WASHINGTON — Among its most valued warriors, the Pentagon now counts U.S. troops whose operations entail the click of a mouse or the remote piloting of unmanned vehicles. But how does the government bestow honor upon those who do their work thousands of miles from the front lines?
In what probably was his last move as defense secretary, Leon Panetta on Wednesday announced the creation of a new type of medal for troops engaged in cyber-operations and drone strikes, saying the move “recognizes the changing face of warfare.”
“I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber-systems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said during his swan-song news conference at the Pentagon. “They’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar.”
The Pentagon’s most prestigious awards will still go to “those who display gallantry and valor in actions where their lives are on the line,” Panetta said.
However, the new Distinguished Warfare Medal will appear in the military’s rank of precedence above the Bronze Star Medal, which when awarded with a valor device recognizes heroism for service members who are engaged in combat and are in imminent danger of direct physical harm.