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Legion supports new look at ‘Drone Medal’

Featured in National Security
Legion supports new look at ‘Drone Medal’

Echoing concerns of The American Legion, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced the formation of a panel to discuss the fate of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, also known as the "Drone Medal," an award for servicemembers who remotely launch unmanned military strikes or cyberattacks that kill or disable enemy forces.

The medal has been the subject of criticism by The American Legion because, as originally announced by then-defense secretary Leon Panetta, it would rank higher than such prestigious combat decorations as the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Hagel – a Vietnam War veteran and recipient of two Purple Hearts himself – initially defended the ranking. However, in the face of repeated opposition from The American Legion, other veterans groups and some members of Congress, he has decided to convene a review panel headed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, to discuss the matter. In the meantime, production of the new medal has been halted.

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."

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rayc975

April 18, 2013 - 3:28pm

Isn't that todays military? First they demeaned the Purple Heart by awarding it to anyone in the hospital, even if they were there due to a stomach ache or veneral disease, degraded NCO's by diminishing their authority, demeaned their rank by combining enlisted and NCO Clubs, plus whatever since I came out in December 1954. Now they want to degrade medals of Valor so they can award a member sitting on his secure fanny back in States doing his job in normal 8 hour shifts?

ghostler

March 15, 2013 - 2:03pm

I think there are other existing medals that can be awarded for someone doing their job excellently. It does diminish the other awards when the act behind safe closed doors is exalted above those where one's life was placed in imminent danger or sacrificed health or life through contact with enemy action or in saving another's life.

kent stanko

March 15, 2013 - 12:24pm

Since no direct contact with the enemy was encountered their lives were not at risk thus no valor should be considered. A campaign medal would be in order or a commendation medal. Their jobs are important and stressful but not life threatening so the medal should not rank above the Purple Heart or Bronze Medal.

tomg

March 15, 2013 - 11:50am

I was US Army 1965-69 but did not serve in Vietnam. I don't feel people doing their job thousands of miles from combat deserve a medal of any sort. We did a necessary job; droners also do a necessary job and apparently do it pretty well. But to equate it on any level with a combat medal is a disservice to combat veterans. An earlier commentor noted awardees would be (or maybe should be) embarrassed to wear this medal. I agree!

holdcraftm

March 15, 2013 - 11:16am

What is wrong with a Commendation Medal for doing their job and a MSM for doing it better than their peers? That is what we currently have to recognize personnel who were not actually in battle, but did their jobs professionally. Any medal for Drone Pilots should definitely not be ranked above any valor medal. These troops have talent that should be recognized, but watching a TV screen is not valor by any stretch of the imagination.

earlfrazier

March 15, 2013 - 12:02am

The Distinguished Combat Medal should rank no higher than a service achievement medal. No drone pilot is ever put in harm's way. They sit at a computer station with a joystick and a monitor. And you don't need commissioned officers manning the joysticks. Warrant officer rank is more than sufficient. The Army flies helicopters with warrant officers and they do an outstanding job.

usfourever2

March 14, 2013 - 10:17pm

I feel myself that it should be rankany higher than a notable Achievement Metal. I myself wear a Bronze Star with "V", Navy Commendation with "V", Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon. If it's placed higher than an Achievement Metal, the people on the hill need be giving out one (retrolactive) to all the Artillerymen that hit their mark.

ArtH

March 14, 2013 - 8:37pm

I honor the service and dedication of all service members, but it does not seem to me that flying drone equipment is any more stressful or important than any other skill job any where else in the service. In my opinion, a medal for remote drone operation should not rank any higher than any other campaign medal and certainly not in the realm of the purple heart or any other exemplory service award.

Devildocdon

March 14, 2013 - 8:22pm

This medal is affront to all that has served outside the wire and been in combat. The "droners" or "gamers" sit in air-conditioned rooms, eating normal chow, working regular hours and going home to their families every day. IF these guys need a medal for playing war games then design them one and place in at the level of the achievement medals, Air Force Achievement Medal medal, and on the ribbon let them place a little controller device on it. I realize the importance they play in surveillance and prosecution of targets as I was caught in a firefight while on a IA training patrol and my partner and I were the only ones effectively fighting, the IA's were useless. What kept us alive was our Sniper Team operated a small drone and gave us direction to engage the oncoming enemy and neutralizing the threat. Give them a medal, lower the presidency to an Achievement Medal or just above, no higher. I survived 7 combat tours and only the last 2 were they in use. Unfortunately they weren't effective in my AO when I was serious injured.

phoenix389

March 14, 2013 - 8:14pm

Award them the "Chairborne Wings". I tried to post a picture, but you'll have to google it.

Panentheist

March 14, 2013 - 7:00pm

I had commented on this controversial issue earlier via Iraq War (U.S.) Army Veteran and Chairman Jon Soltz. My comments (along with many other veterans) were submitted to Jon Soltz and, to (now) Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and many of my veteran colleagues may be aware that he (Hagel) was indeed, a former (U.S.) Army sergeant and twice wounded Vietnam "Purple Heart" recipient. Many of our veteran colleagues (and I for one) question seriously the elevation, merit, or precedence given the "... the Distinguished Warfare Medal, also known as the 'Drone Medal' ..." over the "Purple Heart." The reasons are obvious. The "Purple Heart" and its recipients deserve higher recognition for valor in that these warriors SUSTAINED WOUNDS for their VALOR "boots on the ground", some perhaps whose injuries were fatal at the time of close combat with the enemy, or delayed (i.e. whose deaths were due later to complications). Eligibility and receipt of the "Purple Heart" is contingent on the merit that a veteran at the time of being on active duty MUST INCUR WOUNDS in combat, whereas potential (none actual at the time I make this comment) "Drone Medal" recipients may or MAY NOT be wounded in a hostile fire, combat engagement with enemy forces. In view of the fact that Congress, the President, and the Defense Department present no SPECIFIC criteria on injury necessity, but only GENERALIZE in mentioning of the time of the Drone Medal's inception, that its recipients MUST SUSTAIN WOUNDS, but may have not in warfare with enemy forces, its greater precedence of merit and valor is questionable, and therefore should be subservient, inferior, or NOT equal to the Purple Heart and its recipients. I, (along with many other veterans) take cognizance of the fact that American Legion National Commander "Jim" Koutz, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel see the need to re-evaluate the higher precedence of merit and valor erroneously attributed to the "Drone Medal." However, "Drone Medal", "would be" POTENTIAL recipients whom have NOT SUSTAINED COMBAT RELATED BODILY INJURIES, but served in defense of our nation loyally, deserve recognition and praise as our "brothers [and sisters] in arms"; that is, in accomplishing their unit's, and their branch of military service's mission, (e.g. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, and when the latter serves under the Department of Defense, rather than the Department of Homeland Security); and when our nation is in a Presidential or Congressional declared State of War.

Mike.Barr

March 14, 2013 - 6:05pm

So you get a medal now for doing your job hundreds/thousands of miles away from the battlefield for successfully flying an unmanned vehicle to the scene and returning it safely to base? And you're ranking it right up there with the some of the highest profile medals out there? Boy, something is really screwed up at the Pentagon it they let this one go through!

corpsvet1

March 14, 2013 - 5:23pm

I still say, people that are 'awarded' this medal will be too embarrassed to wear it around military personnel. It would be tantamount to pasting a stick of Dentyne chewing gum on your bar and telling people you won it in the battle against tooth decay. Appropriate medals for this activity already exist.

Perry

March 14, 2013 - 3:47pm

Would like to know more about the Drone "pilots", where they are located, how many hours they work, etc. In my humble opinion, the DWM is not necessary, period. Wish Secretary Hagel would put "Leon's medal" to rest, once and for all. Stop trying to make it fit in. End of discussion? It is not that I am opposed to these "pilots" being recognized. I just don't understand what they would be recognized for, and feel there is already a medal/citation for that purpose.

Bob95490

March 12, 2013 - 2:06pm

Thank you Commander Koutz for your efforts to get the inappropriate hierarchy of this award reviewed. The idea of positioning this award above those earned for valor and/or for being wounded was unconscionable and demeaned the efforts of those with boots on the ground in the combat area.

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