Medals? We don’t need no stinkin’ medals! (Army Perspective)

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 Army Vet. For the Air Force take, click here.

By Yetti.

Sibling rivalries are always fun. Army vs. Navy, SEALs vs. Rangers, and combat arms vs. everyone else. We give each other crap and there are countless jokes over who is superior, yet at the end of the day we all play for the same team and we keep it civil. When I deployed we all laughed at the Air Force “guarding” Manas in soft caps and we complained that REMFs got hazardous duty pay. I still think its crap that a supply clerk in Kuwait gets the same bonus that my guys got in the Korengal Valley, although at least that supply clerk was away from his family and had a little hardship to burden. Who am I to deny him a few extra bucks?

Then I found out about a loophole in one combat specialty that I have zero sympathy for… Drone Pilots. These guys and gals get the same perks as the ground pounders with absolutely none of the discomfort. Discomfort is a badge of honor for everyone in the military. Infantry guys brag about sleeping in the mud or freezing their balls off, yet they always go back for more. Even the POGIEST of POGs will tell their family and friends about the discomfort they had in basic training. The more you “suck”… the cooler you are.

Drone pilots work out of an Air Force base in the United States. Their cockpits are small rooms with a series of monitors and missions can vary from firing hellfire missiles or route Drone_Roomreconnaissance. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig and I can’t blame anyone for wanting to be a drone pilot. Hell, it’s the future of warfare. I have seen the benefits of a drone strike or the intelligence they bring to the battlefield, and it is awesome to have them on our side. Their mission isn’t my issue. My issue involves news that Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta  announced the creation of a new combat medal specifically for drone pilots and those “who have a direct impact on combat operations, but do it from a far.” It will be awarded to individuals for “extraordinary achievement” related to military operations.

The new medal is unique because it is the first combat-related medal to be created since the Bronze Star in 1944. Normally, this type of award wouldn’t rub me raw because I believe everyone deserves recognition for their role in the Global War on Terror. We already get “thanks for joining” bling so why not hand out medals for specific roles or experiences. Think Oprah… “YOU get a medal!!! YOU get a medal…. EVERYBODY GETS A MEEEDDDAAAALLLL!!!!”

The hoopla over the new Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM) is that it will rank above the Bronze Star Medal (BSM). Yes… THAT Bronze Star. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the BSM, it is the fourth highest combat decoration and rewards meritorious service in battle. The Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, and Medal of Honor are the only combat related medals that outrank the BSM. The BSM can be awarded for heroism (distinguished with a V for Valor) or for meritorious service in combat. In other words, if your Dad or Granddad had a BSM, or anything higher… he was a bad ass… give him a bottle of scotch.

However, since the attacks on 9/11, the BSM has lost a little bit of its bronziness. Units who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan often use the BSM as an end of tour award for leaders (think Platoon Sergeant and above). A lot of guys don’t recognize a Meritorious BSM as anything special. I received a BSM for my service in the Korengal and I’m proud of it… but I won’t be ordering BSM license plates anytime soon (anyone who does that without a V devise should be throat punched). There were a lot of other guys I knew that did a lot more than me and I think they deserved something higher than an Army Commendation Medal for their actions.

This brings us back to those hard-core drone pilots. I don’t know much about the specifics of their job, but I imagine it to be pretty cushy. Air Conditioning, lounge chairs, fresh coffee, and potty breaks are plentiful. I can’t even imagine what a bad day sounds like for one of these Call of Duty wannabes. Did the AC1 forget to fluff your pillow? Was your foot falling asleep during a “patrol?” Suck it up, Sally!

DWMImagine a conversation in 10 years amongst a group of Veterans at a local VFW bar. One guy is entertaining the crowd of the day he earned his Silver Star, then another chimes in about when he earned his ARCOM-V, and everyone agrees that he should’ve received a BSM-V. Then a drone pilot pipes up and tells his war stories and how he received a DWM. I’m not a religious man, but I PRAY that someone knocks him out.

The funny thing about awards—especially valor awards—is that a Commander has the ability to upgrade or downgrade an award based on a series of factors. I knew a Silver Star recipient that earned the medal after an intense firefight in which he was killed. His M203 was found with an empty cartridge in the chamber because he was fighting to save his brothers until his last breath. Another Soldier was nominated for the Silver Star (which was later downgraded) when he exposed himself to enemy fire to save a comrade’s life. He performed buddy aid and patched up his badly wounded head until help arrived. Both men were heroes in every sense of the word and both deserved to be recognized.

With that in mind, how can the Department of Defense honestly say that a pilot hanging out in his leather chair be placed in a category that rivals these two men? Give them as many unjustified medals that you want, but for the love of all that is good and holy… do not compare them with true warriors. Anyone who has actually been in combat should be disgusted with the prestige of this new Distinguished Warfare Medal and I urge you to make it your personal mission to let anyone who wears it know their place. Sibling rivalries might start getting messy.




  1. Tammy

    February 15, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Totally agree! We need to stop this nonsense. There are so many more people that truly deserve recognition for things they did in the heat of battle to save lives that will never be recognized. A medal for flying a drone 5,000+ miles away from the battlefield – who woulda thunk it?

  2. Brendan Smith

    February 15, 2013 at 10:56 am

    As a guy who worked in the NAVSECGRU, I really don’t understand this award. I especially don’t get it being above the Bronze Star. That’s ten pounds of stupid in a five pound bag. If someone excels in their role as a drone pilot, give them a Commendation Medal. This wreaks of getting a trophy just for playing little league. I’m not saying they don’t do a good and important job, I’m just saying we hand out medals like candy. I knew an E-4 with 2 years in and had 4 NAMs and 3 JSAMs. He was a friggin’ CTA. For those who don’t know, that’s a classified coffee maker. Giving out medals the way some commanders do cheapens the award and is disrespectful to those who actually earned their medals.

  3. Dan

    February 15, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I spent hours doing flight following for these guys when I was in the gulf. They literally just tool around doing donuts in the sky from the relaxed atmosphere of their recliners. I’m not saying sitting in CIC trying to keep tabs on something with the radar cross section of a turkey was hard, but at the very least I was away from my wife for six (extended to eight) months. These guys were sitting there talking about what they were gonna do when they got home that night. How da’ fuk does that merit anything more than a “congrats you did your job medal?”

  4. Joe C

    February 15, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I think this is the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time regarding military awards and I wish they would make it go away. That said, being a civilian volunteer working with the Air Force I somewhat understand why they did it. The Air Force has some good people in it. I said some. 99% of them will never have any chance at all to earn a BSM or higher because their duties simply do not place them in a position to do something worthy of those medals. That doesn’t make it right. Everyone that joins the Air Force knows that their chances of actually facing the enemy are very small. If you wanted glory and medals for combat action you should have joined the Army or the Corps,not the Air Force.

  5. Ed

    February 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

    That’s the US Army version two. But you guys can’t really compare your ground experience with one in the air. Unless your a WW2 bomber crew air combat is different ground always wins. It’s really just the order of precedence that easy for the retard to fix put it in line with the ARCOM or make it a Presedential Citation for key contribution saving countless lives. Which personally I would rather have a Drone take out a pickup with 5 guys in a pickup truck it then have either of my two sons having to have done it. One of them RIP. this fight isn’t over it’s just the end of round one. Stay alive get home and start breeding.

  6. Mike

    February 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Damn the valley…

  7. Michael

    February 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Here is a petition to the white house to stop this discrace. Get it out there so that everybody you know has seen it and signs it. There is no way in hell that this new Medal should out rank the BSM. Make this petition go viral.


  8. leftoftheboom

    February 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Look at it this way. Yes it is a disgrace and stupid; having said that, anyone who wears one of these in the future is permanently identified as a lame as wannabe. How often does someone get properly identified and recognized for their lameness?

    We have individuals who get recognized for less than stellar achievements but we don’t know what it is do we? You see an ARCOM or yes even a BSM and you don’t know for sure how it was earned unless you can see the citation. There will always be a kernel of doubt that it might have been earned for something well done.

    But with the DWM i.e. Dipshit with machine award, you know for a fact the guy is a full on blowhard who needs their lame ass kicked for being a lazy wannabe.

    So let them have it in whatever order it gets put in. We will then know who they are and what they are.

    • Virgilhilts

      February 20, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      I am wondering if anyone here has spoken to a Recipient of this Medal… It might be revealing and instructive to have their observations.

  9. Eric Blair

    February 15, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    The truth is always history and history is always lethal!

    History and truth can NEVER be changed but Quisslings and traitors try. .

  10. "Drone" Pilot

    February 16, 2013 at 7:28 am

    The only people who have a right to bitch about us UAS Operators are the Manned pilots we put out of a job. We fly longer and have more capability for recon than they do.

    • leftoftheboom

      February 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Seriously? You want credit for pushing a button and watching the dials?

      Battle Drill for the Drone Pilot.

      1. React to a coffee spill.
      2. React to a paper cut.
      3. React to a DFAC menu change.
      4. React to an AC outage.
      5. React to ND of a stapler.
      6. React to getting caught “fapping”.
      7. React to getting caught napping.
      8. React to AFN playing the same song again.

      Anyone else got anymore?

  11. Army Drone Pilot

    February 16, 2013 at 7:35 am

    First of all the statement that Drone pilots fly out of an Air Force base in the states is amazingly wrong. I am a “drone” pilot although we prefer UAS Operator. Drone implies uncontrolled and autonomous. As a UAS operator with 8 years of service I wish I could fly from the states. As it happens, i have deployed 4 times with UAS and am currently flying the Warrior-A (Army Predator). ALL Army UAS operators deploy with their systems. Even the new MQ-1C Grey Eagle units fly from deployed locations. We sleep in the same shitty tents that everyone else does. We receive IDF just like everyone else on base. Whether you fly the RQ-7B Shadow, MQ-5B Hunter, MQ-1B Warrior-A, or the MQ-1C Grey Eagle you sit in a small metal box with an AC unit designed to keep the computers cool.(not for operator comfort) The chairs are not comfortable as that would encourage soldiers to sleep during their 8 hours of sitting and staring at a screen. I’m not saying we are better than any other MOS (except maybe the cooks that just do headcount at the DFAC) I’ve had units refuse to go outside the wire unless we were providing aerial coverage of their raids or convoys. Ask an infantry guys who has been able to utilize a UAS asset and ask him if it helped him at all. I am not saying we deserve any extra medals for doing our job, i would like if people who have never done the job or know somebody personally who does the job would STFU. Everyone picked their MOS, so don’t get pissed that you’re stuck out in the mud, and I’m on a flight line. Have any of you commenters ever prevented a convoy from hitting an IED, or stopped 100+ IED emplacers, or spotted an enemy sniper and reported it to GFC so they didn’t walk around a corner and get shot? If not than your opinion means about as much as Pelosi’s on her pay cut. Additionally, another operator wants to know why can’t I get an award for doing all of that that’s higher than the default award for a platoon sergeant?

    • leftoftheboom

      February 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Unless you were cyrbernetically (sic) connected to the MACHINE, you were never in danger while performing your mission. No one said the mission was not valuable. The point is that your contribution, while valuable, did not include the dangers inherent in close combat and is not therefore worthy of an award that surpasses VALOR awards when you, the operator, are not personally exposed to jeopardy to carry out said mission.

      If you were there, at the FOB, you were already eligible for all the other awards that all personnel are eligible for if they earn them. And a shitty chain of command does hamper that situation but if the chain of command is shitty, what makes you think they would write up the new award any more efficiently than they did not write up any of the others? That is circular logic and a fail on your part.

      And more than one disgruntled Soldier while discussing the vulgarities of life with other disgruntled Soldiers has managed to convince themselves that they “deserved” more than they received.

      And no I did not do all those things that you did. You must be a hell of a warrior in “Call of Duty”.

    • Gunship Load

      February 16, 2013 at 11:18 am

      8 Hours huh???

      When you physically start pushing up against 15 hours IN THE AIR, OVERHEAD AN OP then we’ll talk.

      Until then, enjoy your cappuccino and shut up….

  12. Yeti

    February 16, 2013 at 11:35 am

    According to multiple sources, drone pilots or UAS Operators DO operate in the US. I agree that there are some OCONUS locations and I should’ve mentioned that.

    Regardless, don’t try to compare your living conditions or “shitty tents” to those of other units. Receiving IDF on the other side of the FOB is not the same as indirect contact. While I can see your point about AC used primarily for the equipment are you sitting in a sweat box? Uncomfortably warm is not the same as discomfort. And please don’t argue about the comfort of your chair… You are grabbing at straws.

    The BSM is not a “default” award for PSGs. It’s to recognize service for a difficult job over a period of time in combat. Some guys don’t deserve it, and others did. But that’s going down a rabbit hole on a whole other topic.

    Like I said, I appreciate the work you do. It serves a purpose. That’s not the point of the article and not the reason people are upset. Does your job warrant an award ranked above a BSM or ANY valor award???

    • Army Drone Pilot

      February 16, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      I and the rest of the members of my unit think its hilarious that they are creating a medal for this type of job. Yes, when deployed we are eligible to get the same awards as everyone else, but we never leave the FOB. So the likelihood of us ever getting something like a BSM is so remote that “nobody” ever gets one. We are fine with that. None of us agree with the New medal. But like i said earlier, if you’ve never done the job then stfu. The difficulty of ones MOS is based entirely on perspective.

  13. Soldier-Cynic

    February 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

    You seem to be under the false impression that this award will be handed out to every Tom, Dick, and Harry; however, the approval authority is the Service Secretary.

  14. Scott McDaniel

    February 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    This whole drama illustrates one thing very, very clearly: That our civiliam and military leadership are so genuinely out of touch that they cannot see this most basic failing of military leadership.

    Okay…a drone operator does a great job. Give him an award. We’ve got plenty of medals that fit the bill. Just that I’ve got a few questions that I’ve posed before in other venues:

    1. If your drone gets shot down, do you die?
    2. If your drone gets shot down, do you get captured?
    3. If your drone ditches at sea, do you drown?
    4. If your drone misses the runway/lands hard, do you burn up?
    5. If your buddy’s drone does any of the above, do you deal with the deep burden of survivor guilt?

    No? ‘Nuff said, or should be.

    As a grunt, and leader of grunts, I appreciate any means of putting eyes or ordinance on the enemy. I also understand that there is a difference between a guy in a rifle BN that launches a drone and a guy at an airfield CONUS. Herein is the key: IF YOU ARE EXPOSED TO THE SAME HAZARDS AS THOSE MEN DEPLOYED, THEN THERE ARE ALREADY AWARDS FOR THOSE MEN.

    We have plenty of awards where the criteria has been revised over time. We have plenty of awards that already fit the bill. A Servicemember does a great job? Fine. Give the guy recognition and an award for something he actually did. But above the BSM?

    Any of you guys read any of the ARCOM citations from Viet Nam? Some of the most eye-opening time I spent in my life was showing up early and waiting in Viet Nam veteran’s offices of Field Grades, Senior NCO’s, and faculty of a military college, where these things were given for great risk of life. Two in particular with a V device was awarded to my BCT 1SG when he was a young Soldier and another to a faculty member at The Citadel for risking enemy fire to save Vietnamese CHILDREN. Yeah. Action front, disobey orders, get the kids outta’ there, and you _MIGHT_ survive, and they got an ARCOM. Is that disgraceful? I don’t think so.

    Saying that guys who sit at a operators station don’t do a service isn’t true, but stating that they should get a medal that rates above the BSM for acts not involving exposure to actual phycial harm by the enemy is like saying it’s only fair that the staff of Stars and Stripes get CIB’s because they heard contact somewhere down the road from the FOB.

    This whole thing is…in all honesty…a reflection of our “everyone gts a trophy” non-competitive sports ethos. It has no place in the Armed Services. A person who chooses the duty position of drone operator took the same conscious choice that any other military member makes when they sign up: You choose the job. If you choose to serve in a position that is far removed from the risk of physical harm, then don’t expect to be getting a BSM for operating a remote controlled aircraft in the comfort of a CONEX when we’re giving MoH’s to Cavalry NCO’s for fighting like men possessed when their COP gets overrun.

  15. GI Zhou

    February 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Please people, keep this in perspective. A “shitty tent” in the chair- force is a three-star hotel.

  16. Dickface

    February 17, 2013 at 1:48 am

    Awards are silly. I do my job and strive to do it well not because I want a piece of colored cloth on my dress uniform that I rarely wear but because it is the right thing to do. Fuck recognition. I don’t need or want it and it’s truly sad seeing so many people so upset by it.

    I’m not going to make fun of or hate on drone operators. I liked having drones up. I’m not going to make fun of cooks. Without non-combat or other than maneuver MOSs, my guys would be constantly tagged out to do bullshit jobs that we see as “unnecessary,” but are actually necessary. Point being, we are on the same team. Look past your tiny dicks and grow up.

    Do I think this award should be created. No. Do I think there are already awards in place that suffice? Yes. Am I going to make fun of someone I see wearing it? No. Seriously, who would do that? You know that youre not able to submit yourself for an award, so its not theyre “fault.”

    At the end of the day you are all arguing over a piece of fabric and wear it goes on a shirt. A lot of combat vets on here act like theyve gained some perspective from fucking combat, but youre acting as if youve never seen shit. If you had, you’d realize that at the end of the day youre still breathing, with or without the DWM being established. Grow up and start caring about what really matters……not a fucking POGs medals, the amount of coffee he drinks, or the fact that he shits in a njce toilet in AC.

  17. Army Drone PIlot

    February 18, 2013 at 8:13 am

    I agree with DickFace. None of us (Army UAS Operators) wants the medal. We accept the fact that we dont do the high-speed shit, but occasionally get to watch and provide coverage.

  18. Del

    February 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    First off I served during Vietnam and the Cold War. I served on two Boomers (For those that don’t know it it a Submarine carring Polaris/Posidon/Trident missiles. It makes 60-70 day patrols. It’s boring as hell) We got a patrol pin and a gold star for each patrol we made. We also took a lot of crap from the Fast Attack guys as we were not real bubbleheads. It was all in fun. I don’t really agree with the ranking of the medal but then we don’t make the decisions. As long as the do the job and don’t get their nail polish on the equipment who cares. (That was not a derogatory statment against women just the Sonar girls. You know who you are!)

    • ET1(SS) Princess

      February 19, 2013 at 8:12 am

      Fast Attack Tough! Some of my best friends were boomer f**s even though they would politically correct me with ‘Trident’. This included an M-Div chief who was one of the best leaders I have ever known. When I got out back in May 11′ I had medals listed on my DD214 that I didn’t even know I had earned. I still can’t remember all of them and don’t have them on my chest candy. I’m on the same page as you – do your job – you did choose it after all. That goes for Sonar and their double-watch showers too (they always smell so pretty and fresh). I chose to be on a submarine and I chose to be in the engine room. Either way, we all have had our moments and do our jobs. Either that’s a deterrent patrol, convoy, drone flight, or sneaking up on an Akula II at 40K yards. Everyone does their job and Dickface is right. We are bitching about a piece of cloth on your chest. Everyone knows who earned what. You shouldn’t need a medal to prove to your buddies what they know you have accomplished. Is chest candy nice? Yeah. Is it required? No.

  19. Spectre Gunner

    February 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    In the late sixties to early seventies on the first AC-130s we had to fight the FIGHTER MAFIA for awards&decs that we actually earned. Every AM and DFC I have was at the risk of real blood and real guts. I came home with real gunsmoke in my skin and real exhaustion from changing altitudes in an open plane, dodging AAA, handling ammo in the dark and Gs, and all the other stuff we called fun. Now I’m told that someone can pretend to do all this and get the “hero medals”, too. Toro feces!

  20. Two Romeo

    February 20, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Every service already has an achievement medal and a commendation medal for members who perform their duties exceptionally well. I don’t understand why we need to expand these awards by career field.

  21. Tahj

    February 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I do think that if a drone pilot’s actions save our heroes overseas they deserve recognition. However a medal is out of the question! This article spelled out the problem perfectly. Our men and women overseas don’t fight for medals, they selflessly fight for each other as if they are one. Drone pilots have a place and a purpose, but they also are in a stress-free environment and in no real danger. Such low stress situations could lead to a video game state of mind in which these medals are seen as “achievements”. This state of mind would put the safety of our nations finest on the back burner and would place focus on getting medals. Our focus should always be the safety of our servicemen and women and creating anything that could potentially disrupt that focus is in my mind an act of treason. I’ve never served in the military, and I’m only 19 years old. But I’m mature enough to realise that there is nothing more beautiful than someone making the decision that my safety and my family’s safety is worth risking their life. In my mind anyone who makes that decision is nothing short of a true hero, and deserves to come home safe and in one piece. Remember we need to reward heroes, and acknowledge those who aid them. Not the other way around.

  22. Air Force trucker

    April 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I served 3 tours well 2 combat and 1 I don’t consider too tough. They were all filling army shortfalls and we drove convoys from AJ to nearly very FOB in Iraq being on the road weeks at a time. My issue is on my third tour after destroying my back on the first two I was an s function I forget what the number was but I was in the TOC for 10 months. “I know only 10 months cry me a river, right? But hey we didn’t get 2 weeks RR haha I digress”. I completely agree with the article I received the same benefits the 3rd go around as I did the first 2 and never left Kuwait for this I felt like I took something from my brothers that were hitting IED,s EFP,s small arms what have you. I don’t regret that deployment but I don’t have the same tone in my voice or pump in my chest when I think or talk about that one even though it was as fobulous as could be. Thanks guys great article great debate great comments.


    September 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    The Army is violating enough of its soldiers awards like the Bronze Star Medal!!! Under Army Regulations-The Bronze Star is to be awarded to any soldier while serving in any capacity in the armed forces of the UNITED STATES. Were are the Bronze Stars for the PVT., PFC.,SP/4 CPL ??? The Army won’t award these ranks the Bronze Star unless its With a V-device or death of a soldier !!! The regulations do not require it to be a rank oriented decoration !!!!!!!!

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

Editor's note: This is a hot topic, and we are fortunate enough to have pieces written from the Army Perspective...