Pentagon creates new medal for cyber, drone wars

Drone pilots, cyber warriors and other servicemembers who make a difference on the battlefield but do their work far away from the combat zone now have a medal of their own.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday announced the creation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, to recognize “extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but do not involve acts of valor or physical risks that combat entails.”

“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. But we should also have the ability to honor the extraordinary actions that make a true difference in combat operations,” he said.

Drones and cyber warfare “have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said, and the new medal recognizes that reality.

The medal will rank immediately below the Distinguished Flying Cross – higher than the Bronze Star – in order of precedence, according to a Defense Department chart. It can be awarded for any actions after September 11, 2001.

Bronze Stars are limited to servicemembers who were receiving imminent danger pay at the time of their actions.

According to the the Distinguished Warfare Medal award criteria, a servicemember must have accomplished something “so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from comrades or from other persons in similar situations,” to earn the medal, and it cannot be awarded for valor in combat.

Panetta made the announcement at what he said will likely be his last press conference as secretary of defense.

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