Military Warfare

DWM: Recognizing the Changing Face of Warfare

A new Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM) created by the Secretary of Defense recognizes the contributions of Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) pilots and other personnel whose achievements contribute to mission success, but are not directly involved with combat operations.

A memo from the Secretary of Defense announcing the award explained the medal would recognize “extraordinary achievement, not involving acts of valor in combat, directly impacting combat operations or other military operations.”

How Modern Warfare Is Changing
Cyber warfare and UAS warfare have become increasingly important in recent years. The military is increasingly using UASs for support and combat operations and, in fact, purchased more unmanned than manned aircraft, and trained more UAS pilots than manned aircraft pilots, last year. Because of the increasing importance of these relatively new operations to the military, the new medal was necessary, to recognize the unprecedented achievements of personnel involved in these operations, according to officials.

The new award will become available in a few months, but will not be available for actions prior to Sept. 2001. It ranks above the Bronze Star, but below the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The new medal has experienced some controversy, with regard to its precedence in relation to other military awards. Some veterans groups have criticized the medal’s precedence, saying that medals earned for risking life and limb in direct combat should carry more weight than medals earned for indirect contributions to the success of the military. Other commentators have remarked that the medal is the byproduct of the “everyone gets an award” mentality of modern American society.

Nevertheless, military officials have stood their ground on the medal’s precedence, reasoning that extraordinary achievement that contributes to the success of combat operations, especially when these achievements eliminate enemy threats, deserve a distinctive honor.

According to military experts, the new medal may be the beginning of efforts to provide personnel in vital, but underappreciated, roles — such as cyber warfare and acquisitions, among other vital fields — the recognition they need to advance their careers and achieve the promotions that their colleagues in more glamorous areas of the military routinely receive.

For military personnel serving in a variety of important roles, including acquisitions and cyber warfare, honors and promotion are needed to help draw the best and brightest to these fields. Without these incentives, highly qualified personnel in these fields may choose other career paths in the military, which are more likely to provide them with the advancement that their ambition and talents deserve.

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