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Modern Warfare: New Medal Announced For Drone Pilots, Military Computer Wonks

On Wednesday afternoon, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a new medal would be added to the roster of decorations for American soldiers — the Distinguished Warfare Medal. Like most other medals, this one will be awarded to soldiers whose actions had a heroic impact on the battlefield. Unlike other medals, though, it won’t require that the soldier have actually been on the battlefield, as the Distinguished Warfare Medal is meant to honor cyberwarriors, drone pilots, and others who serve their country remotely, sometimes without ever being involved in traditional combat. Learn more and get a look at the new medal below.

According to an announcement from the Defense Department, the red, white, and blue ribboned medal will be awarded not for “valorous acts” but for achievements that directly impacted combat operations. That could mean a particularly timely and well-placed strike by a drone pilot, or a successful defense of military secrets from a cyberattack, both of which contribute to national defense without requiring the person behind them to risk life and limb. In a statement, Panetta said:

“The medal provides distinct, departmentwide recognition for the extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but that do not involve acts of valor or physical risk that combat entails.”

Since the DOD is notoriously tight-lipped about things like drone strikes and hacks, it’s not entirely clear how transparent the process of awarding this new medal — the first one introduced since the Bronze Star in 1944 — will be.

We’re inclined to say good on the the DOD for recognizing the contributions of new kinds of soldiers on new kinds of battlefields, especially considering that while drone pilots, for example, dont’ put their necks on the line like troops on the ground, studies have shown that many don’t come away from their service untouched by it. Respect should be paid.

What do you think, though? Should there be a medal in place for the men and women who pilot the nation’s drones? Is it keeping your country safe that makes you worthy of a medal, or putting your life on the line? Especially interested to hear from veterans on this one. Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or @Geekosystem.

(via Politico, image courtesy of flickr)

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