Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced a new medal for troops who fight from behind a screen. According to unnamed officials, the "Distinguished Warfare Medal" will honor members of the military who have performed an accomplishment "so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from comrades or from other persons in similar situations." Unlike other medals of its level, though, it doesn't require an "act of valor" that would put one's life in danger during combat. That means it can be given to drone pilots or members of military cyberwarfare operations.
In a statement, Panetta, said the Distinguished Warfare Medal was meant to recognize that "since September 11th, 2001, technological advances have, in some cases, dramatically changed how we conduct and support combat and other military operations." It can be awarded for any accomplishment since September 11th in the domains of "air, land, maritime, space, and cyberspace," and it specifically cannot be awarded for direct valor in combat, making it very specifically for people who would be shut out by the traditional definitions of warfare. In ranking, it's slightly above the Bronze Star, directly below the Distinguished Flying Cross; a sketch can be seen above.
"Extraordinary achievement, not involving acts of valor, directly impacting combat operations."
In some ways, the Distinguished Warfare Medal is a big change to how higher-level medals can be awarded, built for a world where actual combat often no longer involves physical risk. The last new medal, the Bronze Star, was created after World War II. Otherwise, though, it maintains the same standards as similar awards: it's meant only for "extraordinary achievement, not involving acts of valor, directly impacting combat operations or other military operations," with "directly impacting" meaning hands-on use of a tool (real or virtual) that had direct effects in an engagement.