Foreign and Defense Policy

Recognizing our drone warriors

Image Credit: REUTERS/US Air Force/Tech. Sgt Effrain Lopez/Handout

Image Credit: REUTERS/US Air Force/Tech. Sgt Effrain Lopez/Handout

While the drone campaign is under attack on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon is taking action to recognize the achievements of our nation’s drone warriors.

These men and women have carried out some of the most important strikes in (what used to be called) the war on terror — taking out senior al Qaeda leaders and disrupting plots to strike the American homeland. Many of these strikes are carried out not from the battlefield, but from trailers in US military and intelligence facilities here at home. Problem is, if you’re not in a combat zone you’re not eligible for combat decorations.

Now the Washington Post reports that is about to change:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that the Pentagon is creating a medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations, but do it well away from any combat zone.

“I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said. “And they’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar.”

The work they do “does contribute to the success of combat operations, particularly when they remove the enemy from the field of battle, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight,” he said.

The new blue, red, and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to individuals for “extraordinary achievement” related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike other combat medals, it does not require the recipient risk his or her life to get it.

Officials said the new medal will be the first combat-related award to be created since the Bronze Star in 1944.

Predictably, some are scoffing at the new award. The Washington Times reports:

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition urging the White House to lower the ranking of a new medal for drone pilots and cyberwarfare specialists that has drawn criticism for its ranking above the Bronze Star.

“Under no circumstance should a medal that is designed to honor a pilot, that is controlling a drone via remote control, thousands of miles away from the theater of operation, rank above a medal that involves a soldier being in the line of fire on the ground,” the petition posted on the White House website says.

The Washington Times first reported Friday that some warriors inside the Pentagon were questioning and mocking Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s decision last week to create the Distinguished Warfare Medal for cyber- and drone-combatants who sit inside stations outside a war zone.

“This is an injustice to those who have served and risked their lives and this should not be allowed to move forward as planned,” the petition says of the Distinguished Warfare Medal.

It is hard to see how it is an injustice to those who served and risked their lives to recognize the important military achievements of those who serve in other ways.

Panetta has said he will stay in office until his successor is confirmed. In that case, let’s hope he sticks around to award a good many Distinguished Warfare Medals.

4 thoughts on “Recognizing our drone warriors

  1. I’m a lifelong civilian, but my understanding of this fight is that the key phrase in the petition is “rank above a medal that involves a soldier being in the line of fire on the ground.” There’s no argument that those who “serve in other ways” shouldn’t be recognized, it’s that that recognition should not be considered superior to one that requires putting your life on the line.

  2. “Drone warriors”? Medals? For playing video games in complete comfort and safety? Just the thing to destroy what’s left of troop morale.

  3. thiessen bro, you’re a tool.

    you can’t see why a medal for a drone pilot should rank above the Bronze Star with valor?

    how about one actually involves the risk of dying?

  4. It is hard to see how it is an injustice to those who served and risked their lives to recognize the important military achievements of those who serve in other ways.

    Really? There are men and women on the line risking their lives and trying hard to distinguish between possible and legitimate threats. Then there are the video players who shoot missiles at wedding parties and funerals because some software package thinks that one of the people there looks a little like a terrorist. They should go to jail for murder, not be given medals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>