Pentagon to downgrade award for drone operators
April 15th, 2013
03:37 PM ET

Pentagon to downgrade award for drone operators

An award for drone operators that drew an angry response from lawmakers was downgraded to a lesser distinction Monday by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was approved last month by Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, was to recognize "extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations." But the honor denotes that the action is not bound by a "geographic limitation," meaning operators on unmanned drones would have been eligible.

Some lawmakers expressed concern the medal would be placed above those for battlefield valor, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In March, the production of the medal was halted so Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey could conduct a review.

"The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the concurrence of the service secretaries, have recommended the creation of a new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals to recognize the extraordinary actions of this small number of men and women," Hagel said Monday. "I agree with the Joint Chiefs' findings, and have directed the creation of a distinguishing device instead of a separate medal."

The exact nature of the distinction remained unclear Monday – Hagel said he was directing service secretaries and veterans' organizations to define the parameters for eligibility for the award. Those details will come in the next 90 days, Hagel said.

"The service men and women, who operate and support our remotely piloted aircraft, operate in cyber, and others are critical to our military's mission of safeguarding the nation," Hagel wrote. "I again want to thank my predecessor, Leon Panetta, for raising the need to ensure that these men and women are recognized for their contributions."

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Filed under: drones
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. rad


    April 20, 2013 at 4:41 am | Reply
  2. Check Your Facts

    Check your facts. The Bronze Star can be awarded for meritorious achievement, it does NOT require that the recipient comes under fire or risks death.

    April 17, 2013 at 1:06 am | Reply
  3. billy schleppegrell

    Speaking of armchair warriors, there is an unwritten rule in the army for them. It's called "The General's Rule": No job is impossible, as long as someone else is doing it!

    April 16, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Reply
  4. JJ

    So if they get medals for their action does that make them legitimate targets for those they are targeting? What about the buildings they work in and those that provide them "material support" such as banking services and transportation?

    April 16, 2013 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      Those who support these rotten butchers who operate those ungodly drones with material aid and bankroll them are just as guilty as they are! Like I said before, these cowardly and dastardly butchers need to be arrested and taken to the I.C.C. and tried for crimes against humanity but won't because the people running this court have been both bought and paid for by the right-wing thugs in Washington D.C.!!!

      April 16, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Reply
      • Kerry

        You nailed it good, George. Those dastardly butchers do need to pay for what they're doing! The fact that we're not only paying these creeps big time but awarding them for this obscene butchery makes my blood boil to no end!

        April 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  5. George Patton

    doesn't matter how they kill, where they kill, in war zone or in comfort of their homes, they deserve awards for killing filthy terrorist scu'ms. Case closed.

    April 15, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      I agree with that!It saves American lives by not putting our Boys in harm way trying to dig out a vermin.Whats the difference between a missle and a drone?Drone has a brain behind it!!A ship fires missles and the crew gets medals whats the difference.Im a war Vet.and anything that saves lives is fine by me.

      April 16, 2013 at 4:38 am | Reply
      • Joe

        Downgrade awards I think not! It saves American lives.It saves lives and keeps familys from falling apart from the aftermath of stress.These pilots deserve everything and the men behind the pilots also and the men on the ground doing maintanence on these birds.

        April 16, 2013 at 4:56 am |
  6. D

    I have to say I think the folks that fly these vehicles are pretty amazing in their own right and need some kind of recognition. However, I think the individuals who brave the battle field should be highly recognized for being in harms way to do their jobs and make the sacrifices they do. The arm chair folks go home to their own bed at night. Why is there such a disconnection between washington mentality, be it civilian or military leadership,and every other American. Are the folks in washington really any different than other dictators celebrating their own gas. Looks like they are just trying to create their own little north korea idiocy here in the United States? Unlike the folks who reside in washington believe it or not the American people are in fact a sleeping giant. Keep playing around and poking.

    April 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  7. Joseph McCarthy

    The thought of awarding those filthy creeps who operate those cursed drones are no more than war criminals who need to be brought to justice! The fact that we're awarding these lowlifes truly make me want to vomit here and now! This is just more evidence of how sick our society has become.

    April 15, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      please please vomit now, make sure to stand in front of your wife, if your mother is dead.

      April 15, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Reply
    • 1371usmc

      Are you joking? The drone program has been great! We are going to double the program soon and Sony is going to let kids use them on the playstation 4. You better hide your goats or you run the risk of losing your lover.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:12 am | Reply
      • George Patton-2

        ignore "Joseph Mohammad McCarthy"; he is a Pakistani troll. Remember, only people who cry about drones are Pakistanis, no one else.

        April 16, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Joe

      I give everyone the benefit of doubt and I value alot of peoples opinions.Where in the heck are you coming from!?!?

      April 16, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Reply
    • Mark

      Beautifully said, Joseph. Those idiots who keep ranting against your post are only proving to the rest of us just how lame brained they really are, especially that numb skull who keeps usurping George Patton's name in order to disgrace him on this web page!

      April 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Reply
      • 1371usmc

        Kind like the retarded goat humper crawl back in your cave before a drone smiles at you

        April 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Pete

      @Joseph McCarthy,get your raghead out of your ass man its war and over there anyone is your enemy like it or not..The villagers you eat meals with can come back to kill you as well and there's no uniforms to differenciate between warring nations so everyone for themselves bud..Drones aren't much different than bombers back in Vietnam,WWII or other wars there's no label saying combatants or civilians on bombs its just a destructive machine that's built to kill just like our soldiers trained to do the same thing,kill or be killed right...So quit ranting about something you don't know anything about which by my interpatation is very little and go to the library and read about the history of war,its not pleasant but it was never meant to be was it!!

      April 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  8. Zooompilot

    Sorry, but there is no bravery involved in killing a target from the comfort of an air conditioned trailer on an Air Force Base. The UAV "pilots" could fly in their underpants and do the job just the same, but I love to see them decked out in their Flight Suits as if they are actually required for "flying". I have no problem giving them a ribbon that is on the same level as a "good conduct" or "campaign ribbon"...surely they earned that. But to be placed above a PURPLE HEART or Bronze Star that you can only earn while UNDER FIRE, risking DEATH? REALLY? If that's the case then the Admin Officer working at HQ deserves a medal for bravery for correctly printing the orders for the UAV "pilots" and safely walking it over all the way from the HQ tent to the UAV trailer...I mean, what if he got bitten by a bug or something while walking the orders over? Oh the horror!

    April 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply
    • Jaimie

      I agree with you.

      April 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Reply
    • Al Shret

      Well said!

      April 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  9. anthony

    Why should we be surprised that the Pentagon "warriors" thought this was a good idea. In Afghanistan, they never left the comforts of the biggest bases...chow halls, air conditioning...Pizza Hut. They had the nerve to wear FLIGHT SUITS!. The Marines called them Flight Suit Sallys. They were under no pressure whatsoever...they were given their targets...did not have to make any decisions..They did not get shot at, or even get their hands dirty..just kick back with a coffee and move the joy stick. I visited a large base where they were ahead of me in chow hall line...they were complaining that there was no bacon. The Marines and soldiers in the field never had bacon.

    April 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Reply
    • Pete

      @Anthony,I applaud your service but you didn't get drafted did you so you had the choice of being a foot soldier,pilot,sailor or a drone operator..You a jar head had that choice and if you're upset about it blame yourself ,you made your bed bud sleep in it..My son made his choice and yes he operated drones and was proud he served but maybe he was smarter than you and took advantage of it..Again blame yourself because you had like everyone else a choice to serve in any branch of service and testing for the job you're well suited for right..And yes drones do help the soldiers out there with recon missions and seeing things as a front man to save lives..My son doesn't want a medal because he was just proud to serve that's all for America!!

      April 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  10. dr reality check

    Playing video games with living cartoons to kill is not the act of a soldier, but a computer geek. Pay them well for their skills but medals? Does the cartoon shoot back at them thru the computer screen?

    April 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Reply

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