Photo: AP via DoD
Combat award citations often include the phrase “for heroic achievement in connection with ground combat operations,” but that’s set to change with a new award announced for troops that launch drone strikes or direct cyberattacks against the enemy.The blue, red and white Distinguished Warfare Medal will be given to servicemembers that demonstrate “extraordinary achievement” related to a military operation after 9/11. But unlike every other combat award, it does not require the recipient to risk her or her life, according to the Associated Press.
The U.S. military guides its drones from seven air bases in the United States, as well as several locations abroad, including one in the East African nation of Djibouti.
An official speaking on condition of anonymity prior to the announcement from the Pentagon has indicated that the award will be higher ranking than a Bronze Star, but lower than the Silver Star — the nation’s third-highest award, the Army Times reports.
The medal will give the military a way to recognise a single act that directly affects a combat operation, doesn’t involve an act of valor, and warrants an award higher than the Bronze Star, according to Pentagon criteria.
Notably, servicemembers can also earn awards for meritorious service, the highest of which is the Bronze Star. Though these lower awards can dually be earned for “valor in combat,” in which case a valor distinguishing device, called a “Combat V,” is pinned to the ribbon to set it apart from merit awards.
The ranking of the medals may come as a shock to some military members, used to engaging in direct firefights with the enemy. An excerpt of one Bronze Star medal citation awarded in 2009 to Joseph Molina, a Navy SEAL:
“Personally engaging insurgents with precision sniper fire, Chief Molina heroically led his platoon during a day-long battle in which his sniper teams and Mark 47 team decimated the advancing enemy force. His exemplary leadership resulted in 22 Enemy Killed in Action and the safe extraction of Operational Detachment Alfa with no additional casualties. Throughout six months of combat, Chief Molina fearlessly led his platoon during 300 hours of Troops in Contact that resulted in 181 Enemy Killed in Action.”
While certainly stressful jobs, a drone pilot or cyber warfare specialist receiving an award above a Bronze Star may seem a far cry from what many would consider combat.
The official announcement from the Department of defence can be found here.
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