The Pentagon Is Determined To Continue With The Controversial 'Drone Medal'


Photo: Associated Press

The announcement of the Distinguished Warfare Medal — nicknamed ‘The Drone Medal’ for its likelihood to go to remote pilots — came as quite a shock to many in the military.Most current and former military folks seemed to take issue with its precedence, with the award being ranked higher than a Bronze Star but lower than the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award.

There was outrage and mockery, and there was even a petition to have the precedence lowered, one that garnered almost 11,000 signatures:

Under no circumstance should a medal that is designed to honour a pilot, that is controlling a drone via remote control, thousands of miles away from the theatre 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.

Well, the Pentagon really doesn’t care what you think. From

“The decision has been made,” Juliet Beyler, acting director for Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management at the defence Department, said during a telephone discussion Wednesday with reporters.

She said there has been no opposition at the highest levels of the Pentagon to the new medal. It had the backing of the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff and defence Secretary Leon Panetta.

They may have surveyed around the offices of Generals and Admirals, but they didn’t have to go very far to find someone that didn’t like it:

“It has been surreal to hear the response in the corridors of the Pentagon,” one Army Colonel told The Washington Post. “Everyone was floored by the sudden announcement. Many are still convinced it is a joke from The Onion [an online satire website] that duped people.”

He added: “I’ve had conversations with about a dozen people over the last couple of days here at the Pentagon and read the various rants from retired friends on Facebook. Attitude ranges from rage to a mix of anger and amusement. Everyone assumes it was an Air Force push, so there is anger towards both the medal and the Air Force over this.”

The response to queries by Business Insider was overall one of disappointment in the new medal, yet even those who defended it conceded on the placement.

“Before criticising drone pilots, one should become educated on what they actually do … I support any awards for drone pilots,” said Nicholas Albino, an airman with 10 years of service.

But later he conceded that the placement above the Bronze Star was ill conceived.

Like Albino, the Pentagon Army colonel gave WaPo much the same statement, “If it were lower than the Bronze Star, no one would have cared.”

The Bronze Star is typically given for heroism “in the face” of the enemy, but since its introduction in 1944, it has also been authorised for meritorious service.

Aside from the mostly uniform negative response in the military community, some have asserted to Business Insider that any of the military’s existing meritorious service awards would suffice for outstanding drone or cyber operators. 

In fact, the DWM is apparently the first award the Pentagon’s authorised with a few specific job fields in mind — that is, those conducted in cyberspace or through remotely controlled air craft and missile batteries. According to one senior airman speaking on condition of anonymity, “that’s absolutely unheard of.”

“I was unaware of how high up the award was and agree there is no bigger sacrifice then your own life or saving another’s life,” said Albino. “There is a place for every award and they should be ranked and structured around how big the sacrifice they made.”

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