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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced last week that the Pentagon has created a new military award for keyboard cyber-warriors and drone joystick jockeys.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal will recognize those whose ability to incinerate a designated target from the comfort of an office chair wasn't prohibitively affected by a jumpy trigger finger on the joystick from a mid-shift java jolt. Or, as Panetta put it: "The medal provides distinct, department-wide recognition for the extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but that do not involve acts of valor or physical risk that combat entails."
Given that this new medal doesn't involve any actual courage beyond resisting the office vending machine treats, common sense would dictate that it must rank well below any honor given to someone who threw themselves atop a grenade, right?
Wrong. The new award will outrank even the Bronze Star with Valor, which is awarded for combat heroism under fire. For civilians to understand exactly what that means, let's have a look at the profile of a Bronze Star recipient whose combat heroism will soon rank below the act of overcoming carpal tunnel syndrome and computer-monitor eye strain to fire a missile from a continent away.
Last summer, Navy Diver Taylor Morris received the Bronze Star with Valor in a ceremony at
It's not just drone operators whose awards will rank above those of combat heroes like Morris. The American Forces Press Service also provided the example of "a soldier at Fort Meade, Md., who detects and thwarts a cyberattack on a (
In other words, glorified tech-support troubleshooters will be decorated on par with combat troops. That will look amazing on their résumés when they move on to jobs at
It looks like the same old story of the
The decrease in legitimate opportunities for decoration is bittersweet: As fewer pilots are given the opportunity to be shot down over enemy territory and are replaced by unmanned drones, there are fewer opportunities for
So, what's the solution? Well, if the opportunity to risk your life in combat is something that
The alternative would be to accept the increased use of drones and decreased operational risk as a trade-off, meaning that although you'll probably have no chance of getting a combat medal, your survival and well-being is virtually guaranteed.
Turning military decorations into the equivalent of Sports Day participation awards -- like when someone gets a Bronze Star for "responding to supply requests at a moment's notice," as was the case with a Kosovo-era
Perhaps those being positioned for military decorations based on the ability to maintain steady control of a drone-controlling joystick while licking the potato chip flavoring off their fingers ought to be considered for distinction in a far more suitable contest: competitive video-gaming.
© Tribune Media Services, Inc
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