To Award Medals For Killing Civilians
Pentagon Creates New Medal for Cyber, Drone Wars
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
February 14, 2013 "AP"
-- They fight the war from computer consoles and video
But the troops who launch the
and direct the cyberattacks that can kill or disable an
enemy may never set foot in the combat zone. Now their
battlefield contributions may be recognized with the first
new combat-related medal to be created in decades.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that the
Pentagon is creating a medal that can be awarded to troops
who have a direct impact on combat operations, but do it
well away from any combat zone.
"I've seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted
platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are
fought," Panetta said. "And they've given our men and women
the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of
battle, even from afar."
The work they do "does contribute to the success of combat
operations, particularly when they remove the enemy from the
field of battle, even if those actions are physically
removed from the fight," he said.
The new blue, red and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare
Medal will be awarded to individuals for "extraordinary
achievement" related to a military operation that occurred
after Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike other combat medals, it
does not require the recipient risk his or her life to get
Officials said the new medal will be the first
combat-related award to be created since the Bronze Star in
A recognition of the evolving 21st century warfare, the
medal will be considered a bit higher in ranking than the
Bronze Star, but is lower than the Silver Star, defense
The Bronze Star is the fourth highest combat decoration and
rewards meritorious service in battle, while the Silver Star
is the third highest combat award given for bravery. Several
other awards, including the Defense Distinguished Service
Medal, are also ranked higher, but are not awarded for
Response in the cybersphere was immediate and divided, and
more often biting. While some acknowledged the contributions
of cyber and drone warriors and said the award was the right
thing to do, others dubbed the medal the "Geek Cross" and
speculated that young video-gamers may soon get Purple
Hearts for their animated wounds.
Over the last decade of war, remotely piloted Predators and
Reapers have become a critical weapon to gather intelligence
and conduct airstrikes against terrorists or insurgents
around the world. They have been used extensively on the
battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in strikes
in Pakistan, Yemen and northern Africa.
Over the same time, cyberattacks have become a growing
national security threat, with Panetta and others warning
that the next Pearl Harbor could well be a computer-based
The Pentagon does not publicly discuss its offensive cyber
operations or acts of cyberwarfare. Considering that
secrecy, it's not clear how public such awards might be in
the future. The federal government, for example, launched a
broad leak investigation after reports surfaced that the
U.S. and Israel may have been responsible for the Stuxnet
computer virus that attacked computers in Iran's main
nuclear enrichment facilities.
According to the Pentagon criteria, the medal gives the
military a way to recognize a single act that directly
affects a combat operation, doesn't involve an act of valor,
and warrants an award higher than the Bronze Star.
"The extraordinary achievement must have resulted in an
accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly
set the individual apart from comrades or from other persons
in similar situations," according to the Pentagon. It could
include the "hands-on" but remote launching of a weapon and
could specifically include efforts in space or cyberspace.
The medal is a brass pendant, nearly two inches tall, with a
laurel wreath that circles a globe. There is an eagle in the
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