The Pentagon has created a new medal for drone pilots and cyber warfare specialists that will rank higher in the order of precedence for military decorations than the Bronze Star with Combat “V,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday.
Called the Distinguished Warfare Medal, the new medal “recognizes the changing character of warfare” in the post-9/11 era in which servicemembers sitting at consoles in the U.S. can directly impact the outcome of engagements with an enemy overseas, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said as the CIA director and then the Pentagon chief, he had “seen first-hand how modern tools like remotely-piloted platforms and cyber systems have changed the way wars can be fought, changed the course of battle even from afar.”
But there had been no way previously to honor the efforts of the technicians with a military decoration.
“For that reason, I formally approved establishing the Distinguished Warfare Medal,” Panetta said.
Unlike awards for courage in the face of the enemy, the medal will be given for actions “that do not involve valor or physical risks that combat entails,” Panetta said of the new medal that will rank directly below the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In explaining the decision to create the medal, Defense Department officials said in a statement that “modern technology enables service members with special training and capabilities to more directly and precisely impact military operations at times far from the battlefield.”
“The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded in the name of the secretary of defense to servicemembers whose extraordinary achievements, regardless of their distance to the traditional combat theater, deserve distinct department-wide recognition,” the statement read.
A Pentagon memorandum makes sure to emphasize that the medal “may not be awarded for valor in combat under any circumstances.”
The [Distinguished Warfare Medal] provides an avenue to recognize appropriately extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations warranting recognition above the Bronze Star Medal,” the Pentagon memo reads.
The medal is only to be awarded to those serving after Sept. 11, 2001.