Drone pilots to get medals?: Pentagon officials have been briefed on the medal’s “unique concept,” Charles V. Mugno, head of the Army Institute of Heraldry, told a recent meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts, according to a report in Coin World by our former colleague Bill …
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First and foremost, I don’t want to demean anyone’s military service, but piloting a drone from somewhere stateside does not, in my opinion, for whatever that is worth, constitute “Distinguished Warfare” especially at the level that the medal would rank between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal. I believe there does happen to be (to quote from the article) “much difference there is in terms of risk “between 10,000 feet and 10,000 miles.”. There may be no difference in the risk to the machine, but there are orders of magnitude more risk for the pilot up in the air. UAV pilots can already receive the Aerial Achievement Medal, which has a much lower order of precedence, but is still ranked higher than a Commendation or Achievement medal.
This debate is sort of like the one several years ago for awarding Purple Hearts for service members who develop PTSD. Does it take a physical wound to warrant a Purple Heart, or will a psychological wound suffice? Granted that the effects of PTSD are as real, and the scar it leaves can long outlast the pain of shrapnel or a bullet, awarding Purple Hearts for it is outside the scope of the decoration.
The same is not true of the Aerial Achievement Medal. Its award for drone piloting seems to be completely within scope, and there is precedent going back to 1997.