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.

  • MarcoAurelius

    You didn’t fight that!

  • Steve_J

    Why is there a medal for flying drones in the first place. At best they should be eligible for a Meritorious Unit Citation or some other similar award.

    • Spatial Awareness

      Exactly! Thank You!

    • Spatial Awareness

      Exactly! Thank You!

  • Steve_J

    Why is there a medal for flying drones in the first place. At best they should be eligible for a Meritorious Unit Citation or some other similar award.

  • disqus_LASIg6epmj

    They deserve recognition, but not a combat medal.

  • disqus_LASIg6epmj

    They deserve recognition, but not a combat medal.

  • Maxx

    As a retired Navy Intel/Ops fella, I have absolutely no problem recognizing the contribution of drone pilots in prosecuting the war on terror and an appropriate ranking medal should be available but at the end of your shift, if you can return to your carport to wash your ride, crash on your Lazy-Boy with a pizza and wings while watching the Military Channel on yer dish ….it’s not combat. It sure as hell is important, but it ain’t combat and I dare say most drone pilots would agree that the current ranking of this medal which places it senior to a Bronze Star and Purple Heart needs to be changed.

    Drone pilots are honorable men and women who I suspect, would most certainly acknowledge the joystick difference between shooting at something and shooting at something while being shot at.

    • TugboatPhil

      Maxx, I am with you all the way on that. Exceptional performance can already be rewarded with an appropriate Achievement or Commendation Medal of that branch of service. If a special recognition is merited, an attached device could be placed on the award, comparable to a V, Oak Leaf or Star.

      Everyone contributes to one degree or another, but dodging IEDs and fighting ambushes will always get my vote for courage, before anything else.

      • Rabid

        I agree with both of you( I’m a Cold War era vet)

      • ozconservative

        Exceptional performance and using ones initiative should definitely be rewarded but not with awards for bravery. Risking a machine is not the same as risking your life.

  • Andrew Young

    This medal shouldn’t rank above a purple heart and be about the level of the National Defense Medal. No risk other than carpal tunnel syndrome or gamer’s thumb, bah! The continual degradation of our fighting men by liberals proceeds apace.

  • Guest

    This is just a step closer to main goal. The idea is eventually congress can give them self medals.
    Kind of like Soviet Politburo.

  • Tangchung

    This is just a step closer to the main goal. The idea is eventually congress can give them self’s medals.
    Kind of like Soviet Politburo.

  • Peyton

    If potential drone targets post a white flag above their home, would a drone strike be against geneva convention on surrender?

    • aegean1

      Much as I want them dead, I would find it highly amusing if the terrorists started doing that.

      • Peyton

        I want them dead also, but there are rules of war to follow, and blowing up terrorists while killing innocent bystanders isn’t making us any friends, but more enemies.

  • Biggus_Footus

    How about naming the medal the “Silver Joystick with Coffee Cup Device.”

  • ozconservative

    I shot down five German Bf109s in my Spitfire whilst playing Combat Flight Simulator 3. Do I get a medal now???

    • Rabid

      I stopped counting my MiG kills in FF4

  • Paul Citro

    This administration is a joke, no doubt about it.

  • GW

    To all the vets on here, thanks for your service.

  • [email protected]

    The reason it is ranked higher is because the “pilots” are officers. BSM’s are now being considered an a gimme medal for officers who deploy in some services.Those same BSM’s are hard fought medals for enlisted members. I sat and watched officers do nothing but sit at a desk behind the wire walk away with BSM’s. Their troops left the wire every day, fought the war, and walked away with a Commendation Medal or a Meritorious Service Medal. It is a status thing.

  • v1cious

    I just don’t understand all of the hate for drones. Would you prefer actual soldiers dying in the field?

  • EverybodyTalks

    My father was given the bronze star and a purple heart with 3 oak leaf clusters. He was a 1st Lt., who came up through the ranks, given 50 Koreans to train who couldn’t speak English with 2 weeks to get them ready.
    They were told to take a hill and my father along with his SSgt. were the only survivors when the fighting stopped. Dad was torn up by gunfire and a mortar shell. A piece of the mortar lodged in his spine at the base of his neck. It was never removed and you could hear the bone grind on the metal when he turned his head.
    He told me the story once and never said another word about it. Dad said what many said, “The real heroes never came home and could care less about medals pinned on their chests so why should he.”
    I was upset when I read about the drone medal but then remembered my father’s perspective.

  • Jennifer Evans

    My husband (Desert Storm veteran) created the petition LTC West tweeted about. Here is the link to the petition:

    It needs 100,000 signatures by March 16th to elicit a response from the WH. Please register, sign, and share the petition!! Our voices MUST be heard! Thank you!

  • Roto

    What’s Panetta gonna do when he finds out that alot of UAV pilots are contractors? :-0