(Reuters) - In a nod to the changing nature of warfare, the Pentagon on Wednesday created a new medal recognizing combat contributions of people like drone pilots and cyber warriors who are reshaping the battlefield, even from thousands of miles away.
Outgoing Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta - who spent much of the past four years bolstering those new capabilities - announced the decision to create the "Distinguished Warfare Medal" at a Pentagon news conference […].
"This award recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare that we are engaged in, in the 21st century," [Panetta said].
It is the ninth-highest warfare medal the Pentagon can bestow on troops - even higher than the Bronze Star. Importantly, it is the only combat medal that a military service member can receive without actually physically being in the same geographic area where combat took place.
WASHINGTON – America’s largest combat veterans group is worried the creation of a new medal for drone strikes and cyber-warfare could bestow higher honor on those using a joystick to kill terrorists than soldiers wounded on the battlefield.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal, announced Wednesday, would rank higher than the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which is given to servicemembers killed or wounded in battle. The new medal would rank immediately below the Distinguished Flying Cross.
But to some, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, creating a non-combat medal is turning into a major Pentagon misfire.
“It’s a boneheaded decision,” VFW spokesman Joe Davis told FoxNews.com. “This is going to affect morale and it’s sending troops in the field a horrible message.”
By Thursday afternoon, more than 800 responses had been posted on the VFW’s Facebook page. Many said the medal’s high ranking on the military medal hierarchy would hurt an already-bruised U.S. military morale.
One dubbed the medal the “Geek Cross” and suggested that the country was close to handing video-gamers Purple Hearts for animated wounds […].
On Wednesday, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the creation of the medal to recognize “extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but do not involve acts of valor or physical risks that combat entails.”
Panetta said the medal recognizes the reality that drones and cyber warfare “have changed the way wars are fought.” Under the Obama administration, drone strikes have become an integral part of America's counterterrorism strategy.