A New “Afar” Medal: What Does It Mean?

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Department of Defense
Department of Defense

What does it mean when the nation creates a new medal for deskbound warriors for distinguished service in war — when they are not at any risk themselves?

…and in fact may be operating a Predator drone in Nevada, hoping to finish their shift in time to see their son’s Cub Scout Pinewood Derby race at the local elementary school down the block from where said warrior lives?

…or for a cyber-warfare expert, sitting in a non-descript building tucked into some stateside military base, who thwarts a cyber-attack that could have done billions of dollars in damage?

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta unveiled Wednesday, during what he said was likely his final meeting with Pentagon reporters, the Distinguished Warfare Medal.

This is a fundamental change, and shows how the digital revolution is affecting the battlefield. Twenty-first Century connectivity means you don’t have to be on the battlefield to affect the battlefield (which, in today’s world, goes far beyond the FEBA – the forward edge of the battle area). Divorcing war-time glory from “valor” — exposing yourself to wounds, if not worse — will take some getting used to.

“I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely-piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said. “And they’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar.”

But until Wednesday, Pentagon decorations for war-fighters generally required that they – in granddad’s lexicon – be warfighters: up close and personal with the enemy.

“Unfortunately, medals that they otherwise might be eligible for simply did not recognize that kind of contribution,” Panetta said of this new class of warrior. “And for that reason, recognizing these technological advances, I’m pleased to announce that I have formally approved the establishment of a new Distinguished Warfare Medal. 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.”

The medal will rank, in order of the military’s preoccupation with precedence, just below the Distinguished Flying Cross, but above the Bronze Star.

As word of that flashed around the Internet late Wednesday, reaction to the Army Times‘ story on the new medal was not kind.

‘I spent nearly 26 months of my life and was awarded the Bronze Star, and you are tell me that someone can stay home and receive a higher medal?” one reader posted. “Guess these same guys qualify for the Purple Heart if they were to get a paper cut.”


Folks, if you don't understand medals you don't need to get all riled up about them.  Seriously.  

Are you aware that there are several medals that rank above the Bronze Star already that are not combat medals, such as the "Soldier's Medal", which is specifically not a war medal.  Are you also aware that medal can be awarded for other than a specific act of valor.  Currently the Bronze Star is the 4th highest decoration for valor, and the 9th highest award overall.

 Also, it being a "Higher Award" is how it is arranged on your dress uniform, it doesn't mean that the Bronze Star Doesn't offer the wearer more "Promotion Points" than this new award.  Let's review Medals that rank from MOH to BSV.  You will note that there are 8 higher medals than the Bronze Star, which can be awarded for Service in combat as well as Valor.

 -Highest Award to lowest, stopping at the Bronze Star:

Congressional Medal of Honor

Distinguished Service Cross

Distinguished Service Medal (This is not necessarily a combat medal)

Silver Star

Legion of Merit  (This is not necessarily a combat medal)

Distinguished Flying Cross (This is not necessarily a combat medal)

Soldier's Medal (Specifically NOT a combat medal)

Air Force Airman's Medal (Specifically NOT a combat medal)

Bronze Star (With or without V for Valor.)

Fine for you to be outraged, but be informed and outraged, please?  As a veteran I just find this amusing, I just hope they don't hand this one out like candy, but it's probably the highest award available to the jobs it is designed for and won't be taken lightly, I am sure.

I assure you when it comes to promotions and such the actual foot on the ground in danger medals will be more "Notable" to a board.  Regardless, someone who has a combat MOS or job won't likely be going up for promotion against someone that would get this medal anyway.


The medal should be allowed, but above a bronze star???!!!  I would place this somewhere in there around the ARCM level.


How was this NOT going to piss off the bullet sponges? If they had advanced skills and capabilities, they wouldn't be front line/infantry for the most part. 

They get these folks, pump 'em up with BS about honor and duty then kick them on the nearest front line. They don't train them for anything but point and shoot. They certainly don't get a heads up about who is doing what while they tromp around the desert with inadequate supplies and intel hoping their brains won't be transplanted to the dirt. 

Bottom line is those folks sitting at a desk are saving thousands of lives. They are going places with the design and intent to keep THEM from going. 

There will be fewer opportunities to earn a bronze star, and more importantly, purple hearts. 

Time to wake up folks. There is no honor in being a corpse. That crap they feed you about honor, is just that. How much honor does a dead body feel? If you feel anything at that point, its more likely to be worms and maggots chewing on you. You want to be honorable? Save as many lives as you can on all sides of the conflict. 

There is much bravery and unfortunately need for boots on the ground putting themselves and their brothers and sisters smack in harms way. The goal is to minimize and eliminate that. Desk jockeys do precisely that. 

It's sad that people are pissed off that a medal for saving lives is as honorable, or more so, than taking them. How stupid do you have to be to find more honor in corpses than lives? It takes nothing away from the meaning and distinction of the Bronze Star to place life on a higher level than death. 

You're darn freaking right the soldier at a desk who assures the maximum amount of our troops come home alive is a hero. Cram the propaganda, I want a living breathing soul who deploys to put his boots on home soil after EVERY and ANY deployment. 

Priorities people, yours are ***** up.

Evo1 3 Like

@TrishaLynnDragonyou seriously need to pull your head out of your posterior. Not everyone on the front lines lacks "advanced skills and capabilities". In fact, a large proportion of them have far more advanced skills and capabilities than those flying drones. This includes people in intelligence and special operations, for example. It's no harder to fly a drone than it is an advanced fighter (far less so, in fact). Denigrating people as somehow inferior because they choose to make the hard choice rather than the easy one, or implying that they've done so simply from a lack of better options rather than a sense of duty to others, is ignorant and adolescent in the extreme.

The reason why this medal is an insult is because thousands of us, despite having some of the most sophisticated training and skills on this planet, chose to use those skills in a way that put our own lives at risk because this is what was required to get the job done, and many of us actually gave our lives, or parts of our bodies, to accomplish those missions, even though we could have easily opted for safer jobs with higher pay, because we believed in doing what was needed of us. I applaud the use of technology to make those sacrifices less necessary where possible, but to give greater recognition to those who put less on the line is an insult. The honor is not in taking or losing lives, it's in be willing to do so when it's needed. Should a person who puts out a fire by remotely activating an extinguisher system with the push of a button in a comfortable office across town, saving dozens of people receive as much recognition as a firefighter who rushes into a burning building to pull out one lone child?

This isn't about priorities; it's about recognizing that no matter what technologies we develop, sometimes situations will call on someone to put their life on the line to protect others, and that we should always hold those who are willing to make that sacrifice in higher regard than those who don't, because without that courageous choice, the rest of us suffer.

TrishaLynnDragon 1 Like

Complete and utter garbage.

I suffer when a flag draped coffin lands back on American soil. I suffer when a kid has a folded flag on the mantle for a parent. I suffer when a 40 year old throws dirt on a child's coffin.

You care about recognition, not valor. You desire glory, not life. 

There is a reason so many soldiers have PTSD, and a lack of honor isn't the cause. We fed a line of BS then when they put boots on ground in deployment, they smack face first into the utter crock of BS they were sold. It's not like we promised is it? It's buddies with blown off body parts and dead civilian kids. There is bloodshed, fear, death and dismemberment. Exhaustion, pain, confusion and anger. Ending lives, even enemy lives isn't as rewarding as they were told it would be. Turns out the enemy is a person, and a person's life is difficult for honorable people to end. No matter the necessity or cause. If they make it home, it's all thank you's and honor again. It's darn near treason to say otherwise. 

They guy who flew the drone or made use of satellite info to pull some American military fat out of a fire, is a hero. Not just anybody can do it, and how dare you liken what they do to button mashing. Those men and women do what many of us would find impossible. It's intuition and skill meets dedication and responsibility. They go to work knowing those in country lives are theirs to safeguard. Thats the job. If they screw up or fail, it's a brother in arms that suffers.

They do what others can't. The bear an enormous amount responsibility in a ridiculously difficult position. 

It's time to put down the kool-aid.


Can't they just get 1st place..... Like with regular video games?

BrianMeyette 2 Like

The medal is a fine idea.   Ranking it above a Bronze Star is an insult to those who have been in serious danger to get a Bronze Star.


The Commendation Ribbon and Bronze Star can be awarded for valor or for merit. The Legion of Merit and Distinguished Service Medals outrank the Bronze Star and are only given for merit. This just puts another level of appreciation for merit: Meritorious Service Medal, Commendation Ribbon, Bronze Star, the new ribbon, LM and DSM. I was a parachute infantryman in RVN (173rd Airborne LRRP) and received the CIB. I see no problem in another merit medal. One can readily determine the difference between a combat ribbon and a merit ribbon. Enlisted very seldom get the LM below the rank of Sergeant Major (and that is upon retirement) and the joke was that a mid-ranking officer got the LM for not flunking his Wasserman Test

NicholasLeeSmith 1 Like

Of course the medal should be allowed.  The folks distinguished themselves, and civilian or military, THEY DID THE WORK, and the world and the US is a better, safer place for them and the duty they excelled at.

Think about it.  Think about how hard it is to fly an aircraft remotely when you can't actually be in it, and feel it move, and see out the windows.  Every second counts, and it's cumulative, just like flying blind on instruments in a storm or blackest night in a plane or airliner.

The argument that they don't get physically endangered or cold or wet, can be applied to submariners or jet pilots.

And, just imagine the responsibility, the stress, and the pressure of flying armed drones.  What if you make a mistake?  Pilots of regular aircraft can often visually check the situation before they fire, they can more or less trust their own senses, but flying and attacking from a remote location, WOW!  How much harder could it get?  And don't you think their skill must excel that of most air traffic controllers and airline pilots?  How would you like that responsibility and pressure?

Give them the medal.

A Russian Officer told me once that, "...The only reason we didn't attack you was that you can't get two Americans to agree on anything, and you're all heavily armed."

Gun Background Checks would be acceptable to the anti-gun control folks if you can guarantee the weapon serial number is not included in the Gun Background Checks.

What is a "Background Check?" A Background Check is a request for information from the gun dealer to the law enforcement agency of the Federal Government (ATF). If the person wanting to buy a gun is cleared the gun dealer is free to sell them the gun.

The problem for anti-gun control folks is that the background check is tied to the serial number of the gun, and the anti-gun control folks believe the government cannot have that information that they consider a violation of their 2nd Amendment Rights.

This is worth repeating.
Make no mistake, background checks are de facto gun registration. The dealer keeps the forms, but the gun serial number is forever tied to the buyer, and in case of invasion, the first thing the enemy would do is get those forms then get the weapons. Just like in the movie "Red Dawn."

Now, if you doubt this information, call your local gun dealer and ask about it.

Gun registration is unconstitutional, therefore de facto gun registration background checks are unconstitutional. QED.


You don't have the slightest clue what you're talking about. Flying a high performance military aircraft is very dangerous work even in peacetime. Tactical fighters fly much faster than unmanned drones and the margin for error is much smaller. Good pilots are killed every single year in routine accidents. The only reason more aren't killed is because the Navy and AF have such high standards when it comes to training and selecting pilots.

Submarines aren't dangerous? Tell that to the crew of the Kursk. Operating a submarine entails quite a bit of physical danger. The US doesn't lose more submarines because we have the highest standards when it comes to training and selecting submarine crew, not because submarines aren't inherently dangerous (they are).

Oh, and drone pilots don't really have much responsibility. They're surrounded by dozens of people in a command center who are watching their every move. They aren't allowed to engage a target unless someone gives them the go-ahead to do so.

JasonThompson 2 Like

Having served both in "active desk bound warfare" directly supporting and communicating with troops in combat, and with boots on ground, M-4 in hand, at the ready to actively engage the enemy with live fire, I too cannot agree that this medal would be worth more than a Bronze Star.

Secretary Penetta does a fine service by recognizing the great efforts of warriors who contribute so much to the fight when doing so in the cyber realm, but fails to recognize that those individuals would be doing little to nothing without those on the front lines who are indeed sacrificing much more at the time in the same combat action.

I would strongly urge the Pentagon to consider this medal for ranking below the Bronze Star, but above the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Meritorious Service Medals.

Evo1 3 Like

Okay, let me get this straight: they're going to give a medal to people who play video games in an air-conditioned building for 8 hours and then drive home to their families in New York and Virginia every day, and they still refuse to give any kind of similar recognition to those of us who physically stood in the way of a 10-to-1 superior force of Soviet and East German tanks for 46 years, or against the North Koreans since 1953, to protect free people from communist aggression? We were the 300 at Thermopylae, standing in the gap to slow the advance of a force that would have unquestionably obliterated us, just to give our nation time enough to respond. We stood in the heat and the snow, thousands of miles from home and family, for decades. And because our sacrifice was enough to deter these enemies from aggression, we don't get a medal, while a group of people who play X-Box all day do.

My father was awarded the Bronze Star, the award that will apparently be just BELOW this farce of a medal. In order to get that, he had to fly dozens of combat missions in a B-52 over the most intense air-defense system the world has ever known, with MiGs chasing them and Soviet surface-to-air missiles the size of telephone poles being fired at them (more than a few of which hit their mark), a job from which many of his close friends never returned. Thanks for spitting on the bravery and sacrifice of every Bronze Star recipient since 1944.

Medals are for more than "achievement", they're for courage and sacrifice. If they need some recognition for "achievement", I have a sheet of smiley-face stickers in my desk.

I apologize to those who serve in these capacities. I don't mean to denigrate your service. But this medal is a massively unacceptable insult to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who made real, physical sacrifices, who genuinely put their lives on the line, and sometimes even lost them, to defend this country.


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