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Avatar of GI KoreaBy on February 18th, 2013 at 2:22 am

Medal for Drone and Cyber Operators Causes Unneeded Controversy

» by in: US Military

I agree with the critics on this issue because someone who is not risking life and limb or even suffering the separation from their families should receive a medal that ranks higher than the medals that most deploying servicemembers receive:

The news that a medal has been created to honor the “extraordinary actions” of drone pilots and other servicemembers acting far from the battlefield has triggered strong reactions about medals and their value.

In one of his last official acts, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday announced the creation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, to recognize “extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but do not involve acts of valor or physical risks that combat entails.”

The medal will rank immediately below the Distinguished Flying Cross — and higher than the Bronze Star — in order of precedence, according to a Defense Department chart. It can be awarded for any actions after Sept. 11, 2001.

“Our military reserves its highest decorations, obviously, for those who display gallantry and valor in actions where their lives are on the line, and we will continue to do so,” Panetta said. “But we should also have the ability to honor the extraordinary actions that make a true difference in combat operations.”

Drones and cyberwarfare “have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said.  [Stars & Stripes]

I haven’t talked to anyone opposed to the medal in general it is just how high in prestige that the Defense Department decided to make the medal that has people rolling their eyes.  It just makes you wonder who does the common sense check on these things at the Pentagon?  This whole controversy is completely unneeded if someone would have simply told Secretary Panetta that the award is a bit too high in prestige.  It really should at most be above an Army Commendation Medal, but even that is a bit high considering most junior enlisted receive a ARCOM for a combat tour.

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  • Bob
    2:14 am on February 18th, 2013 1

    I’m sure there an art to flying a drone. I’m sure it’s not as simple as flying a joystick and I’m sure their is a real difference between various levels of talent and those talents should awarded.

    So should their be a medal? Sure why not but it should rank lower then any medal that requires you to risk your life.

  • Liz
    3:10 am on February 18th, 2013 2

    I’m sure it all comes down to promotion opportunity. I’ve never known a drone operator who wanted to be a drone operator.

  • Flunky Brewster
    3:17 am on February 18th, 2013 3

    An award? Well, it depends if they’re doing a good job at their profession and if they’re making a difference. Remember, scientists or inventors who create important new weapons are making a difference and have been vital in the successes we have had in past wars. They can save many lives, on both sides, by shortening wars and by increasing the accuracy of weapons we already have.
    But, which awards should they receive? Should they get the same ones that those in the direct line of fire receive? No, but there should be some reward for their service. Remember, we’re still an all-volunteer service and they volunteered during war time, too, and their efforts and expertise made a difference.

  • Bob
    3:24 am on February 18th, 2013 4

    I feel as if the agreement will be the same, I spoke about this award to a few friends (prior military) they agree that indeed an award is fine. However it should rank above those awards which put people in direct fire.

  • Chris In Dallas
    8:55 am on February 18th, 2013 5

    Here are my thoughts:

    1. We have enough medals already. Why not tweak the Distinguished Flying Cross or BSM requirements so drone pilots can get them?

    2. I was in the Quartermaster Corps; a proverbial toilet paper pusher. I undertodd that while my role was important the chances of getting some high octane medal was pretty much zero. I was fine with that. Why the change?

    3. I’ve read this is necessary to keep drone pilots competitive for promotions. Nonsense! I saw no issues with my REMF bretheren getting promoted despite lack of high level awards. Sure we didn’t get the very top ranks and positions, but we probably shouldn’t have!

  • Smokes
    10:31 am on February 18th, 2013 6

    You are all ignoring the fact that a sizable chunk of these awards already go to people who really don’t deserve them. Usually troops that do things truly deserving of a medal, place that medal low on things they care about. It’s the people that really didn’t do what you’d expect someone to do to get something that high, they’re the ones who don’t shut up about them.

    The end of tour award I was put in for in Iraq was a Brone Star. Was I an Infantryman hoofing it through the streets on the lookout for AQI? Was I kicking in doors or trying to balance keeping the streets safe while not angering the locals?

    No.

    I was a 25B, I worked on computer systems. It didn’t sit well with me and I talked to the others on my team about it to see if they thought that’s what we should be getting? There answer was overwhelimgly: “Hey that’s what everyone’s being put in for, it’s the standard award at this level.”

    Well turns out it was standard for certain ranks, of which I wasn’t holding one of. But thankfully the chain’s ignorance of what criteria should be used allowed me to avoid being put into a position of holding a medal that was the result of their ignorance of what those awards are supposed to mean.

    In the end all my medals from the initial ASR I got to the final JCOM I ended up with from Iraq all lie quietly gathering dust in a box somewhere in my closet awaiting the day my son is old enough to go snooping through my things and they’ll see the light of day once again, and he’ll probably get peanut butter or something on them and I’ll yell at him…

  • Glans
    1:51 pm on February 18th, 2013 7

    Ain’t bronze stars given more often for service than for valor?

  • LG DACOM Stinks, Royally
    2:24 pm on February 18th, 2013 8

    So, if some high-ranking member of al Qaeda, who is known to have conspired from Yemen for the deaths of Soldiers SRPing at Fort Hood, gets a hell-fire up his a$$, what medal should go to the man who launched the rocket?

  • Anon
    4:49 pm on February 18th, 2013 9

    the first strike in any war now is through key strokes in a cyber attack, why not recognize the new tip of the spear

  • 2ID Doc
    5:06 pm on February 18th, 2013 10

    When the CAB was announced I thought “Well it’s about time because the current combat zones & Vietnam as well there is no rear.” A clerk is as likely to roll past a firefight as an infantryman. But this? Call it what it is “The Space Invaders Medal” for extraordinary button pushing & joystick wiggling while sleeping in your own bed eating in your own DF while getting drunk on your days off & banging your significant other. Hmm sounds like me during my CONUS posting & my Atari (kids go google that). So where do I sign up for mine? I’ll throw it in the drawer with the rest of my medals & ribbons a couple I got for not getting busted for DUI or getting an STD (on the record anyway). A medal? Possibly. Higher than the Bronze Star? Hardly.

  • Flunky Brewster
    6:38 pm on February 18th, 2013 11

    Awards are always political, for one reason or another. Always.

  • jim
    9:04 pm on February 18th, 2013 12

    while i disagree with the medal’s precedence, there is something significantly difficult about constantly switching between a garrison and deployed mindset each and every day. one or the other, but not both.

    sort of like how permanently stationing troops in korea for a year (and they can bring their families!) looks good on paper, but is horrible in reality.

  • chefantwon
    6:56 pm on February 19th, 2013 13

    Im sure all those folks risking their lives flying a plane around would be real happy for those drone pushers to be treated as they are.

    Got to feel for those guys that may lose a plane to the enemy. Why do they do, roll over to the next console and grab the next joystick?

    I wonder what survival training for these people consist of? The art of escape to the vending machine? Interragation by the commode? The ancient art of Chineese hand washing torture?

  • Matt
    2:17 am on February 20th, 2013 14

    @#7-yes they are

    @#13-let’s be honest. No pilot in Iraq from about 2005 until the end or in Afghanistan since about 2003 has “risked his life” flying unless he collides with another aircraft or crashes for some reason. No one in either of these theaters was shooting at them during the times specified, nor were their air-to-air threats.

    This award needs to go right next to the GWOT Service Medal in order of precedence.

  • Matt
    2:20 am on February 20th, 2013 15

    Well, no Air Force pilot has been lost to hostile fire I should say. As far as helicopters, that’s a different story.

  • Liz
    4:23 am on February 20th, 2013 16

    #15 Yeah I was going to correct you on that, they just lost an f16 pilot at Aviano last month. Flying fighters is far from a safe job.

  • JoeC
    6:30 pm on April 15th, 2013 17

    Cancelled!!

  • Glans
    12:45 pm on July 10th, 2013 18

    The US Navy plans to land an X-47B drone, about the size of a fighter, on the USS George H.W. Bush tomorrow. Brock Vergakis has the AP story at TPM.

 

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