—it was ongoing when my dad joined and ongoing when I joined; it was just status quo. Hell, I served four years and wound up with almost as many medals and ribbons as my dad got in 20, including a stint in Vietnam.

  24. @OzarkHillbilly:

    IIRC, the Air Medal was awarded every time a crewman completed five combat missions. The rule may be different now. But what it really was, was an, “I beat the odds” medal.

  25. @SC_Birdflyte:

    You might note that the Combat Infantryman’s Badge is one that gets universal respect from Army veterans.

    I am a retired Army artillery officer and so definitionally would never have been awarded the Combat Infantry Badge. I do respect those who wear it. But I recall speaking to an E6 at Ft Bragg who wore one. He told me his was awarded for the Grenada invasion in 1983. He said that he and his company were hustled to Pope AFB just after the invasion began, flown down to Grenada, and ordered the deplane but stay near the aircraft. An hour or so later they reboarded the aircraft and flew back to Bragg. All five companies in his battalion did the same thing. They did no fighting, saw no action and all were awarded the CIB. Why? So that their battalion could be designated a Combat Infantry Battalion and hang a special streamer from the battalion colors.

    Make of it what you will.

  26. @James Joyner:

    I got that lame certificate.

    Me, too. I keep mine in the same place.

  27. SOF Vet says:

    An astute combat psychologist could write a small book about everything that is wrong with this. A political humorist could write a slightly larger one. I’m still fairly sure this is a massive hoax of some type, for the amazing lack of sense it indicates.

    I certainly didnt do 21 years in SOF Aviation and Electronic Warfare for the 57 awards, but the recognition for the ones which had to be earned (ie, meritous achievement) were appreciated. Perhaps more than recognition…distinction for repeated assumption of personal risk. Admittedly MUCH less risk than many warfighters assume every day.

    There’s no doubting the revolutionary value made available by our growing UAS/RPV fleets. The same may be said of our cyberspace experts. The essential mistake is that their value has been confused with combat, warfare, or fighting in any meaningful sense. That’s simply one man’s perspective, shaped by operational experience. The advent of these brilliant technologies has misled us, that somehow they have reshaped human nature by their arrival.

    Fighting necessarily involves a sense of personal risk, mortal fear and proximity to harm, with a removal of “psychological distance”. Absent those factors, the perpetuation of violence outside the perceived context of personal risk (ie action decoupled from consequence) is not fighting, but more characteristic of criminal activity. That statement does not apply of course to the fine and tedious UAS ISR or cybersecurity work done by our experts, since they provide very valuable services and directly result in no mortal or irreversible harm. Actions without perceived consequences are easily taken, and warfare – TRUE warfare – must remain difficult, ugly, and a last resort. Otherwise we will engage in it too freely. As an American, I find that idea wasteful and disgusting. In no small way, we will forfeit some of that American-ness.

    Acknowledge the contributions of these experts, but do not confuse their contributions with warfare. Yes, “change happens”, but although technology may change, people never fundamentally will. It’s pompous and insolent for (some of) us to assume that somehow, everything’s suddenly different.

  28. A Pilot says:

    @SOF Vet: Exactly.

    Yes, they (RPA operators & computer jockeys). I would submit that the SODO sitting in the AOC has more actual impact than a Pred pilot who happens to be sitting in the seat when the higher ups make the call to drop. The SODO is moving assets, contributing to real-time planning to make the drop possible, etc.

    The F-16 guy dropping a bomb? His pink little behind has a risk of being shot. The Pred guy risks a hang nail. And OBTW, not sure what “support mechanisms” are available in combat that aren’t available to the Pred kids. As a matter of fact, the Pred kids get to see their family every night. When the washing machine or fridge goes out, they’re there to handle it. Their kids aren’t crying and struggling to cope in school because they aren’t there.

    SOF Vet’s on the money

  29. 1st SSCT/3rd MarDiv says:

    As some one who worked in the intelligence community, I predate most forms of this electronic warfare. I like so many find that this proposed medal is an afront to those field combat servicemen who have faced death, injury and harm. I see this medal as nothing more than an unit citation but continue to wonder if it should rank any higher than National Defense Medal or Person Service Good Conduct medal.

  30. wayne consentino says:

    @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: I fought in Khe Sanh and i can tell you that all that received the Bronze Star were not and i repear sitting on their southend
    SEMPER Fi. 3rd mardiv2ndbnforcerecon

  31. wayne consentino says:

    @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: I fought in Khe Sanh and i can tell you that all that received the Bronze Star were not and i repeat sitting on their southends
    SEMPER Fi. 3rd mardiv2ndbnforerecon

  32. w.consentino says:

    @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: @Ron Beasley: I fought in Khe Sanh and i can tell you that all that received the Bronze Star were not and i repeat sitting on their southends
    SEMPER Fi. 3rd mardiv2ndbnforcerecon

  33. buffpilot80 says:

    Putting this medal above the Bronze Star is a slap in the face to any vet that has gone in harm’s way. The contribution to the war was they were the shift that was on when the bomb or missile needed to be expended. By doing it well they saved lives, but they did not put their butt on the line. I would be embarrassed to receive a bronze star for ferrying a plane to the rear so other pilots could attack Irag in 1991. That is as close as I ever got to combat and it wasn’t worth a medal. Neither is sitting in the barcolounger in Nevada. In SAC they called this “doing your job and we don;t give out medals for just doing your job.”

  34. Gordon Peterson says:

    As a veteran of 500-plus missions in RVN as a helo gunship pilot, I am having a hard time understanding the rationale for the new award. I certainly respect those men and women who are making critical contributions to the fight as ROV operators, but I fear the new decoration will unavoidably denigrate the service of those actually serving in harm’s way on and over the battlefield. I also take strong exception to the new award’s order of precedence above the BSM and Purple Heart.

    Sadly, much like youth sports programs where it seems every player receives a trophy these days win or lose, DoD and the military departments have followed suit. Not to pick on the Air Force, but some 30 years ago it authorized the award of a ribbon for anyone completing recruit training. I thought the honor of wearing the uniform was sufficient recognition.

  35. John says:

    The current debacle of medals is no different than other changes. Most in this line of discussion can remember the 6 Gulf war medals pinned to a uniform for the same actions or service in Korea before the KDSM. The national defense medal issued without combat stripes or action. Perhaps even the so far back to remember the black beret before it belonged to the Ranger BN? Change always fuels the “in my day” frictions of the changing world. If the gun makers can be held accountable for the use of their product or the bomb maker for Hiroshima then why not a UAS pilot for acting on the direction of ‘the man on the ground’ or ‘JTAC’ in many cases for the actions directed of the airframe? A fighter pilot must choose or decide to deploy. That decision is not allowed by a UAS operator alone. ‘Soldiers’ (Soldiers, Sailors and Marines) of warfare are awarded medals for actions and decisions in the face of inherent or possible death. Soldiers willingly but begrudgingly accept the immediate consequences should they fail.

    I choose not to address the issue of why the UAS and cyber warfare personnel would be awarded the same medal for greatly differing roles. I also believe there is no comparison between combat field warfare, cyber warfare and RPA flight time vs. combat engagements. Successful RPA combat engagements already earn medals and rightly so.

    We would be crippled as a nation if the cyber warfare individuals did not have a sense of honor and dedication to duty. The months of tedious analysis and accurate monitoring are the preverbal wall keeping our national security ours. The time spent is certainly comparable to the military analyst downrange.

    There are many deployed soldiers that have and will continue to stake their lives and the lives of their men on a RPA. RPA operators supply information to forward deployed units vital to mission success. Some have the ability and have deployed munitions in support of combat operations. RPA are loved by soldiers sometimes even more than pogey bait from mama.

    Deployed ground soldiers in many cases will or have been responsible for ‘policing up’ parts after various types of attacks. Usually including those things belonging to his brother or sister that was just standing there, even the child that was just playing soccer. Some soldiers have chosen to move farther and faster than others into a fray of violence knowing those before have fallen in an attempt to be successful in the same action. Failure results in death. Yours and those whom follow you.

    I believe recognition is due to those who have chosen the life of a soldier even if for only a few years. But if we are to give a combat or warfare recognition medal to an occupational skill for combat we should eliminate all of the other combat special skill badges and make those medals also.