Military Medals Reviewed for Possible Upgrades


By Debbie Gregory.

The Defense Department will review more than 1,100 medals issued since the 9/11 terror attacks for possible upgrade to the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest award issued for valor in combat

The decision follows a review of the entire military awards process that was started by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in 2014. The goal is to make the military award system more consistent in its treatment.

The review was ordered by Defense Secretary Ash Carter following “curious” trends in the awarding of Medals of Honor following Sept. 11, 2001.

The first seven military medals were all awarded to military heroes posthumously, prompting the Defense Department to clarify that the award criteria included “risk of life,” but did not require loss of life. Since 2010, all ten Medal of Honor recipients have been living.

Additionally, three of the seven most recent Medals of Honor were actually upgraded from lesser award recommendations, while none of the earlier ones were.

The secretaries from each branch of the military must meet the Sept. 30, 2017 deadline to review the next-highest awards to the Medal of Honor (approximately 1,000 Silver Stars and nearly 100 service crosses) to determine if they warrant higher awards. Officials said it’s up to the individual services to determine how to conduct that review.

The Pentagon is now implementing changes to ensure that Medal of Honor and other valor medal recommendations are submitted and reviewed within 45 days of the valorous action, and must be processed up the chain of command and reach the defense secretary within a year of the initial recommendation.

Additionally, the appropriate geographic combatant commander will now review Medal of Honor nominations following a recommendation. This to avoid a repeat of Army Capt. William Swenson’s 19-month delay in receiving his award due to lost awards paperwork.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a Marine veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee, saluted the Pentagon’s medal review but called it overdue. He blamed military red tape and too many layers of approval required for all military medals awarded for valor.

Another significant change will be the introduction of a new medal device: a “C” device for meritorious service under combat conditions, and an “R” device for troops who use remote technology, such as drones.

The “C” device will be affixed to awards earned while serving under combat conditions with “significant risk of hostile action,” but outside of direct combat.

The “R” device reflects the changing nature of combat and the necessity of ensuring that remote actions with a direct impact on combat are recognized.

The Bronze Star be limited to individuals meeting the definition of “Meritorious Service under Combat Conditions,” officials said.



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Change of Criteria for Medals: Military Connection

Change of Criteria for Medals

By Debbie Gregory.

It is widely known that Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone risked his life to stop an Islamic extremism aboard a train in France. But since the incident occurred in the French countryside, far from any declared combat zones, Stone was not eligible for traditional valor medals, such as the Bronze Star or Silver Star. Those medals are limited to formal combat zones or military operations against a specified enemy.

Ultimately, the Air Force opted to give Stone an Airman’s Medal, which recognizes heroism “under conditions other than those of actual conflict with an enemy.”

Air Force Secretary Deborah James said,”The Airman’s Medal is the highest award in a non-combat situation that we could possibly award to Airman Stone.”

Stone’s honor demonstrates how the military’s medal and awards system has failed to keep pace with the changing reality of today’s threats and the types of valor displayed by some of service members in certain circumstances.

James said that the entire military medals and awards system is “is being looked at right now within the Department of Defense. We’re trying to think that through.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to approve major changes to the rules governing awards, some of which have stood for more than 100 years old. Since 9/11, the military has faced an increasing number of nontraditional threats.

Also under consideration is the Distinguished Warfare Medal. Commonly referred to as a drone medal, it is intended to honor drone pilots, cyber warriors and those who may not be forward-deployed and facing imminent personal risk, but still perform extraordinary missions, saving American lives or destroying enemy targets.

Congress recently changed the law governing the Purple Heart to broaden the definition of an attack by a “a foreign terrorist organization” to include what’s become known as “lone-wolf attacks.” That change is allowing the Air Force to award Stone a Purple Heart because the French law enforcement authorities are treating the train shooting as an act of terrorism.