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The Military

DoD Award To Recognize Drone Operators (securityweek.com) 144

wiredmikey writes: According to a Pentagon memo due out today, the US military will create a new way to recognize drone operators and other service members who contribute to America's fighting efforts from afar. The military is set to introduce a new "R" designation — known as a "device" — that can be attached to medals given to drone operators and other non-combat troops, such as cyber warriors who hack enemy networks. Former defense secretary Chuck Hagel nixed a proposed new combat medal for US troops who launch drone strikes or cyber attacks, after a torrent of criticism from veterans and lawmakers. Drone pilots have complained of low morale, long hours and of the psychological impacts stemming from killing people remotely.
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DoD Award To Recognize Drone Operators

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  • Recognize them??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@@@nerdflat...com> on Friday January 08, 2016 @12:35AM (#51260249) Journal

    For what?

    Aren't military medals supposed to be for noble things like bravery, heroism, or honour? What's honourable about taking out an opponent from so far away that the risk to yourself is nonexistent?

    • For what?

      Aren't military medals supposed to be for noble things like bravery, heroism, or honour? What's honourable about taking out an opponent from so far away that the risk to yourself is nonexistent?

      I guess politicians and presidential candidates can get medals too...

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday January 08, 2016 @01:10AM (#51260345)

      Aren't military medals supposed to be for noble things like bravery, heroism, or honour?

      I served in the military, and was awarded several medals. None of them were for bravery, heroism, or honour. Most of them were for being in the right place at the right time, such as the SASM [wikipedia.org] and the NDSM [wikipedia.org]. I also got a NAM [wikipedia.org], or "atta boy medal" for doing my job during a peacetime deployment.

      I don't see any reason drone operators shouldn't get a medal of their own. They are doing more to earn it than I did.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        ^This

        Not giving them medals is like not giving medals to missile or torpedo operators. They did their part in their way, working with everyone in the military for a common goal.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        And this is what we're reduced to.
        Now we have participation trophies in the military.
        Everyone's a winner.
        What's the point of these if everyone gets them?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          What's the point of these if everyone gets them?

          The point is that it publicly shows what the person has done during their service. Not everyone gets the same medals because not everyone does the same things.

          But I get your point. Modern military medals are basically the same as achievements in video games.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          And this is what we're reduced to. Now we have participation trophies in the military. Everyone's a winner. What's the point of these if everyone gets them?

          There are different medals for different things, and you'd better believe that members of the military look at, say, a Silver Star or a Distinguished Service Medal very differently from an achievement medal. Medals of lower value do still have value. The offer a chance for recognition in front of your peers, in a persistent way (since you wear ribbons or medals on some of your uniforms), they provide a persistent proof of competence and capability in your personnel file (helpful for determining promotions)

        • Now we have participation trophies in the military.

          Everyone's a winner.

          What's the point of these if everyone gets them?

          Umm, you need to check out the medals that are given out. Your lament about participation trophies has been the case for a long long time. You are there, you do your job, you'll have some tit candy.

          Everyone's a winner, and you're a whiner.

      • Aren't military medals supposed to be for noble things like bravery, heroism, or honour?

        I served in the military, and was awarded several medals. None of them were for bravery, heroism, or honour.

        Exactly. What I find odd is the people who have claimed military service, yet seem to think that there are only 4 medals. Medals are part of the culture, and as such, a rather nice part of the culture.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I bet the good conduct medal really pisses 'em off. Hell, if ya gotta couple of pizza boxes on your chest some of us know that you got 'em just for being able to shoot straight but we appreciate that. It's not like every medal is the Medal of Honor. (One pizza box is bigger than the other one.) Of course, those pizza boxes are really badges but I suspect that the person complaining doesn't actually know the difference.

      • That depends a lot on whether you believe in following both international and US law. Committing what is in fact assassinations on foreign soil is not what I'd call worthy of a medal. These drone ops, and their commanding officers, should all be court-martialed.

        As for their counterparts over at CIA, they should be shipped to Daesh headquarters to be utilized as that bunch of crazies see fit.

    • I wonder if maybe the risk of psychological harm is exceptionally high?

      • I wonder if maybe the risk of psychological harm is exceptionally high?

        I suspect, fairly high. While the work takes on a video game aspect, the brain still knows at some level that you are killing people, and it gets stored away.

        Something similar might be how soldiers have been drilled in hand to hand combat with some very effective killing moves. It's been repeated with other soldiers (without that final kill move) so many times that it becomes muscle memory, and reflexive. So the thought that I've just killed someone gets buried, only to come out later.

        I've seen the publ

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Some medals are just for service in an action whether they are cook or commando.
    • Re:Recognize them??? (Score:5, Informative)

      by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Friday January 08, 2016 @01:35AM (#51260399)

      Actually, incorrect. While some awards (e.g. the Bronze Star, Medal of Honor) are given for unusual behavior (e.g. heroism), the military has the worlds' original badge system. There are badges for everything. For example, you can get the Silver Chevron if you've served in a war but stateside for at least six months (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]).

      So it's entirely reasonable to say "there's something distinctive about this group that merits its own device" -- most devices have nothing to do with heroism.

      • Actually, incorrect. While some awards (e.g. the Bronze Star, Medal of Honor) are given for unusual behavior (e.g. heroism), the military has the worlds' original badge system. There are badges for everything.

        This is true as long as you're speaking about the US military. It seems like you guys get 9 medals before even completing basic. The same cannot be said for other countries. Most Commonwealth nations are much more stingy with medals - if you end up with 5 or 6 in your whole career, you've done well.

    • by Rinikusu ( 28164 )

      Honorable? Fuck that. As a famous General once said (paraphrased), it's not about dying for your country, but making some other poor bastard die for his. However, it's not just pushing a button, is it? Unless you want to discount what's becoming a huge crisis in mental disorders from drone operation (as the article noted). Killing real, live people on a video screen, it turns out, has quite a bit of psychological baggage that we're beginning to understand. I'm actually relieved that we're finding thi

    • by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Friday January 08, 2016 @02:32AM (#51260497)

      For what?

      Aren't military medals supposed to be for noble things like bravery, heroism, or honour? What's honourable about taking out an opponent from so far away that the risk to yourself is nonexistent?

      Which is exactly why their morale is so low - which in turn is what military medals are for...to raise the morale of someone doing a shit job well so that they keep doing it well.

      • It sure beats paying more. At least on the expenses level.

        • It sure beats paying more. At least on the expenses level.

          Base pay is associated with rank, which is a separate thing. Earning important medals will definitely improve your chances of promotion which will get you more money but by design the two are separate, and not for fiscal reasons.

      • Which is exactly why their morale is so low - which in turn is what military medals are for...to raise the morale of someone doing a shit job well so that they keep doing it well.

        Well, there's some fucked logic for you.

        Can't believe you or anyone else feels that morale is low because some Airman isn't wearing yet another pretty ribbon on a uniform they rarely even wear to work.

        PTSD isn't caused by medal deficiency. Or a lack of fucking awards and atta-boy ceremonies. Not sure when people are going to wake up to that fact, but I'm not surprised the Military has taken the cheapest route to "fix" morale.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          You'd be surprised at how much an award can raise morale. Also, you'd probably bitch if they spent more money. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen you bitching about the military's budget in the past.

          (I too think we spend too much. We should just stop being the World Police or start charging other countries to do it for them.)

          • by mark-t ( 151149 )

            You'd be surprised at how much an award can raise morale.

            So we are going to treat our soldiers like children now? Oh, you did your job! Good for you, here's a gold star!

            At best it diminished the significance of being worthy of receiving a medal in the first place if they are going to give medals to people who don't do anything but the minimum that was expected of them.

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              They are children. We've always sent the kids off to war. You quite literally get a Good Conduct Medal for just keeping your shit squared away and not pissing anyone off. You get awards for being able to fire your weapon accurately - I have two. No, they don't all mean a fuck of a lot but they're much the same as insignia to those who know how to read them. You're, for your own reasons, placing far more stock in them than is needed. I've never counted but I suspect that there's a whole bunch that haven't a

            • You'd be surprised at how much an award can raise morale.

              So we are going to treat our soldiers like children now? Oh, you did your job! Good for you, here's a gold star!

              You're either not a parent or haven't served in our Military. I can speak to both with experience and confidence. They are children.

              At best it diminished the significance of being worthy of receiving a medal in the first place if they are going to give medals to people who don't do anything but the minimum that was expected of them.

              (looks over all the pathetic reasons we issue awards and ribbons today)

              Yup, bit too fucking late for that.

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        For what?

        Aren't military medals supposed to be for noble things like bravery, heroism, or honour? What's honourable about taking out an opponent from so far away that the risk to yourself is nonexistent?

        Which is exactly why their morale is so low - which in turn is what military medals are for...to raise the morale of someone doing a shit job well so that they keep doing it well.

        I would say you have a poor understanding of morale then. Morale is not simply how "good" or "happy" everybody feels. Morale is also about having everyone working towards the same goal. A group of people with excellent morale believe that they are the best XYZ in the world, that they do an excellent job, and that nobody can beat them at it. The trick is that when you start to believe that, you want to defend those beliefs by taking action to ensure that the group truly is what you believe it to be. So

    • Maybe ISIS could give them medals, they're running a great recruitment campaign for them.
    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      People get medals for service (e.g. good conduct), campaigns (but not necessarily in combat), being overseas and so on. I don't see why there shouldn't be a recognition of someone who contributes even from afar.
    • by Higaran ( 835598 )
      If you look at it, this is the natural evolution of military tech, I do not see this any difference to drone pilots and artillery. The main objective is to kill the enemy before he can even see you.
    • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

      Well what is honorable about war anyway? Every war I ever looked at turned out to be based on money and lies anyway. Its always been the people in power conning the poor into fighting for them.

      The reason they tell you war is honorable is just the marketing of it. It never was.

    • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 )

      Most military people who work with drones don't do so by choice. They are assigned to a unit and they have very little, if any (generally none but sometimes they have some) say over what that unit does. If it's a ground unit in place in a combat zone, they get shot at. If it's a drone unit they don't. It doesn't make their work any less valuable to the military and any less worthy of recognition. Would you want to be overlooked for promotions because of an assignment you had no control over? Medals do

    • snipers; bombers; naval ship bombardment of shores.

      Medals are for a large number of things.
    • Aren't military medals supposed to be for noble things like bravery, heroism, or honour?

      No, some of them are for more mundane things like "good conduct" or "achievement" or "meritorious service". I'd expect a drone medal to be in the latter categories; it's not going to be equivalent to a Silver Star.

      What's honourable about taking out an opponent from so far away that the risk to yourself is nonexistent?

      Yeah, that argument has been going on since archers were introduced. But the point of a war is to win,

  • by firewrought ( 36952 ) on Friday January 08, 2016 @12:46AM (#51260275)

    the psychological impacts stemming from killing people remotely

    Also called conscience, but no worries... a little piece of decorative metal will make it so worth it!

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Yes the Drone papers give some insight into that aspect https://theintercept.com/drone... [theintercept.com]
      The conscience side is been worked on too. Expect a lot of new very well funded Hollywood movies, TV series, comics, books and other web 2.0 media to show a nice new friendly side to the contractor remote military industrial complex.
      With the Smith–Mundt Act been reworked to allow domestic propaganda Smith–Mundt Act [wikipedia.org] a flood of domestic good news stories can be gov funded to win hearts and minds about the
  • No metals, just points for targets and efficiency.

  • No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    Just fucking NO!

    Many in my family have received medals, Gold, Bronze, Silver Stars to name those I remember clearly, there where others, over the courses of their military careers. In each case it was because they put there lives on the line for their country. On more than one occasion my father almost didn't come back from his combat postings. When I was a child he showed me each medal and told me the story of why it was given to him, and the names of the people who didn't come back from those mission
    • Just remembered the there was no "Gold Star" medal for the US Army. You get one of those if your in the family of a soldier who died in the line of duty. My dad told me about them and I had friends who wore them.
      • You don't wear the gold star. Some mothers will wear a decorative Pin, no other family member receives or wears a Gold star. It's a banner you hang. Just as the blue star banners are hung to show family members currently in the service.

        And otherwise you are wrong. There are many medals, and many ways to earn those medals. Not all require direct personal combat or extreme danger. Such makes getting such medals far easier, but such medals can also be earned for non-combat roles. For combat awards a V d
    • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday January 08, 2016 @06:39AM (#51260913)

      Just because you have a history of some people in your family getting medals for doing some real combat doesn't change the fact that medals are given out for a wide variety of reasons, not all of them to do with combat, and in some cases given out without even being at war, or for just being deployed in the correct country not necessarily doing any combat.

    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      How the fuck does a joystick jocky sitting in a cozy air conditioned room and going home to a safe warm bed in the USA qualify for a combat medal??

      I served in armed forces (not American) and honestly... Helping save lives of your fellow soldiers on the ground seems like a good reason to me.

      How about they start issuing medals to gamers who play Call of Duty while there at it?

      Done [xboxachievements.com].

      I acknowledge that the drone pilots do face certain job related stress factors but if they want to just say "I can't take it" and

    • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 )

      "a joystick jocky sitting in a cozy air conditioned room and going home to a safe warm bed in the USA "

      Back in 2009 I met a drone operator on leave from Iraq while travelling in Eastern Europe. He was on his third redeployment. He was stationed on-base in Iraq and was happy. At that time, weaponizing drones was a rumour. According to the media, they were surveillance devices. I would have *loved* to ask him all kinds of questions about his job, but that would be very, very, rude. I bought him a be

      • Does anyone *know* that these guys are operating from the U.S.?

        Just based on available communication channels and lag times, I would assume that any real-time combat drones would need to be closer to the action. Automated drones that just have a camera feed and self-navigate via GPS could probably have operators stationed stateside but they aren't really being piloting at that point. To actually pilot a drone, not crash into obstacles, and hit moving targets is going to require lag times similar to what video games require and satellite and/or transcontinental cables

        • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 )

          There are units in the US piloting drones overseas. Full combat missions. What you think you know about lag times (with respect to what they are and what is realistically achievable) is inaccurate.

      • Just a note, the first weaponized drone was tested and validated for deployment in late 2000. We had armed drones in wide use well before 2009.
    • Many in my family have received medals, Gold, Bronze, Silver Stars to name those I remember clearly, there where others, over the courses of their military careers. In each case it was because they put there lives on the line for their country.

      They also got other medals for other things. Ask them. Not all medals are about valor.

    • I think you misread the article. They are specifically NOT combat awards. They will have an R device, not a V device (for valor).

      By the way, I think your post was unnecessarily inflammatory. Drone operators are military members. They still deploy when and where they're told. They still show up on terrorist target lists for stateside attacks. Calling them "joystick jockeys" and comparing them to Call of Duty gamers is petulant. They've done more to risk their lives for the country than most.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Those people you mention that got those medals? Look at the rest of them instead of the pretty ones. You literally get one for keeping yourself squared away and not doing stupid shit - it's called the Good Conduct Medal. If they have those others that you mention, chances are pretty good that they have at least that one and a number of badges.

      Maybe you should ask those family members for a little more history or look at more then the pretty medals and learn what they actually mean.

  • Drone pilots have complained of low morale, long hours and of the psychological impacts stemming from killing people remotely.

    Yes, they should be required to be up close and personal before qualifying for medal. I'd say 72hrs straight hours in the field without sleep and personally watching the life fade out of their opponents eyes as they plunge their dagger deep into them should be the minimum for any medal to be earned.

  • You have to make the reward fit the audience you're dealing with. They have to understand and value what they get.

    20 years ago I would have said what you need is a high score board. But today, well, probably giving them some purple uniform pieces with over-the-top shoulder parts would be more fitting.

  • These people are the ultimate REMF.
    They are obviously *waay* to the rear and - I suppose owing to faulty or outdated intelligence - quite a few of their targets turned out to be families. Some will have been families of terrorists, others not even that. From what I read, drone attacks have a similar effect in radicalising people in the surrounding areas as suicide bombers do. That includes the 911 crew.

    Do REMFs normally get medals above and beyond those for "I was involved in that campaign"?

  • We should do steam style achievements.

    Achievement unlocked, "Bloody Mess: Destroy a house of worship with at least a 2:1 combatant:civilian ratio"

    Oh and hats, we should have hats....

  • Entitles the bearer to a half-off discount on La-Z-Boy purchases for the rest of their lives.
  • Just great apk apps [rozapk.com]
  • Drone operators don't kill for awards. They kill for high score credits.

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