AirTalk for March 14, 2013

Where does a medal for drone warfare rank?

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel flies aboard a military helicopter from Kabul to Bagram Air Field

Pool/Getty Images

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel awarded a Purple Heart medal to Sergeant Jeremyah Williams (C) of the 426 Brigade Support Battalion at Jalalabad Airfield on March 9, 2013 near the southeast of Jalalabad city, Afghanistan. Where would a medal for drone pilots rank?

There’s a new military medal and it’s getting a lot of flak. Last month, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta last month approved the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, which is awarded to drone pilots and cyber warfare troops that do not directly engage in ground combat.  It’s the first new military medal of this caliber to be introduced since 1944, and would outrank combat-only medals like the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Veteran organizations and some members of Congress think that’s just not fair. They’ve asked the Pentagon to downgrade the new medal, arguing that it shouldn’t take precedence over traditional combat awards, which a soldier has to risk his or her life in order to qualify for. Department of Defense officials say it’s important to recognize the contributions of soldiers operating in what is surely the wave of the future, cyber warfare. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has two Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam, has ordered a 30-day review of the medal’s ranking and production has been halted in the interim.

Is the new medal fair, or necessary? Should the Pentagon rethink its designation? Does cyber-warfare carry the same amount of risk as traditional combat?

Guests:
Lieutenant Commander Nathan Christenson, U.S. Navy and Department of Defense Spokesman

Joe Davis, Director of Public Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars


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