Sen. Pat Toomey, Allen West question ranking of new medal for drone operators

While many of the petitions on the White House’s official “We the People” site have ranged from odd to outright ridiculous, there’s one that deserves serious attention, and it received a boost today from former Rep. Allen West.

The petition reads, in part:

Under no circumstance should a medal that is designed to honor a pilot, that is controlling a drone via remote control, thousands of miles away from the theater of operation, rank above a medal that involves a soldier being in the line of fire on the ground. This is an injustice to those who have served and risked their lives and this should not be allowed to move forward as planned.

Though some critics have dismissed the Distinguished Warfare Medal as a “video game medal,” for many supporters of the military, the question isn’t whether to honor the men and women who operate unmanned aircraft, but rather where the medal should rank. The Distinguished Warfare Medal would rank above the Bronze Star, and that has West and others concerned.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) today sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressing his concerns over the new medal’s ranking. His letter asks two questions:

  1. Where does DOD plan to rank the Distinguished Warfare Medal in the order of precedence, and what is the rationale?
  2. To what extent were members of the veterans community, particularly those with combat service, consulted on the planned order of precedence?

For now, though, the medal stays put.

DOD Press Secretary George Little addressed the controversy today, telling the press that the Distinguished Warfare Medal will retain its ranking and is “not diminishing at all the importance of the Bronze Star.”

To be eligible to receive the award, a service member has to have direct, hands-on employment, such as an unmanned aerial vehicle operator dropping a bomb or a cyber specialist detecting and fending off a computer network attack.

Combatant commanders must certify the impacts of the action before the award is forwarded to the service secretary for approval. The secretaries may not delegate that authority.

Regardless of the Pentagon’s statement, plenty aren’t about to let the new medal rank above the Bronze Star, at least popularly.

blog comments powered by Disqus