The US military has created a new combat medal — which includes those who don’t actually go into combat:
Modern technology enables service members with special training and capabilities to more directly and precisely impact military operations at times far from the battlefield. The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded in the name of the secretary of defense to service members whose extraordinary achievements, regardless of their distance to the traditional combat theater, deserve distinct department-wide recognition.
Technically, it seems any member of the military is eligible for the Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM), including those involved in direct combat — so long as their extraordinary act did not involve “valor.” However, the fact the citation criteria so mphasizes that it is not limited to the geographic region of combat has caused some to call it intentionally created as a “new medal for drone pilots.” Not that its necessarily a bad thing: Long range bomber ground crews — who may never leave the US while still supporting combat operations — as well as some drone operators can and do conduct operations worthy of recognition.
In order of precedence, the new medal will be higher than the Bronze Star, traditionally awarded for close combat operations.
There is one worthy discriminating factor in the award criteria:
Award will be made only to recognize single acts of extraordinary achievement and will not be made in recognition of sustained operational activities or service.
Many military medals are awarded for “periods of service” or even numbers of events. For example, Air Force Air Medals can be awarded simply for completing a certain number of sorties in a specific area — giving some pilots the ability to rack up dozens of medals for what really amounts to very little risk or even effort. That limitation alone will lend some credibility to the award.