Medals? We don’t need no stinkin’ medals! (Air Force)

Updated: February 15, 2013

Editor’s note: This is a hot topic, and we are fortunate enough to have pieces written from the Army Perspective as well as from the Air Force point of view. This is from an Air Force Vet. For the Army take, click here.

By Gunship Load

It’s always great fun to do a class “A” inspection, isn’t it?  Well, no, it isn’t.  Not for the actual warfighter.  At least, it never is for me.  But for me the cool part about it is getting to look at everyone’s “fruit salad.”  That crazy rack on the chest that’s full of color and tells a story, one that often doesn’t need any words.

For a guy who has just shown up to a unit and they do a service dress inspection, he gets a real quick look at the caliber of people in their unit.  For the Air Force, we have what I call the “basic training gift pack” consisting of:  Air Force Training Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, maybe the USAF Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon, and maybe a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.  Those are the ones that have been diluted to what I think are worthless.  They don’t mean much when all you really did to get them is complete the AF version of basic training.  But in that formation, for an operational flying squadron, you might see a Bronze Star or two, you might see a Distinguished Flying Cross, you might see a handful of Air Force Combat Action Medals, and a plethora of Air Medals.  These are medals that you have to be in the battle to earn.  You have actually had to leave your family at home while you deploy to some shithole somewhere and EARN THEM on or above the battlefield.  You have actually been place in a situation where your life could have ended due to enemy action.

BUT NOT ANY MORE!!!!!  You can now “earn” a medal that will rank between a Silver Star and a Bronze Star and never leave the “house”.  The powers that be have now created the “Distinguished Warfare Medal”!  Isn’t that nice?  They have now made a medal for DWMthe X-Box junkies flying the Pred.  But wait, there’s more…  They are also already earning Air Medals, without deploying.  The same medal that I have five of, they are earning from the safety of some air conditioned box while sipping on their mocha-frapachino that they picked up on the way in to work that day, and waiting for Papa John’s to show up with lunch.  They are not placing themselves in any danger what so ever, except maybe carpal tunnel syndrome.  Pred gets shot down?  Yeah that blows ‘cause they are expensive, but all told, the operator of said pred was never in danger.

I won’t tell you that my deployments are life ending dangerous.  I won’t even try to tell you that they are rough.  Hell, I’m in the Air Force, or as it is often referred to, the Air Farce, or the Chair Force, et cetera. I think I have heard them all, and used several of them myself…  I will never compare my trips to the sand box to those who live on and work out of a FOB, or a COB.  I know I have a cushy life compared to those guys, especially because of my Infantry years.  But I have at least left sovereign ground.

I’m not saying that the pred pilot and sensor operating team is not important.  The imagery and intel they provide can make or break a mission.  They are a very valuable asset in the fight, but this medal, I’m pretty sure ranks way too high on the tier.  To me it fits into a “needs for promotion” block for an officer.  It has no significant value to those who have boots on the ground or wings in the air Combat Missions under their belt. drone_pilot_ap_328

As a whole the military has already cheapened what our Medals mean.  If you can, ask your grandpa who served in WWII what it took to earn an Achievement Medal, let alone a Commendation.  Recently the AF awarded two Bronze Stars to members of a Comptroller (finance) Squadron for meritorious service.  Look at the unofficial “cap” that is placed on EVERY Army unit for deployment of, “only XXXX members will receive a Bronze Star, XXXXX members will receive ARCOMs.”  The list can go on and on, but this medal is a punch in the face and a kick square to the sack of those of us who have left the house.

If you need a cheap piece of ribbon, and some shiny metal hanging from it to feel good about your life, perhaps you need to reevaluate that which is important to you.





  1. AFSister

    February 15, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Glad to see that the Air Force has the same view of this POS medal approved by Panetta.

  2. NousDefions

    February 15, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Next will be the UAV operators getting 100% disability from the VA for PTSD.

  3. SMSgt Stringcheese (ret.)

    February 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    The USAF has always had an identity crisis, especially regarding awards and decs.
    We get enough gruff from our fellow brothers in arms. What’s wrong with having an aversion to camping, or joining a service where the officers do the majority of the fighting? Safe AND comfortable, call me crazy………
    The “award” is just another bullet point or block to check for a OPR, so said UAV pilot can climb the corporate ladder.
    The Class A thing is classic USAF, the chick or dude that works in finance comes in with a rack that would be worthy of a Mexican Field Marshall. Meanwhile the actual enlisted combat related guys have to pull teeth to get awards, the USAF gives out Bronze Stars like candy to paper types. I’m not dissing their service, but I’ve read some that make me literally laugh out loud. This new X-Box award did the same.

  4. leftoftheboom

    February 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I have a question. Did the pilot of the drone captured by the Iranians get a POW Ribbon? Did the SARC get notified and are they in counseling after their craft had all its drawers opened up leaving in naked before it’s enemies?

    Because it would be sad.

    • Gunship Load

      February 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Best video I have ever seen was a UAV getting shot down. Well that wasn’t the best part…

      The best part is when the CSAR team completely geared up, and ran (on foot) over to the box to ask if the pilot needed evac and medical assistance.

      • leftoftheboom

        February 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm

        AWESOME. I laughed my ass off.

        • Sgt. Stringcheese

          February 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

          That is some good stuff……………;)…….

      • Smokey Behr

        February 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm

        And this comment is why I LOVE the Rhino Den.

  5. Spooky Eng

    February 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Well put brother

  6. SrA Tom

    February 20, 2013 at 6:01 am

    I just recieved the Email notification regarding the criteria for this medal. I didn’t really care enough to read the whole thing, seeing as Awards and Decs are probably third or fourth on my list of service priorities. I don’t care what you do, I only care how well you do it, and if you take pride in it. I’m a weather forecaster, I spent my first 3 years essentially non-deployable, and I probably won’t considering the imminent draw down by the time my bucket comes up. Medals don’t mean much when you haven’t sacrificed something to earn them. Time, comfort, effort, suffering injury or death. There is a need to recognize the efforts of drone pilots, but not at the expense of those who have done more to truly earn their honors. In my mind if your office stands a very good chance of killing you, you get more recognition of your contribution. In my job, I’m a TOC monkey, but I can still be killed strolling over to the latrine for a morning dump…

  7. FAC Photo

    February 21, 2013 at 9:17 am

    First off, I strongly agree with the writers of both articles re. the absurdity of receiving “combat” related decorations as drone pilots and sensor operators for all the same reasons already listed. The air force, like the navy, takes care of their officer corps, many times at the expense of the enlisted. HOWEVER,as one of the commentators stated, serving in the air force required a thick skin from all the dissing, some justified, but not all. Flying backseat as a photo recce,I have too many damn memories of pilots watching and listening in horror as one of their own was hit and crashed into a jungle environment with only a small chance of survival, the hollow look of pilots and crew from flying mission after mission into a high threat environment of Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam knowing that their survival odds were getting smaller and smaller with each mission, and the pride of their job to expose themselves and their aircraft to suicidal risks for the grunts on the ground. These were just the pilots don’t forget the enlisted few who can match anything a combat grunt has experienced such as the PJ’s whose very motto is: “So Others May Live” and the gunners on our fixed and rotary wing gunships that have saved the bacon of many of our troops; some have given their all in that endeavor. Yeah this new “medal” is a farce and officers will always receive preferential treatment, but NOT ALL who serve in the AF deserve to be dissed or dismissed for their air force service.

  8. Lee

    February 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I have read both of these articles and followed this issue ever since it first reared its little head. Some of my friends believe that such a decoration is unwarented given the lack of sacrifice required in comparison to lesser awards. Some of my friends believe that some reward or recognition is deserving given the the complexity and contributions of the missions drone teams are assigned. Personally, I agree with my friends.
    I think the solution would be to provide an award similar to the Expert Driver Award for the Army. They have one for Tracked and Wheeled vehicles and certain criteria must be met to EARN such decoration since it is not AWARDED. We could add a new bar to the decoration and, like the other bars, would be a permenant decoration. It would be worn to the inside of weopons qualifications and below the ribbons. Basically, on the left pocket of Class A uniform of the Army. I don’t know regs for the AF.


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