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New Medal Recognizes Changing Face of Conflict, Official Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2013 – The new Distinguished Warfare Medal recognizes the changing face of conflict in the 21st century, said Juliet Beyler, the acting director of officer and enlisted personnel management in the Pentagon.

Beyler said in an interview that technological developments on the battlefield have changed the way service members fight.

“The services all came forward and said there are people … who are doing incredible things and we wanted the ability to recognize them for those things,” she said.

There are no existing awards that adequately recognize the contributions these service members make. Examples of the actions that would be recognized by the new medal include a service member who is involved in a cyber attack on a specific military target.

“That would be someone possibly who would be eligible for this award,” Beyler said.

Another possible recipient would be an unmanned aerial vehicle operator who takes out a specific military target. “Another example might be a service member who is orchestrating and moving troops on a battlefield, but perhaps, is not physically present, but does something that contributes in some extraordinary way to the battle,” Beyler said.

Each service secretary is going to develop the specific procedures for who is eligible to receive the award. The service member has to have direct hands-on employment in order to be eligible. Combatant commanders must certify the impacts of the action before the award is forwarded to the service secretary for approval. The service secretaries are the approving authorities and those authorities cannot be delegated, Beyler said.

“This is for direct impacts,” she said. “There are other meritorious awards that recognize service over a period of time -- this [award] is intended to recognize specific impacts on the battlefield.”

The criteria for the award is akin to that of the Distinguished Flying Cross. “The Distinguished Flying Cross is for a single impact, a single incident, and the Distinguished Warfare [Medal] is designed to address a single incident,” she said.

The award’s precedence is what is making the award controversial. Many veterans’ service organizations object that the award will have a higher precedence than the Bronze Star Medal.

“The award is directly below the Distinguished Flying Cross,” Beyler said. “Awards for valor -- the Medal of Honor, the service Crosses and the Silver Star -- are all higher in precedence that the Distinguished Warfare Medal and will remain so.”

The vast majority of Bronze Star Medals are not awarded for valor, she said. Only 2.4 percent of Bronze Stars are given with a V device connoting a valor award. Depending on the service, the V-device can also be awarded with commendation medals.

The secretary of defense created the Distinguished Warfare Medal and can set the order of precedence.

Beyler said the award is retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001, and the service secretaries will detail how to recognize earlier acts. 

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