There’s a new medal out and it recognizes outstanding technical expertise and achievement in the war on terror, but it doesn’t require battlefield bravery or direct contact with the enemy. It’s the Distinguished Warfare Medal and it ranks in precedence above the Bronze Star with the Combat “V” and even above the Purple Heart.
What is that about?
I get trying to come up with an accommodation for a skill-set or job that did not exist in the past and then became an important contributing factor to current missions. But to be higher than the Purple Heart — that’s where you lose me.
Military brass approved the medal in recognition that the post-9/11 brand of warfare and skilled service members at consoles in US-based headquarters have consistently affected the outcomes of many direct engagements with the enemy through drone strikes and fighting off homeland cyber attacks.
Within just one day after the Pentagon announced this new military decoration for “cyber warriors,” the VFW commander is urging the Pentagon to lower the precedence and place it beneath medals awarded to those in actual physical combat.
The VFW National Commander John E. Hamilton acknowledged that recognizing those “far from the fight,” who operate drones and other remote control combat and surveillance devices, definitely help out on the battlefield. However, Hamilton believes that medals that can only be earned in contact with the enemy should retain a higher precedence, and he urges the DOD to reconsider and forestall what could become a real morale issue.
Said Hamilton: “(M)edals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear. The VFW urges the Department of Defense to reconsider the new medal’s placement in the military order of precedence.”
DOD says, “No!”
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a former CIA director, weighed in saying that he had approved the medal because there was no formal way to recognize the contributions of those who control drones and cyber systems, which have changed the face of modern warfare. That doesn’t mean you create a “formal way” that takes precedence over the Bronze Star and Purple Heart!
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little also defended the medal’s ranking, and said that a board of military and civilian experts determined its ranking based on its merits. Because of the new medal’s very high precedence, Little believes that its award will be relatively rare.
One poll strongly disagrees…
In one unscientific poll, 67 percent of Al.com responders supported the medal’s creation, but disagreed with ranking it above combat medals. Most polltakers agreed that just being in an area where bullets are flying ranks higher than the greatest accomplishment of a cyber warrior in an environment where bravery is not required.
It’s pretty much a done deal at this point, and the DOD is not backing off in establishing the precedence of the Distinguished Warfare Medal ahead of the Bronze Star. There is, however, a movement spearheaded by Senator Pat Twoomey of Pennsylvania and U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida to get the Pentagon brass to change their minds on this one. Read the petition at Twitchy.com’s politics page.
While I’m not going to give my personal information on a petition hosted on Whitehouse.gov, I do agree with the intent. The petition reads, in part:
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. This is an injustice to those who have served and risked their lives and this should not be allowed to move forward as planned.
At *your* service,