Secretary Hagel calls for new look at Drone Warfare Medal

 
« Previous story
Next story »
 
Secretary Hagel calls for new look at Drone Warfare Medal

This idea was stupid right from jump street.  Not the medal itself, but the fact it was listed higher than the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart.  Everyone believes that the Drone Pilots should be honored, just not more than the folks on the ground.  But what makes me really mad is that when I talked to the DoD about it, they were completely tone deaf to our concerns.  As I said a few weeks ago, the Office of SecDef wouldn’t even answer my question, except with some nonsense about how this was unanimous:

Why create an award higher than the one that exists, which is even higher than the actions of those facing death, bodily injury etc? Well, according to her, this was the unanimous recommendation of the service chiefs and service secretaries.

Really?

I find that difficult to believe. You’re telling me every one of the service chiefs felt it was appropriate for a drone pilot to get an award higher than that of the JTAC on the ground (like SSG Scott) who was engaging in small arms fire, dodging grenades and coordinating fires? I find that difficult to believe.

Well, apparently new Secretary of Defense Hagel didn’t agree that this was such a swell idea:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday halted production of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone pilots and cyberwarriors, and ordered a review of its ranking above the Bronze Star with Combat "V" and the Purple Heart.

Hagel announced the review following heated criticism from Congress and veterans groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars. No servicemember has received the medal thus far, said George Little, the Pentagon's chief spokesman.

The defense secretary directed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct the review of the medal's position in the "order of precedence" for military decorations and report back to him in 30 days, Little said.

Why conduct a review at all in that case?  Because DoD already told me it was unanimous.  You mean they’ll review the original unanimous and come up with a different response?

CNN had a pretty good piece on it:

The Legion has been active on this since word initially leaked out, and National Commander Koutz even discussed it with President Obama in the oval office.  He obviously was pleased with the review:

American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said the decision to take another look at the issue is a good one.

"In no way does the Legion wish to diminish the contributions to our national security, to the security of our deployed troops or to the battle against terrorism represented by the greatly advanced and precise skills exhibited by the operators of these important weapons," Koutz said. "These dedicated men and women deserve recognition for their vital work. However, in the hierarchy of awards, we believe firmly that placing this medal above those given for valor and courage demonstrated on the field of battle is wholly inappropriate.

"We are confident that the committee assembled on behalf of Secretary Hagel will understand the distinction and maintain the integrity of some of our nation’s highest personal honors for combat service and sacrifice."

I’d still love to know what happened here though.  Eventually someone will file a Freedom of Information Act and get all the emails discussing this, and I absolutely can’t wait to read them.  I refuse to believe it was unanimously suggested by the service chiefs, and the fact that DoD tried to sell me that magic bean just a week before doing a complete flip with Hagel's review doesn’t speak well of the PR conundrum.  Especially if this review finds it should be downgraded, which clearly everyone thinks it should be.  Essentially the Service Chiefs and Service Secretaries will be admitting that they didn't look it over, or the DoD was selling something not true. 

Posted in the burner | 183 comments
 
« Previous story
Next story »

 

* To comment without a Facebook account, please scroll to the bottom.

Comments

This is the most ridiculous medal I've ever heard of ... like getting an award for playing X-Box!!!

I completely disagree with this DRONE Medal, rewarding these efforts which are part of their daily job is LIKE every kid getting a trophy at the end of the season, WIN or LOSE! A Medal as is being discussed should be for 'above and beyond' the routine of their daily work. But how can you justify that 'above and beyond' when their job is as simple as playing a video game? It would appear to me that IF an individual performing this work [DRONE Operations] contributed more than normal abilities a/o skills in their daily work, a Certificate or Letter of Appreciation being put in their file a/o record would be more than sufficient. A medal seems completely unnecessary and demeaning to the skills necessary to their job.

OK, the drone flyers contribute a very useful service and save lives of combat military personnel. However, there is no way on God's earth that the medal ought to out rank any award for actual boots on the ground face to face military action. It would be the ultimate insult to the men and women who actually go out on foreign soil and deal with hostile fire, IEDs, and a host of other dangers.

I agree with Sgt. Douglas A. ... This should not even be a medal.

It should not outrank the Air Medal, either!

How about ranking it with a commendation medal and like the commendation medal if any combat or physcal hazard is inovolved upgrade with a V for Valor Device. After all people at the Pentagon on 9/11 suffered a terrorist ariel attack. So it is conceviable that drone pilot operator could be operating one under hazardous combat level conditions -albiet remote but at least allow for the possibilty.

On the other hand it seems to me it would be more appropriate to award as badge rather than medal. That recognizes the special skill and qualification. Again if a drone pilot operator did happen to perform in a valorous manner we have plenty of awards in stock.

Thanks

JNP

JNP has it right. At most, this is badge level recognition.

How about ranking it with a commendation medal and like the commendation medal if any combat or physcal hazard is inovolved upgrade with a V for Valor Device. After all people at the Pentagon on 9/11 suffered a terrorist ariel attack. So it is conceviable that drone pilot operator could be operating one under hazardous combat level conditions -albiet remote but at least allow for the possibilty.

On the other hand it seems to me it would be more appropriate to award as badge rather than medal. That recognizes the special skill and qualification. Again if a drone pilot operator did happen to perform in a valorous manner we have plenty of awards in stock.

Thanks

JNP

If you think they deserve a "V" device because there is a one in a million shot they might be targeted by a Boeing 767, then every service member at an airfield everywhere should get something more than a National Defense Medal, airfields are a big prize in war and that means we were in harms way just like the drone pilot in the undisclosed bunker somewhere. Really!

This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me

If this continues then I want a medal for driving my M-577, M-151, M113, my P38 and everything else I did.

The legion should not support a new look at anything. The Legion should not support the medal's precedence period.

I agree with Mark Z.

It is an absolute disgrace and insult to everyone who had earned medal in life-threatening combat to put such a trivial medal ranked above ANY medal that requires actual face-to-face contact with an enemy. These prima dona's sit in an air conditioned room or van thousands of miles away from any danger to themselves and they drive home safe and sound to their families every night. This medal should be NO HIGHER than the National Defensive Service Ribbon.

This award should be no higher than those given at a meritorious mast which are given for a job well done. To rank this medal higher than the national defense medal is a slap in the face to all that have served honorably. By the way has anyone ever heard of the proposed cold war medal?

Should be ranked below the National Defense Service MEDAL, if it is issued at all. There are numerous awards already in the system for all the services that would/could be awarded. Navy/Marine Corps Achievement, Air Force Achievement, Joint Service Achievement, to name a few.

Yes, I think the medal should NOT be as high as our on grounds & In combat medals. But we also need to consider we are moving to a highly electronic warfare environment. I am 61 years old and as I entered the military and while I served, they wanted the brightest, but also the most GungHo and physically fit! Now they are evolving towards high technology and want the techie brains. They need a medal for them. And, as we admire our brothers & heros who served and earned combat medals, I believe the thinking here is; they need techie heros to worship in their line of duty. And they want the techies to do their best to support the upfront troops.

Ken, Operating a drone from a safe environment is a job that can easily be given to civial contractors. The basic operation is not much different than flying toy planes/helicopters or playing video games. Every military job requires a learned skill, and many of these electronic jobs are very basic and simple. I would say becoming a tank or helicopter mechanic requires more training and skill than operating a drone. Sometimes a drone is even handed off from one pilot to another. In fact, unlike a tank driver, the drone operator has a very small, limited skill set; he doesn't even have to know how to perform preventive maintenance on the drone. Even the computer he uses is maintained/repaired by someone else. Drones can even be operated by people with serve handicaps that would exclude them from combat. I really don't think even a badge is appropriate, because I don't think the job is any more exceptional than all the other military jobs.

If I am on the battlefield, I want the BEST they can find in the rear operating the DRONES. I agree the medal should be below combat medals but also think we need something. Yes, I understand the skillset. I have played video games, rebuilt engines/cars and setup and run a website. In the decision on creating a medal, there are a significantly number of higher ranking and highly more experienced military people involved with more knowledge of the need and experience than you and I have combined. This idea of the medal for them did not come out of the air. (Although the level of the medal is a fiasco). I remember over 20 years ago I was talking with a close friend (Veteran) and we were talking about Grenada and Somalia and a few other hotspots we had U.S. troops, before Desert Storm. He said we need the military experience in these places. It provides, real life, on the job training for our troops. And they need medals and ribbons. He said, imagine if we go 15 or 20 years without being in any conflicts, and a military with troops and officers without any medals or ribbons! Think about it! I sure understand it!

You are aware, that drone drivers may fly toy airplanes
but they kill real people.  Sometimes not the right ones,
but usually a few extra unlucky innocents that just are
in the wrong place. One the button is unlocked and the
missle launched, there are no "Oops" moments. Or they
may identify a target that is taken out by other means,
like artillery or tac air. I have seen the aftermath of
some very bad calls, decisions that if were taken upon
an American family at a family celebration in Kansas,
would start what the liberals like to call these days, a
"discussion." Let's not contract this out to civilians.

Right! These guys are doing much more than rating a "qualification badge, letter of appreciation" as some are piling on and suggesting. The responsibility level is high. Shooting up the wrong people with your "toy airplane" has been an international incident. I could see their responsibility and abiliity to affect the battlefield may be more lethal than anyone person in my unit when we were in Afghanistan, including all those who got the Bronze Star, which is a combat zone award but not necessarily a valor award.

I was with a Titan II squadron in 67. To recognize our service we were awarded a medallion we wore on our class As, the Pocket Rocket. It had several design additions to signify award degrees. Why don't they do the same for The drone program?

I don't understand. A forward observer under fire adjusts artillery onto a tank battalion and is considered just doing his job. No special recognition for the observer, the fire direction center or the howitzer crew, who all are in a combat environment. Maybe a Bronze Star at best for the observer only. But a drone "operator" in a safe, secure environment, possibly even stateside, working a normal 8-hour shift, and taking out a single vehicle or building may qualify for a high ranking medal for operating a joystick? Much of the target development/intel was probably done by someone else. Does that intelligence analyst, also in a safe, 8-hr job also qualified to recieve this high award? Totally unfair and unnecessay. Why can't the drone operator leaders use the same award system that our real combat officers are forced to use? And how can this type of awrd be rated so highly?

I was a forward observer in Quang Tri in 1968. Most of my friends died there. No funeral no special ceremony, just a friend wrapped up in a poncho. I spent dozens of nights in ambushes. One knows if anything goes wrong We Die. I was wounded in 23 places. I'm 100%. I'm so insulted that someone who has had the courage to be good at video games is recognized higher than my friends who lost their lives, I just can't believe it's true.

No way this award should rank higher than those involving actual exposure to physical danger. A completely rediculous concept. Good idea to recognize meritorious service by drone operators, however, similar to Army Commendation Medal. But this is a great example of the rediculous state of affairs of our government that we live with today, and now it is creeping over into the Dept. of Defense.

This should be below commendation medal and even service award medals.

This medal is not nonsense. There are already medals to recognize doing your job with distinction. There is the Achievement medal, the Commendation medal and the Meritorious Service medal. So they have enough money to come up with a new medal but don't have enough money for tuition assistance? How about we take care of things already promised like medical care before we make up new things to spend money on. Isn't about time for a new silly waste of money on a uniform change like new hats ? Seems they like to do that every couple of years.

That first sentence should have read, "This medal IS nonsense."

All,
I would suggest that as a Joint Award, perhaps it merits ranking between the Air Medal and the Air Force Aerial Achievement Award Medal.
In modern warfare there is no traditional front line as in "traditional wars" of the past. Modern "combat" often is more a mental, emotional, spiritual arena (e.g. Drone warfare, space warfare and cyber warfare or combat now exist along side of physical, political and psychological warfare...) vice a physical one. However, rest assured the toll on these warriors is real (PTSD, etc...), and the cost of failure may often be higher.
With respect to the new SecDef and my fellow veterans, I have to wonder, was there this kind of "emotional interest" and discourse when the USAF created the Air Force Aerial Achievement Award Medal [A non-combat counterpart to the Air Medal in 1988], ranking it just below the Air Medal and above the Commendation Medals (e.g. Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, etc...), which may also be presented for combat and non-combat achievement or service, and yes even for heroism (e.g. Army Commendation Medal w/ V device). As a Joint/Department of Defense award it will take precedence oval all service specific awards.
In my opinion recognition of these pilots, payload specialists and aircrews is merited. Recognition of their actions in no way diminishes the very real physical dangers and hardships faced by those whose "boots are on the ground." Truth be told there are many "in theater" personnel who owe their success and in some cases survival to those sitting in a "safe" area operating the drones (UAV, RPV, UCAS, etc...). Oh, and not all operations occur in areas removed from the theater of operations.

Artillery and mortar crews, attack helicopter pilots, attack fixed wing pilots all support ground troops, and usually do it in dangerous, situations. There have never been "special" awards for these jobs. And no way is drone operation as stressful as an in-theater combat job. Most of these folks get to go home to their wives and warm beds after 8-12 hour shifts. And they don't have to worry about hitting a land mine on their drive home. Drone operators are totall underserving of special recognition. If that's the case, come out with badges for all skill sets.

That should have read "This medal IS nonsense."

I believe that this should NOT be a medal at all but maybe a ribbon like the national defence ribbon. This position is not a combat situation but more like a video game.

an infantryman does not get a medal just for being and infantry man so why should a drone operator? it's a classification like gunners mate or torpedo man or a specialist tech, so why should they get medals? sounds pretty darn stupid to me.

Please file a Fredom of Info request and get the emails on this. Then "out" all the generals that supported this. I still don't understand why a new medal was necessary at all, and why we would create a medal for only a small select group of military, and especially members who 99% of the time aren't exposed to any dangers of combat. And the damage done by a single drone is minimal compared to an artillery or air strike (B-52). And the bravery/service performed by medivac pilots is by far greater than drone operators. I mean, the drone mission could be farmed out to civilian contractors as it is usually performed in non-combat environments.

No one should be rewarded for killing people by remote control.
It is not the same as hand-to-hand combat or downstream from a group of enemy gunners.

The Drone Awards must be banned and return to Americanism instead of adopting Soviet-style
propaganda awards.

Medal my A, feet on the ground no sleep for days when you do you keep one eye open that deserves medals! A letter in their jacket sure but that's it! What's next can you drive a remote controled toy? Just one combat veterans opinion. Been treated like dirt and didn't sit in an airconditoned room. Couldn't even wear my uniform in public! Get a life!

Medal my A, feet on the ground no sleep for days when you do you keep one eye open that deserves medals! A letter in their jacket sure but that's it! What's next can you drive a remote controled toy? Just one combat veterans opinion. Been treated like dirt and didn't sit in an airconditoned room. Couldn't even wear my uniform in public! Get a life!

Medal my A, feet on the ground no sleep for days when you do you keep one eye open that deserves medals! A letter in their jacket sure but that's it! What's next can you drive a remote controled toy? Just one combat veterans opinion. Been treated like dirt and didn't sit in an airconditoned room. Couldn't even wear my uniform in public! Get a life!

Medal my A, feet on the ground no sleep for days when you do you keep one eye open that deserves medals! A letter in their jacket sure but that's it! What's next can you drive a remote controled toy? Just one combat veterans opinion. Been treated like dirt and didn't sit in an airconditoned room. Couldn't even wear my uniform in public! Get a life!

Medal my A, feet on the ground no sleep for days when you do you keep one eye open that deserves medals! A letter in their jacket sure but that's it! What's next can you drive a remote controled toy? Just one combat veterans opinion. Been treated like dirt and didn't sit in an airconditoned room. Couldn't even wear my uniform in public! Get a life!

I always thought awarding of a medal was because of Service in a battle field area or exposure to danger or exceptional actions in actual battle. Being able to operate an computer keyboard certainly should not be a reason to decorate your uniform.

To rank this medal above the BronzeStar would be an affront to those who placed themselves in harm's way to earn their Bronze Star. While drone pilots perform a valuable service, in no way should it rank above ANY medal awarded for actual in-person combat. Virtual combat does not rise to that level of personal committment and risk.

This medal should be ranked with the "National Defense Medal"

Award the GWOT if anything. I would be embarrassed to wear this piece of crap. Typical of this entire administration

I haven't yet read the criteria for recommendation but it must be interesting. Regardless, it seems to me that one of the existing Commendation medals would be appropriate for someone who contributes to the war effort without any personal danger. Did I hear correctly that drone pilots qualify for the Air Medal?

I think they deserve no more than those who servred on Guam during Vietnam in the sixties. And that would be nothing. And to place this medal above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart would be an insult.

I served in Vietnam in 1965 with the Marine Corps. After operation Star Light I saw brother Marines, in body bags, stacked in ME10 walk-in reffers like cord wood. They gave all they had to our country. I doubt that I will ever see that sacrifice made by a state-side drone pilot. The worst injury he/she may acquire is maybe carpal tunnel syndrom.
The fact that this distinquished warefare medal was even created is a salp in the face for the thousands of military men and women that have lost their lives in combat. So I agree with teh suggestion that they be given "Drone Pilot" wings when they finish training for the position, and then if they perform an exemplary feat that saves lives of combat personnel give them a star on the emplem.

I disagree with the drone medal. I was a first sergeant for a infantry company in Iraq. we had several troops that deserved medals for valor and purple hearts. Most were shot down by higher command. there are so many, hundreds of troops that have TBI from explosions that do not get puple hearts and they want to give anyone that sits at a computer in the states a medal that ranks higher. absolute BS.

It would be interesting to find out who the drone pilots are and environment in which they operate. Are they in danger of their lives while going about their jobs, or are they in a safe environment. Are many of them female, and is this a way to recognize the jobs performed by women? I just find it hard to believe that this medal would take precedence over the purple heart unless there is a very good reason which we don't know about.

I served in Vietnam in 1965 with the Marine Corps. After operation Star Light I saw brother Marines, in body bags, stacked in ME10 walk-in reffers like cord wood. They gave all they had to our country. I doubt that I will ever see that sacrifice made by a state-side drone pilot. The worst injury he/she may acquire is maybe carpal tunnel syndrom.
The fact that this distinquished warefare medal was even created is a salp in the face for the thousands of military men and women that have lost their lives in combat. So I agree with teh suggestion that they be given "Drone Pilot" wings when they finish training for the position, and then if they perform an exemplary feat that saves lives of combat personnel give them a star on the emplem.

Pages

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Have a tip for us? A link that should appear here? Contact us.
News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.