14 February 2013
Droners Hackers Killers Valorized
A New Medal Honors Drone Pilots and Computer Experts
By THOM SHANKER
Published: February 13, 2013
WASHINGTON If drone pilots and computer experts had any doubts that
they truly are central to the new way of combat, Defense Secretary Leon E.
Panetta used his valedictory Pentagon news conference on Wednesday to make
it clear: he established a new medal just for them.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal will provide 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,
Mr. Panetta said.
Ive seen firsthand how modern tools like remotely piloted platforms
and cybersystems have changed the way wars are fought, Mr. Panetta
said, citing his tenure as director of the C.I.A. and his tour at the Pentagon.
And theyve given our men and women the ability to engage the
enemy and change the course of battle even from afar.
Mr. Panetta said the new medal would be reserved for those who greatly assisted
the war effort by piloting Predator or Reaper drones from a remote trailer,
often back in the United States, or by an assignment to devise computer defenses
or create poisonous digital code to attack an adversarys network.
In the past, those tasks have been viewed as technological achievements,
and not combat, and have not been recognized with a medal. It is certain
that some will object to a prestigious warfare medal being awarded to those
who did not place themselves at risk.
Our military reserves its highest decorations, obviously, for those
who display gallantry and valor in actions where their lives are on the line,
and we will continue to do so, Mr. Panetta said.
But we should also have the ability to honor the extraordinary actions
that make a true difference in combat operations, he added. They
remove the enemy from the field of battle even if those actions are physically
removed from the fight.
Pentagon officials said the medal would rank higher than the Bronze Star
but below the Silver Star.