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New medal recognizes those who impact war

Medal to fill gap created by technological developments

American Forces Press Service

Published: 04:28PM February 21st, 2013

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta approved the Distinguished Warfare Medal Feb. 13, a new medal designed to recognize service members directly affecting combat operations who may not even be on the same continent as the action.

In the past, few service members not actually in a combat zone directly affected combat operations. New capabilities have given American service members the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar, Panetta said at the news conference to unveil the medal.

“I’ve always felt — having seen the great work that they do, day in and day out — that those who performed in an outstanding manner should be recognized. Unfortunately, medals that they otherwise might be eligible for simply did not recognize that kind of contribution.”

Now, the Defense Department does.

In an interview two days after the announcement, Juliet Beyler, the acting director of officer and enlisted personnel management in the Pentagon, said technological developments on the battlefield have changed the way service members fight, meriting the new medal.

“The services all came forward and said there are people ... who are doing incredible things and we wanted the ability to recognize them for those things,” she said.

There are no existing awards that adequately recognize the contributions these service members make. Examples of the actions to be recognized by the new medal include a service member who is involved in a cyber attack on a specific military target.

Another would be an unmanned aerial vehicle operator who takes out a specific military target. “Another example might be a service member who is orchestrating and moving troops on a battlefield, but perhaps, is not physically present, but does something that contributes in some extraordinary way to the battle,” Beyler said.

Each service secretary will develop the specific procedures to determine who is eligible for the award. Awardees must have direct, hands-on employment in order to be eligible. Combatant commanders must certify the impacts of the action before the award is forwarded to the service secretaries, the approving authorities. Those authorities cannot be delegated, Beyler said.

“This is for direct impacts,” she said. “There are other meritorious awards that recognize service over a period of time — this (award) is intended to recognize specific impacts on the battlefield.”

The criteria for the award is akin to that of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“The Distinguished Flying Cross is for a single impact, a single incident, and the Distinguished Warfare (Medal) is designed to address a single incident,” she said.

The award’s precedence is what is making the award controversial. Many veterans’ service organizations object that the award will have a higher precedence than the Bronze Star Medal.

“The award is directly below the Distinguished Flying Cross,” Beyler said. “Awards for valor — the Medal of Honor, the service crosses and the Silver Star — are all higher in precedence than the Distinguished Warfare Medal and will remain so.”

The vast majority of Bronze Star medals are not awarded for valor, she said. Only 2.4 percent of Bronze Star medals are given with V-devices connoting valor. Depending on the service, V-devices can also be awarded with commendation medals.

The secretary of Defense created the Distinguished Warfare Medal and can set the order of precedence. Beyler said the award is retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001, and the service secretaries will detail how to recognize earlier acts.