The Air Force announced the career specialties eligible to receive the "R device" for remote impacts, the Pentagon's award for those with hands-on employment of a drone or other weapon system that directly impacts combat or military operations overseas.
"The 'R device' may be awarded to airmen who, during the period of an action, served in the remotely piloted aircraft, cyber, space or [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] career field," Air Force spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday.
The award is retroactive to Jan. 7, 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced changes to the military decorations and awards program, Ryder said.
A comprehensive review was initiated by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in 2014 to improve the military awards program "by harnessing lessons learned from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan," according to the Defense Department.
Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, initially introduced the remote impacts device in 2013 as the Distinguished Warfare Medal -- but the Pentagon ended up scrapping the idea at a time when critics viewed the award as the "Nintendo Medal."
Ryder noted that airmen in career fields eligible for the device have had significant impact during Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon's air war to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The move marks the first time the service has detailed "who [will get] it and how it would be distributed," said Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske.
"These actions can be performed in any domain but must not expose the individual to personal hostile action," the Air Force said in a release following the briefing.
Additionally, the actions may not "place him or her at significant risk of exposure to hostile action while engaged in military operations against an enemy of the U.S.; or involved in a conflict against an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in military operations with an opposing armed force in which the U.S. is not an aggressive party," the release said.
Eligibility for the award is not based on a "list of Air Force Specialty Codes, but falls within career specialties -- more broadly," Brzozowske told Military.com on Friday, which "opens up [the] scope of who could be eligible."
The "R" device may be worn on battle ribbons for the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, service-specific Commendation Medals, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and service-specific Achievement Medals, according to the 2016 Pentagon directive.
In defining criteria for the "R" device, the Air Force maintained objectives outlined by the DoD for the "V" and "C" devices.
"The standardization of the ‘V’ device as a valor-only device will ensure unambiguous and distinctive recognition of distinguished acts of combat heroism," the release said. The "V" device may be worn with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and service-specific Commendation Medals.
The "C" device was created to recognize service members performing meritoriously under the most difficult combat conditions -- but does not rise to the level of "V."
Personnel must be engaged against an enemy, engaged in military operations against an opposing foreign force, or serving with friendly forces engaged in an armed conflict in which the United States is not a principal party, according to the directive.
"Unlike the 'R' device, the 'C' device may be authorized for sustained performance or service, provided the criteria of personal exposure to hostile action or significant risk of hostile action are met," the Air Force said.
"C" devices may be worn with the following awards: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, service-specific Commendation Medals, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and service-specific Achievement Medals.