Hagel Gets Rid of the Hated New ‘Drone Medal’

Mike O'Brien
Posted: 04/15/2013

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Monday that he is canceling the new, so-called drone medal.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal was created earlier this year for drone and cyber "warriors" and was immediately met with harsh criticism from veterans and lawmakers who said a medal for personnel working remotely should not be ranked higher than traditional combat medals such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Related: U.S. Air Force Designates Six Cyber Tools as "Weapons"

It will be replaced by a special pin or device that could be attached to existing medals or ribbons. Senior military leaders have 90 days to finalize details and criteria for the award.

The move comes after a review of the drone medal by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.

"While the review confirmed the need to ensure such recognition, it found that misconceptions regarding the precedence of the award were distracting from its original purpose," he said Monday in a written statement.

The move was applauded by veteran groups who derided the drone medal and suggested it should have been in the form of a gold X-Box controller.

Before ordering the review, Mr. Hagel wrote in a letter to veterans organizations that it was important to recognize the changing face of warfare with the new medal.

Related: Uproar Over Pentagon's New 'Drone' Media

He wrote: "Since Sept. 11, 2001, technological advancements have, in some cases dramatically changed how we conduct and support combat and other military operations. Accordingly the Distinguished Warfare Medal award criteria intentionally does not include a geographic limitation on the award, as it is intended for use as a means to recognize all service members who meet the criteria, regardless of the domain used or the member’s physical location."

American Legion National Commander John E. Koutz said replacing the medal with a device puts the valuable contributions of drone operators and cyber warriors in the correct perspective, Stripes.com reports..

He said: "Cyber and drone warfare have become part of the equation for 21st-century warfare, and those who fight such battles with distinction certainly deserve to be recognized.

"But The American Legion still believes there’s a fundamental difference between those who fight remotely, or via computer, and those fighting against an enemy who is trying to kill them."

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Mike O'Brien
Posted: 04/15/2013