- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2016

Drone operators and so-called “cyber warriors” who wage the Pentagon’s online offenses remotely will not be eligible to receive a specialized service medal, but they will get a pin for their work, the Department of Defense has decided.

The Defense Department will begin awarding troops with a quarter-inch pin inscribed with an “R,” for “remote,” which recipients will be allowed to affix to any other non-combat medals, Military Times reported on Wednesday, citing an internal memo expected to be authorized by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in the coming days.

The Pentagon’s decision not to offer drone operators and other remote combatants a medal, but rather a pin, follows a two-year review undertaken to examine what award, if any, could be given to troops who have participated in the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, albeit from upwards of thousands of miles away.

“As the impact of remote operations on combat continues to increase, the necessity of ensuring those actions are distinctly recognized grows,” reads an excerpt from Pentagon document seen by The New York Times this week.

Amid concerns raised by critics who took aim at the possibility of presenting medals to troops who had failed to participate in direct, on-location combat missions, the Pentagon decided on the “R” pin while considering the criteria involved in awarding the prestigious Medal of Honor to war veterans.

More than 1,000 previously awarded war medal recipients are currently being reviewed by the Defense Department to determine if they had been appropriately honored.

“There is no indication that any service members were not recognized appropriately, but the purpose of this is to ensure that those service members who performed valorously were recognized at the appropriate level,” a defense official told CNN.

“It’s way past time,” David A. Deptula, a retired three-star Air Force general, told the newspaper. “People should be acknowledged and rewarded for their contributions to accomplishing security objections regardless of where they are located.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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