Some warriors inside the Pentagon are reacting with amusement and anger over outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s decision to create a prestigious heroism medal for cyber and drone combatants who sit inside stations outside a war zone.
Mr. Panetta is exiting the building as a man generally admired by the Pentagon population, including hundreds of those tested in battle, for his hawkish views on killing Islamic terrorists and his devotion to the troops.
But he is now also the brunt of jokes for his announcement Wednesday that he had created the Distinguished Warfare Medal and placed it high on the medal prestige list.
“I suppose now they will award Purple Hearts for carpal tunnel syndrome,” said a retired Green Beret who does contract work for the Pentagon.
Examples of those eligible for the new medal include service members who operate Predator drones over Afghanistan or Pakistan from the shelter of an air base, and military computer whizzes who defeat cyberattacks by China.
It is not only the award itself, but its placement above, in order of prestige, the Bronze Star, that baffles and rankles some. The Bronze Star is awarded for extraordinary service to combatants in an actual war zone. It is adorned with a “V” if it is earned in direct combat.
The military prides itself on the authenticity of medals, which become a sort of chest-mounted resume that quickly informs colleagues of one’s assignments, performance and accomplishments.
An Army colonel who fought in Afghanistan and who admires Mr. Panetta told The Times he was taken aback by the “sudden” announcement.
After much thought I personally believe this should be the "AWARDED MEDAL
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