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Drone Pilots to Rate Combat Medals?
When reading the following, ask yourself where you think a story like this would be published:
The Pentagon is considering awarding a Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone pilots who work on military bases often far removed from the battlefield.
Pentagon officials have been briefed on the medal’s “unique concept,” Charles V. Mugno, head of the Army Institute of Heraldry, told a recent meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts, according to a report in Coin World by our former colleague Bill McAllister.
Mugno said most combat decorations require “boots on the ground” in a combat zone, but he noted that “emerging technologies” such as drones and cyber combat missions are now handled by troops far removed from combat.
The proposed medal would rank between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal for exceptional conduct outside a combat zone.
WHAT?!?! The Pentagon would be out of their gourds to consider this, let alone actually approve it.
Let me put this in context for you. In order to be awarded the Soldier’s Medal, an individual “must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.” What does that mean?
On May 31, [Staff Sergeant Eddie] Peoples, accompanied by his sons Ikika, 7, and Kioni, 5, was in a Bank of America branch in Sarasota, Fla.,when a man entered, waved a handgun and said he was robbing the branch.
That silenced just about everybody in the bank but the soldier’s children, who giggled, Peoples said after the ceremony at Caserma Ederle where he was presented the Soldier’s Medal — the service’s highest honor for acts of valor outside combat.
Their giggles got the attention of the would-be robber, Peoples said, who pointed his gun in their direction. Peoples moved to stand between his sons and the man and kept himself between them while the man demanded money from the bank.
When the man left, Peoples followed him outside.
Peoples got in his rented van and put it between the gunman’s vehicle and the exit. After ramming Peoples’ vehicle several times, the gunman got out and approached Peoples, gun drawn.
Peoples said it wasn’t the first time he’d had someone point a gun at him, citing his time in Iraq. He grabbed the gunman’s wrist and disarmed him, Peoples said, forced him to the ground and held him there until authorities arrived.
So a medal in which a Soldier risks his own life for an honorable and noble cause rates lower than someone playing Call of Duty in some windowless, air-conditioned building a mere 20 minute drive from their garage. Why not just call it the Call of Duty Medal or America’s Army Medal?
Maj. Rick Wageman, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, operates the virtual cockpit of an MQ-1 Predator at a base in southern Afghanistan, Oct. 25. The remote nature of the control allows the Predator to stay airborne for longer periods of time, changing pilots periodically to reduce stress and fatigue which can lead to mission failure. Major Wageman is deployed from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse/Released)
Look, I don’t doubt in the least the contribution that these troops make in the combat zone. These drones are definitely a force multiplier. But, the reality is that these guys are not breaking a sweat. They’re getting shot at. When their aircraft gets shot down, there is no parachuting into hostile territory. They simply get assigned another drone once it’s replaced and get back on their joystick.
If this medal is approved it would be a slap in the face to every combat veteran that set foot in a combat zone, regardless of whether they ever got a valor medal. You know, a real one with sand, 100+ degree temperatures, and the very real probability that their next step could be their last.
At the risk of being called insubordinate, the officer quoted in the WaPo story is clueless.
Air Force Maj. Dave Blair, writing in the May-June issue of the Air & Space Power Journal, asked how much difference there is in terms of risk “between 10,000 feet and 10,000 miles.”
A “manned aircraft . . . that scrapes the top of a combat zone, well outside the range of any realistic threat” is deemed in “combat,” Blair writes, but a Predator firing a missile is considered “combat support.”
Really, Maj. Blair? How much difference is there between a MANNED aircraft in a combat zone and an UNMANNED drone being flown by someone literally on the other side of the world possibly enjoying a fresh latte?! I get that there are Predator pilots in theater piloting many of these things, but they are still not risking their lives to the level of a medal that rates higher than a true valor award.
If this is the mentality of our military leaders, our future looks bleak.