Lame duck SecDef Leon Panetta continues his eleventh-hour re-enactment of Sherman’s March to the Sea, with his helpless department standing in for the antebellem mansions and stately plantation homes that old Willie T.’s blue-suited grunts put to the torch, away back yonder in the eighteen-sixties. His latest act of vandalism: a gong for those who never deploy and take zero risks, that ranks higher than the Bronze Star for Valor.
After all, medals factor in to promotions, and we can’t have knuckle-dragging, cordite-scented war pigs with dirty fingernails advancing ahead of Academy graduates who nestle in pixel-pushing stateside bowers, and in the shady glades where war-deciding PowerPoint decks are fussed over.
First we’ll quote a few lines from the official release — only Read The Whole Thing™ if your systems are well-hardened against DEFCON 1 levels of Pentagon PR-wallah bullshit — then we’ll give you the subtext that is not being mentioned.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2013 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has approved a new medal designed to recognize service members directly affecting combat operations who may not even be on the same continent as the action.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal recognizes the changing face of warfare. In the past, few, if any, service members not actually in a combat zone directly affected combat operations.
These 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 a Pentagon news conference today.
“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.”
The DWM, or Distinguished While Miles Away Medal, is actually a response to a whine the US Air Force has had since 1992. The Air Force, in Desert Storm as in previous wars, awarded the Bronze Star for Service to a huge number of people who were nowhere near the war theater, for a whole bunch of actions that had nothing to do with the war. Reenlistment NCOs. Logistic officers in training wings. Mess sergeants. Guys who maintained wheeled vehicles in Texas. We recall hearing the number of 10,000 BSMs for Service, and that was just for Stateside awardees. Anyone who might have gotten the Air Force Commendation Medal got the Bronze Star instead.
The Army and Marines, which threw around BSMs like they were manhole covers, especially where junior enlisted soldiers were involved, weren’t amused and complained up the chain. Accordingly, from that date forward you had to be somewhere near the theater of war, or at least, not behind a desk in a blue-wool-sock warehouse in Mississippi, to get the Bronze Star.
The Air Force has bitched about it ever since.
It’s especially been an issue when the USAF assigned rated pilots to fly drones. Their UPT classmates were out earning combat awards flying F-16s and A-10s into ground fire, crashing Pave Lows in snowstorms, crash-landing an MC-130 in an Afghan Valley. True, the drove drivers face no hardships and no risks, but they were being left behind, and they uttered the one whine that no political appointee of this Administration can bear to hear: “It’s not fair.” So the Pentagon wheels began to grind in the direction of recognizing these no-risk Brave, Brave Sir Robins of the comfy chair and LCD monitor approach to war.
Their first proposal was to give drone drivers the DFC, but this sat poorly with those pilots that had earned the DFC while taking the command, career (and life) risks that come from sitting in the pointy, this-end-forward, region of manned aircraft. So the compromise was to give the drone bots who are zapping random people — hopefully enemies before they’re droned, because they’re certainly counted as enemies afterward — an all-new medal that will not knock the DFC off its perch — the Air Force is still run by pukka plane drivers, not r/c hobbyists, so far — but will trump the BSM given to the mere grunts.
The design of the new medal is, as you see here, quite uninspired. A dull medal for dull achievements. They did miss one major point in the design, though.
The ribbon should have been solid yellow.