Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has reversed himself by announcing that a review by Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey has recommended that the Distinguished Warfare Medal be eliminated entirely.
The medal was announced by the previous Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he was figuratively walking out the door, leaving Hagel holding the bag in explaining the rationale for the medal which was to have been given to drone operators and cyber warfare technicians, particularly those who are outside the area of operations of a conflict or a war zone, often on the other side of the planet such as Bethesda, Colorado Springs, or Honolulu.
The medal itself was not so controversial as was its placement within the hierarchy of medals, ranking above the Bronze Star (for heroism [with a 'V' device] or for acts of merit or meritorious service [without] in a combat zone), the Purple Heart (for being wounded or killed in combat with an enemy), and the Navy & Marine Corps/Soldiers/Airman Medal (for heroic, life-threatening action in a non-combat situation).
The announcement of the DWM brought immediate derision from across the spectrum, most notably the VFW (" . . . medals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear"), the American Legion (" . . . an awards system that would place heroism without actual danger above that displayed by our people actually on the ground risking life and limb"), and the Military Order of the Purple Heart (" . . . degrading and insulting to every American combat soldier, airman, sailor or Marine who risks his or her life and endures the daily rigors of combat in a hostile environment")
Further inquiry from groups such as these, with rather direct access to the Pentagon, were confused to say the least (to frame it in polite terms), particularly when the response from the spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense was that the criteria for the DWM was at the "unanimous recommendation of the service chiefs and service secretaries."
Many recommendations were that the new medal should rank below the three medals for heroism mentioned above. But in response to the outcry, Secretary Hagel announced that the medal would be eliminated altogether and a 'distinguishing device' would be created instead, to be affixed to a medal already awarded. The device would be similar to the 'V' device mentioned above (for use with the Bronze Star or a service Commendation or Achievement Medal), or a Marine device to be affixed to a campaign medal when the recipient was serving with the Marines (such as a Navy Corpsman), or an Arrowhead device affixed to a campaign medal for a soldier who participated in a large-scale amphibious or airborne assault.
This new device in lieu of the defunct DWM would be attached to a non-combat medal, including presumably the Meritorious Service Medal, created as the non-combat equivalent to the Bronze Star.
Many of the news stories are written with a view that Hagel in particular is approaching the subject as correcting Panetta's bone-headed decision, but skip the part that about the "unanimous" concurrence of the higher brass and Hagel's initial agreement about the medal in the first place.
And while Hagel is busy correcting this major faux-pas, perhaps he can address the politically correct nonsense about assigning women to infantry combat units and Ranger training.