Count US Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa) among those taking umbrage with the status of a new medal created by the Pentagon for drone operators. The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to pilots of unmanned aircraft, cyber war experts or others who are directly involved in combat operations but who are not physically present in the combat zone and facing the same physical risks of warfare. The Pentagon is adding prestige to the medal by placing it above some traditional combat valor medals in the military’s “order of precedence.”
According to the Army Times, The new medal will rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross. It will have precedence over — and be worn on a uniform above — the Bronze Star with Valor device, a medal awarded to troops for specific heroic acts performed under fire in combat.
Senator Toomey sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressing his concern and asking why the Pentagon has reportedly decided to rank a new medal for drone operators and others not in direct ground combat above some long-standing combat valor medals.
Sen. Toomey’s letter is below:
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Panetta:
I write to express my concern regarding the Distinguished Warfare Medal.
While fully supporting appropriate recognition of all military personnel whose extraordinary actions make a difference in combat operations, I am concerned about the new medal’s possible ranking in DOD’s order of precedence. It has come to my attention that the new medal may rank above some traditional combat valor medals, such as the Bronze Star Medal with valor device.
I respectfully request your answers to the following questions:
- Where does DOD plan to rank the Distinguished Warfare Medal in the order of precedence, and what is the rationale?
- To what extent were members of the veterans community, particularly those with combat service, consulted on the planned order of precedence?
Thank you for your service and attention to my request.