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Drone medal dumped; high-tech troops to be honored with device

Apr. 15, 2013 - 03:09PM   |  
The controversial Distinguished Service Medal has been scrapped in favor of a device that can be attached to previously existing medals, the Pentagon announced Monday.
The controversial Distinguished Service Medal has been scrapped in favor of a device that can be attached to previously existing medals, the Pentagon announced Monday. ()
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has decided to scrap the controversial Distinguished Warfare Medal that was intended to honor drone pilots and other high-tech troops.

Just two months after its creation, Hagel said the Pentagon will replace the DWM with a device that can be attached to other previously existing medals.

Criticisms of the medal focused on its place in the military’s official order of precedence. The DWM ranked above some traditional combat medals, including the Bronze Star with Valor device that is awarded for specific acts of bravery under fire.

Hagel said eliminating the medal and replacing it with a device “reserves our existing combat medals for those service members who incur the physical risk and hardship of combat, perform valorous acts, are wounded in combat, or as a result of combat give their last full measure for our nation,” according to a copy of the Pentagon memo released Monday.

Hagel’s review of the new medal, launched just weeks after he took office in late February, came amid mounting pressure from veterans advocates and lawmakers.

Hagel said his review of the medal confirmed the need to recognize drone pilots and cyber warriors, but it also “found that misconceptions regarding the precedence of the award were distracting from its original purpose,” according to a Pentagon statement released Monday.

Hagel said the Pentagon will conduct a 90-day review to determine precisely what medals the DWM-style device can be attached to and under what circumstances.

Until then, it’s unclear whether the change announced on Monday will address all the concerns on Capitol Hill. It remains possible that a drone pilot or cyberwar expert could earn a medal that ranks above the traditional combat medals.

“The concern with the DWM was its precedence, not necessarily the medal itself. Right now, I can’t say this addresses my concerns about preserving the integrity and tradition of the awards process.” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from San Diego who served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Creation of the medal in February was one of the last official acts for Hegel’s predecessor, Leon Panetta. Panetta said the medal was needed to recognize the changing nature of 21st-century warfare, where troops can play a pivotal role in combat operations despite being potentially thousands of miles away form the combat theater.

No service members were nominated for the medal. The Pentagon had launched production of the gold medallions, but that was canceled in March after Hagel said he would review the decision to create the medal.

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