They fight the war from computer consoles and video screens. The troops that launch the drone strikes and direct the cyberattacks that can kill or disable an enemy may never set foot in the combat zone, but now their battlefield contributions can be recognized. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced today that the Pentagon is creating a medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations, even from afar.
"I've seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought," Panetta said. The new Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to individuals for "extraordinary achievement" related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike other combat medals, it does not require the recipient to risk his or her life to get it. Officials said the medal will be the first combat-related award to be created since the Bronze Star in 1944.