Many exploded in outrage yesterday at the announcement of a new medal for UAV pilots that outranks the Bronze Star. According to the Army Times:
The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to pilots of unmanned aircraft, offensive cyber war experts or others who are directly involved in combat operations but who are not physically in theater and facing the physical risks that warfare historically entails.
The new medal will rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross. It will have precedence over — and be worn on a uniform above — the Bronze Star with Valor device, a medal awarded to troops for specific heroic acts performed under fire in combat.
Aside from the debate over what is more or less heroic—though I've never heard of a drone pilot getting shot in the face for looking around a corner at the wrong time—I can't help but feel that this medal is an effort to normalize drone operations by painting them as acts of valor.
Even if a drone pilot (recall that this person is almost always on the ground out of harm's way) were to act heroically, the already-existing Air Medal would be appropriate. Why this new special medal? It would seem the administration believes that humanizing drones via "valorous" pilots will make covert warfare of this nature go down a little easier.