The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

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piston
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The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:18 pm

One of the first decisions Hagel had to make concerns a highly symbolic issue for U.S. combat veterans: arbitrarily giving "an order of precedence" to a medal recognizing extraordinary military achievements, over a Purple Heart and a Bronze medal, to any such distinguished warrior, including drone pilots and cyber "warriors". Naturally, this arbitrary idea proved objectionable to any veteran who has put his or her life on the line:
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of a new medal that would honor drone pilots and cyber warriors, after lawmakers and veterans groups expressed outrage that it would outrank battlefield combat medals such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

The newly created Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved last month by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will honor members of the military for "extraordinary" achievements since Sept. 11, 2001. The accomplishments do not have to be restricted to a geographic region, meaning that remote warfare -- such as drone operations -- could be recognized.

What upset many of the medal's critics was not the creation of the award, but its so-called "order of precedence" that would put it above several traditional combat medals.

"Secretary Hagel has issued a review of the order of precedence of the medal," a Defense official told The Huffington Post. "So [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey] is going to lead the working group and report to the Secretary of Defense in 30 days on whether it's going to be moved or left where it is."

The Associated Press also reported that the military has stopped production of the medal in the meantime.

No one has been awarded the Distinguished Warfare Medal yet, and no one will receive it while the review is going on. The Defense official said that the service secretaries were still writing criteria for the award.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle -- including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and ranking member -- have written to Hagel to object to the precedence of the award. Veterans groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and VoteVets have also expressed concern.

When he announced the creation of the award in February, Panetta said "remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems" have "changed the way wars are fought."

In response to the Pentagon's announcement on Tuesday, VoteVets Co-Founder Jon Soltz said Hagel's experience as a "former grunt who served in war" was coming through.

"Secretary Hagel’s decision to review the Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone operators shows exactly why we supported him for Secretary of Defense," said Soltz in a statement. "As a recipient of two Purple Hearts, and a brother with three, Secretary Hagel knows the kind of sacrifice it takes to be awarded a Purple Heart, and that it doesn’t seem right to place this new medal above the Purple Heart."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who was one of the senators criticizing the precedence of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, also praised Hagel's announcement on Tuesday.

"Secretary Hagel's decision to reevaluate the Distinguished Warfare Medal's precedence above the Purple Heart and Bronze Star is a welcomed one, especially to our veterans who raised their objections to the Defense Department's medal ranking," said Manchin. "Although I recognize that the standard practices of war are changing, our brave warriors who face life and death situations deserve the most distinguished medals the United States military awards. I will be following the review process carefully and look forward to a full report."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/1 ... 61046.html
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:52 pm

The Purple Heart is irrelevant, as it is awarded solely for being wounded in action. Even soldiers with relatively minor wounds have consistently received the Purple Heart. It may in some technical sense that I am unaware of be in a hierarchy (like where it should be worn on the chest), but it is something conceptually separate.

Medals for valor are another matter. IMO military personnel who are not exposed to combat deserve no recognition for valor at all. (The sequence, in case anyone is interested, is Bronze Star, Silver Star, Army Medal, Army Cross, Medal of Honor, with adjustments for the different branches of service.) If a medal is going to be awarded for non-valorous service outside the context of combat and given an order in that precedence, then the person receiving it had better have done something very exceptional indeed, which I think is what they have in mind. Since no such medal has been awarded yet, let's wait and see.

Jacques, sorry, but you confused things by saying "medals of honor." The Medal of Honor is an extreme award and no one is talking about the new decoration competing with that.

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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by John F » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:58 pm

The Distinguished Warfare Medal (I never heard of it before) is sui generis - it recognizes activity that damages or kills the enemy though at no risk to the GI who does it. No valor is involved, then, and ranking it above the Bronze Star is wrong-headed. But the Purple Heart is different. It's awarded automatically to those who are wounded or killed by the enemy, even if they were paper pushers or cooks; valor is not a necessary criterion. So I'd think the Distinguished Warfare Medal should rank above the Purple Heart.

Where it gets complicated is with the Commendation Medal, which is awarded to noncombatants and to combatants whose actions involve less valor than the Bronze Star.
Wikipedia wrote:The Commendation Medal is a mid-level United States military decoration which is presented for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service. For valorous actions in direct contact with an enemy, but of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Bronze Star Medal, the Commendation Medal with a "V" Device or Combat "V" may be authorized for wear on the service and suspension ribbon of the medal. Each branch of the United States Armed Forces issues its own version of the Commendation Medal, with a fifth version existing for acts of joint military service performed under the Department of Defense.
I received the Army Commendation Medal for activities having nothing to do with combat. Those who receive it for valorous actions in combat get the V for valor on the ribbon. A third class of the medal, perhaps with a W for warfare, would have served the purpose, and wouldn't have involved issues of precedence. But nobody asked me.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:03 pm

Perhaps I did mix apples and oranges. On the other hand, my initial post is an accurate reflection of how combat veterans have responded to this initiative. In their view, the Purple Heart is totally relevant because it cannot be outclassed, under any circumstance, even in public perception of "order of precedence," by any medal awarded to drone pilots and cyber warriors. The veteran I spoke to about this debate even referred to merchant marine sailors, during World War II, as being more worthy of any distinction, than such drone pilots. Do you realize how many such sailors perished in WWII?! Their ratio of fatalities is actually greater than any military group-- marines, army, air force and navy.
In short, his message which I take as being very representative of combat veterans in general, was loud and clear: first recognize the people who risked their lives and place them in a high "order of precedence." Then, if you wish, recognize the distinguish services of people who did not risk their lives, such as the soldiers of the occupation armies after WWII who never saw combat.

I agree with him fully.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by John F » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:32 pm

How combat veterans feel is not, I think a valid basis for deciding such matters, even if one of them is the Secretary of Defense. Military decorations should be awarded and given precedence for actions that serve the nation well in time of war or combat. What they honor, and the precedence among them, should reflect the value of such actions in the here and now, not generations or centuries ago.

A desk jockey in Maryland who "pilots" a drone to take out an enemy force or a leading terrorist serves the nation as well, if not better, than an Air Force pilot who flies his fighter or bomber to accomplish the same mission - better, perhaps, because the cost to the nation in lives and dollars (not just the plane but the pilot's training) is far less. That the fighter pilots may despise the drone "pilots" and what they do is neither here nor there - it's more about machismo than actually winning wars.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:34 pm

This venerable Indian elder, I think, never shot a gun. Yet, he got the silver star for attending to wounded soldiers, under heavy fire, in Normandy. Four bronze stars were earned afterwards. But his military experience does remind one of all the medics who did not get to "distinguish" themselves militarily, as warriors, and got wounded in the process of caring for soldiers. Should they get the Purple Heart? You bet! Should their Purple Star be viewed as a greater honor than a medal for distinguished war services by entirely safe soldiers? Totally.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:40 pm

piston wrote:This venerable Indian elder, I think, never shot a gun. Yet, he got the silver star for attending to wounded soldiers, under heavy fire, in Normandy. Four bronze stars were earned afterwards. But his military experience does remind one of all the medics who did not get to "distinguish" themselves militarily, as warriors, and got wounded in the process of caring for soldiers.
http://www.penobscotculture.com/?option ... &Itemid=72
I'm not sure what your point is. It is normal for heroic medics to be awarded medals for valor. The father of one of my high school classmates was a medic in both Korea and Vietnam and earned two Silver Stars. And here's one that may surprise you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_T._O%27Callahan

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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:46 pm

My point I believe is clear: anyone doing his/her duty, military or non-military, with the clear understanding that they are going into a war zone, are already more "distinguished," by their very bravery, than our new high-tech warriors who may do a lot of damage to an enemy but are not risking their own life. Clear, no? So, the merchant marine sailors and the medics, just for being in that war zone, deserve more recognition than the drone pilot. And, I dare say, that is why the VFW is not going to let this one go. Hell, they take issue with occupation army soldiers who never pulled a trigger and are admitted in the place!!!
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:53 pm

Very simply, John: the veterans I have spoken to (and I love speaking with them!), probably would be more willing to admit a merchant sailor to VFW than one of them drone pilot or cyber warrior. Talk about forthcoming friction when these armchair military "combat" guys become veterans and seek access to the place!!!
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by John F » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:06 am

piston wrote:anyone doing his/her duty, military or non-military, with the clear understanding that they are going into a war zone, are already more "distinguished," by their very bravery, than our new high-tech warriors who may do a lot of damage to an enemy but are not risking their own life. Clear, no?
Any member of the armed forces who is sent to a war zone by government order is not committing an act of bravery per se but obeying orders and doing his/her job. Let's not cheapen true bravery, the kind for which combat medals are awarded, by spreading it around indiscriminately. Many Americans have a sentimental regard for our military men and women, calling them heroes merely by virtue of their military service whether or not they have actually done anything heroic. The GIs I served with in Korea and Germany would be embarrassed by that kind of adulatory hype, as would I.

Once this is understood, let's be clear that the Purple Heart is not awarded for bravery. It's handed out automatically to any GI who gets wounded or killed in a war zone, and the wound for which it is awarded need not be sustained in combat and can be the result of a brave action, or a stupid action, or no action at all, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Beyond this, getting wounded badly enough to get a Purple Heart serves the nation less well than staying healthy and on the job of defeating the enemy. As Gen. Patton said, it's not about giving up one's life for one's country, it's making the other poor b*****d give up his life for his country.

Simply serving in a war zone does get official recognition. For example, the Korean Service Medal "is awarded to any U.S. service member, who performed duty in the Republic of Korea, between June 27, 1950 and July 27, 1954." (Wikipedia) I wasn't assigned to Vietnam during the war but my brother was on USS Bainbridge in the South China Sea, which performed escort duty for our nuclear aircraft carrier, and automatically received the Vietnam Service Medal.

For me, the Distinguished Warfare Medal should rank above the service medals if it recognizes actual combat achievements, even if by remote control. If it's awarded automatically to everyone who pulled the duty regardless of his/her combat effectiveness, I'd say it's the equivalent of a service medal and should rank accordingly.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:59 am

John F wrote: Any member of the armed forces who is sent to a war zone by government order is not committing an act of bravery per se but obeying orders and doing his/her job. Let's not cheapen true bravery, the kind for which combat medals are awarded, by spreading it around indiscriminately. Many Americans have a sentimental regard for our military men and women, calling them heroes merely by virtue of their military service whether or not they have actually done anything heroic. The GIs I served with in Korea and Germany would be embarrassed by that kind of adulatory hype, as would I.
John is absolutely right about this, and the US Army seems now to be complicit in it. When I was in Bamberg, the post was plastered with banners welcoming back soldiers returning from Iraq (yes, they were deployed from Germany to Iraq, including the band on alternate combat duties) with phrases like "Welcome home, heroes!" Of course, Iraq often involved combat, but that still does not make every soldier who served there a hero.

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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:06 pm

John F wrote:Once this is understood, let's be clear that the Purple Heart is not awarded for bravery. It's handed out automatically to any GI who gets wounded or killed in a war zone, and the wound for which it is awarded need not be sustained in combat and can be the result of a brave action, or a stupid action, or no action at all, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Not quite true, It has to be combat related, and, caused by the enemy, Kevin suffered horrific injuries, but, as his injuries were the result of a suicide bomber in Kabul, not on the Battlefield, they were thus deemed not Combat Related, he was initially NOT awarded the Purple Heart, his mother had to fight to get him the medal...

Another Wounded Warrior I correspond with had 80% burns to his body due to the explosion of an Oil Tank in a War Zone, he was denied the Purple Heart, even after his mother appealed the decision, because it was not combat related and the enemy was not involved.

"When contemplating an award of this decoration, the key issue that commanders must take into consideration is the degree to which the enemy caused the injury. The fact that the proposed recipient was participating in direct or indirect combat operations is a necessary prerequisite, but is not sole justification for award. The Purple Heart is not awarded for non-combat injuries"
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by John F » Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:58 pm

Quite right, I knew that and should have said it. Which doesn't change my point. Indeed, as you say, Kevin was wounded not because he was engaging the enemy in combat but because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:39 pm

John F wrote:A desk jockey in Maryland who "pilots" a drone to take out an enemy force or a leading terrorist serves the nation as well, if not better, than an Air Force pilot who flies his fighter or bomber to accomplish the same mission - better, perhaps, because the cost to the nation in lives and dollars (not just the plane but the pilot's training) is far less. That the fighter pilots may despise the drone "pilots" and what they do is neither here nor there - it's more about machismo than actually winning wars.
One thing that is different for Drone Pilots is what they refer to as the "Boredom Factor" as they can spend hours, if not days following and circling over a target, the signal to strike can be subject to very long delays, often because it actually has to come from the President, these pilots, who are often ex fighter pilots must stay incredibly alert at all times, feel the stress from the job is certainly comparable to real pilots because the hours are longer, a Predator shift is 12 hours for example. The days of dogfighting are long gone, this is Modern Warfare.

As John rightly says, it's not bravery that wins this medal, it's how well they do their job. The Medal recognizes what they do, without questioning the circumstance within which it is done.

As for Kevin, he was the Gunner in the Humvee, and on patrol when the incident happened, his vehicle was deliberately targeted. His superiors still felt it did not qualify for a Purple Heart, but try explaining that to him, he certainly felt he was wounded in battle, the Taliban feel the whole of Afghanistan is the battlefield, the Military still sees it traditionally where Purple Hearts are concerned.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:47 pm

As John rightly says, it's not bravery that wins this medal, it's how well they do their job.
And as I said, that's an issue of contention with a number of veterans, which is not to contradict John, but to point to a cultural issue, a potential cultural conflict, in terms of what medals should serve to commemorate.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:34 pm

piston wrote:
As John rightly says, it's not bravery that wins this medal, it's how well they do their job.
And as I said, that's an issue of contention with a number of veterans, which is not to contradict John, but to point to a cultural issue, a potential cultural conflict, in terms of what medals should serve to commemorate.
Surely the concern should be the hierarchy involved with the medals, not the issuing of them. There is no question ones for bravery should be of higher standing, but, how else can a soldier in dress uniform show his value and achievements except via medals, I certainly acknowledge that many of the ones worn by High Ranking Officers are given for reasons most would give little credence to.

Admiral Nelson was killed because of his insistence in wearing all his decorations, they caught the light of the sun, reflected it and a sniper in the crows nest of an enemy ship shot him.

A veteran is someone who has served in the Military, not only those who go abroad to fight. Times change, circumstances change, this Medal reflects that. I seriously doubt a Drone Pilot would consider himself in any way the equal of someone who gets awarded a medal for bravery in combat. But to deny them a Medal, which probably requires truly extraordinary circumstances in order to be awarded, seems unfair as more and more Drone pilots are involved in National Security.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:37 pm

Certainly not to deny, but to thoughtfully consider the order of precedence: that is the issue.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:41 pm

piston wrote:Certainly not to deny, but to thoughtfully consider the order of precedence: that is the issue.
Agreed, just read the release, the phrase "warranting recognition above the Bronze Star Medal" seems justifiably the bone of contention, that decision was probably made by a Bureaucrat or Protocol Expert not a Warrior...

http://www.defense.gov/news/distinguish ... almemo.pdf
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by Steinway » Fri Mar 29, 2013 9:38 am

"Any member of the armed forces who is sent to a war zone by government order is not committing an act of bravery per se but obeying orders and doing his/her job. Let's not cheapen true bravery, the kind for which combat medals are awarded, by spreading it around indiscriminately. Many Americans have a sentimental regard for our military men and women, calling them heroes merely by virtue of their military service whether or not they have actually done anything heroic. The GIs I served with in Korea and Germany would be embarrassed by that kind of adulatory hype, as would I."

I was one of those folks who served in Korea and flew 55 combat missions. To equate a medal for meritorious performance in combat to sitting on your butt, piloting a drone, after which you return to your family and your nice warm bed is the height of hypocrisy. To award a medal for that kind of activity for a job well done is not a problem for me, but let's never try to equate the categories as equivalents.

They are not. Trust me.

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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by John F » Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:34 am

Hmmm. What exactly is "meritorious" performance in combat, and is it the same as valor? I have my doubts. Flying a B-52 high above Vietnam, out of range of enemy AA fire, and dropping bombs or napalm on the villages way below, may be meritorious but not necessarily courageous, any more than flying a drone by remote control to do the same thing. Of course there's some risk involved - the bomber might malfunction and crash, or the pilot might screw up and crash it - but that's also true of civilian flights with no enemy in sight.

In Korea, the enemy had jet fighters and well trained pilots and there was real combat in the air, with deaths on both sides. In the first Gulf War, the Iraqi air force flew a sorties without doing any damage, then fled with their aircraft to Iran, leaving our fighters and bombers in unopposed control of the air - no air combat that I know of. The nature of war and the way Americans fight it has changed enormously since the Korean War and even since Vietnam, all in the direction of making it less dangerous for our own troops (and more so for the enemy). This also decreases the opportunities and indeed the need for heroic individual action. It also changes the nature of "meritorious performance in combat."

I'm not underrating your military service in any way, but since this issue has been raised by the Department of Defense itself, precisely because of the changing nature of combat, I'm suggesting that the criteria for recognition have also changed. It seems to me that the purpose of official recognition is to raise the morale of the troops actually fighting this war and encourage outstanding combat performance with today's weapons and methods, not to make invidious comparisons with those who fought other wars with other weapons generations ago. Give the drone jockeys their due.
piston wrote:that's an issue of contention with a number of veterans, which is not to contradict John, but to point to a cultural issue, a potential cultural conflict, in terms of what medals should serve to commemorate.
Like I've just now said.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Mon Apr 15, 2013 8:11 pm

The Vets have won. Medals of any military distinction should be associated with the risk to one's life, one way or another. The technician who devastates the enemy a thousand times more than the foot soldier, from his secured work station, is not "distinguished" in any way or form. The common denominator, then, is putting one's life at risk:
Under pressure, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has canceled the creation of a new military medal for drone operators and cyberwarriors, instead ordering military leaders to develop a pin or device that would be attached to existing medals or ribbons. Mr. Hagel’s predecessor, Leon E. Panetta, created the Distinguished Warfare Medal for service members like drone operators and cyberwarriors who have a major effect on a military operation but never set foot in the combat zone. Some veterans and lawmakers complained that it should not be ranked higher than traditional combat medals like the Bronze Star. On Monday, Mr. Hagel said that while those troops’ achievements should be recognized, the award should not be a stand-alone medal.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by John F » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:56 am

There are other kinds of military distinction besides acts of physical courage. Any soldier whose action takes out a hundred enemy combatants, even if only by guiding a robot to them from a position of safety, deserves recognition for his or her achievement. And any soldier who dives onto a grenade and gives up his life for his comrades, even if not one enemy is put out of action and the outcome of the war is unaffected, deserves recognition for his valor. Different qualities, different awards.

You may value physical courage above all, and I certainly value it too. But I also value combat actions that win battles and wars, even if they don't involve personal danger and require physical courage. The vets' lobby has asserted their own values and sense of honor by killing off this new medal for a new kind of distinction in a new kind of combat, but at least Secretary Hagel gets it that formal, physically visible recognition is appropriate. I don't think it's so important exactly what form it may take, whether a medal or other device. Let the vets who do care have their "victory."
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:16 am

I have to agree with John on all his points, but to say the Drone Pilots action could never be distinguished cheapens them, many are former fighter pilots, Predator Pilots work excruciatingly boring twelve hour shifts, they take a great pride in their work, how can they not (occasionally) attain eminence or excellence in their field.

The new award is to be decided upon within 90 days, the Vets won the battle to remove its status as a Medal, they have not killed it off as a means of recognition regarding a Service Members achievements. They simply lowered it's ranking to that of a "Device".

A Device is the Pentagon's term for an additional award for a specific action when troops are lauded for exceptional performance.

The outcome may even be that more "Devices" are awarded because of this new designation, that, in my humblest of opinions would be a good thing, it's a new kind of War, recognition is important to military morale, recognition of exceptional performance is not reserved only to those who fight in the traditional ways.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:26 pm

I was trying to think of some kind of parallel, and what came to mind was expert marksmen or their manifestation as snipers. We remember the incident several years ago when an American was rescued from pirates by an almost unbelievable feat of marksmanship, and even if the sniper scene in Saving Private Ryan is fiction, I have no doubt that there are others among those who shoot at a distance who are deserving of recognition for a very significant contribution. (Of course, many of these go into combat and risk their lives as well, but the point is that their specific accomplishment does not involve expected immediate exposure to the enemy.) The only recognition I could find for these skilled warriors is the Marksmanship Badge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marksmansh ... _States%29

However, it is entirely possible that some of them have been recognized in other ways that I am unable to discover.

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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:13 pm

Personally, I want to recall, among the Vets who are members of this place, what our very knowledgeable Ralph said about drones when early news reports mentioned their emergence: "foot soldiers win a war." We are not going to win any war with drones, any. Not only to our veterans but to the rest of the world, including our enemies, killings by such military devices will never be popular because they are so ... cold and technical and safe for whoever commands these robots to kill human lives. How can you be recognized for killing enemies, including collateral damages, from a comfortable work station? You cannot. There's nothing worth merit about this. You should just do your job and not expect recognition for it because there's nothing to be recognized.....................
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by piston » Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:26 pm

Bottom line is that I simply cannot dissociate personal military achievement from personal risk. And I think I'm not alone in this regard. I would not give a medal to someone who presses a button to nuke another country. Absolutely not! And that's a far more productive way to get rid of numerous enemies than numerous foot soldiers. If destroying the enemy is the denominator, then I would suggest that, technologically speaking, medals of any honor have become worthless decades back.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:18 pm

There is a distinction here, these are Military Drone Pilots, not members of the CIA, these pilots fly very close to the fighter groups, they protect the planes as well as killing the enemy on the ground. A Drone pilot was the first to fire at Ghadaffis convoy, these are not the CIA death squads, these are soldiers and deserve to be honored for exceptional service if the chain of command thinks they deserve it.

As to John's point about snipers, one of my Facebook friends is married to one of the best we have, these are humble men, many are SEAL's or Delta Force guys, one of them, Gary Gordon was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Somalia.

To my Navy SEAL friends sniping is just one of their jobs, they are all snipers, their job is not just to kill from a great distance, they still get dropped out of a plane or helicopter and have to get themselves into a position from which to do their job, one of them once described to me the discipline required to lay motionless for hours on end in Afghanistan, Saving Private Ryan portrays them in a simplified manner, the military relies heavily on snipers, they just don't get the recognition they deserve.
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Re: The debate over U.S. drone pilot medals of honor

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:40 pm

piston wrote:Bottom line is that I simply cannot dissociate personal military achievement from personal risk. And I think I'm not alone in this regard. I would not give a medal to someone who presses a button to nuke another country. Absolutely not! And that's a far more productive way to get rid of numerous enemies than numerous foot soldiers. If destroying the enemy is the denominator, then I would suggest that, technologically speaking, medals of any honor have become worthless decades back.
You got your wish, they will not receive Medals, so Medals are safely guaranteed to only those soldiers who either do battle, or perform acts of heroism in non combat situations, there are five in that last category.

Air Medal, Soldiers Medal, Air Force Medal, Navy and Marine Corp Medal, Coastguard Medal.

They all rank higher than a Bronze Star...

Ralph said foot soldiers win Wars, what about situations where we do not use boots on the ground, like Libya, I don't think he would disagree with the value of Drone Pilots in that NATO Operation.

And let's take Iran, do you seriously think we would deploy troops there in the event of a strike, you seriously think Drone Pilots would not play a very serious role in that situation if it were to ever occur.
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