UPDATE: 4.15.13: Hagel Repeals Drone Service Medal | Military.com
Here’s the latest on the Distinguished Warfare Medal…
According to a Military.com piece dated March 12th, new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a halt to manufacturing the new Distinguished Warfare Medal “for drone pilots and cyber warriors.” If you’ve been following my Military Matters updates on this issue during the past month, you know my views on this decoration, which some wags have dubbed “The Golden X-Box Award.”
It appears that the new Secretary has backed down in the face of the heated criticism over ranking this award above decorations that can only be earned in actual combat. There were even movements afoot to pass legislation forcing the military to lower the precedence of the Distinguished Warfare Medal.
Chairman of JCS on the Case
Hagel has ordered Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to “conduct a review” of the medal’s precedence. Gen. Dempsey has 30 days to report his findings – which I hope are that getting shot at in real life rates a decoration higher than a joystick operator in an air conditioned command post.
Former Secretary Panetta Didn’t Get It
Secretary Panetta is a good guy and a patriot. He did a good job as CIA Director and led the military with dedication and efficiency in his final years of cabinet service. Unfortunately, he somehow missed the point on this one when the precedence of the new medal prompted a firestorm of criticism from veteran groups and Congress.
Panetta and the rest of the brass clung tenaciously to their rationale that the reason the Distinguished Warfare Medal should be ranked higher than the Bronze Star and Purple Heart was that its award would be “rare.” The thinking seemed to reflect a high-level bureaucratic approach that infects anyone – warrior or politician – who spends too much time in Washington, D.C.
Hagel was Slow to Come Around
Just a week prior to his decision to stop production and review the precedence of the medal, Hagel wrote a letter in response to the VFW’s complaint. He accepted the judgment of the military brass “that the award is at the appropriate level.” Fortunately, however, Hagel, a Vietnam vet with two Purple Hearts stepped out of the stubborn bureaucratic mold and listened to the concerns of the troops and their representatives in Congress.
It’s Not Just About the Award Itself
The VFW Commander John Hamilton emphasized that the dispute is not over whether there should be recognition for extraordinary performance in the cyber warfare realm, but, again, its actual precedence. The brilliant military operators who do that work deserve to be recognized for their skills and defense of the homeland. Lighting up terrorists who hide in remote areas takes the battle to where it should be.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) echoed the VFW chief’s sentiments, and he is listening to his constituents: “Pennsylvania’s veterans and others have told me of their concerns with ranking the new medal above some combat valor medals, such as the Bronze Star Medal with valor device.”
So Secretary Hegel has undoubtedly begun the process to clean up a situation that could have resulted in a significant morale issue for our guys and gals in the field actually getting shot at. I hope that Gen. Dempsey gets the message that when the boss sends something back that’s already been “decided,” it’s time to “un-decide” it.
At *your* service,