Dems Clueless About Combat

| February 21, 2013

Warfare has progressed geometrically since I was a young sergeant on the ground in Vietnam. The huge advances in computer and electronic capabilities have given our American forces capabilities never before possessed in any of our previous wars. Among the most widely known of these is drone warfare, wherein an unmanned, armed, aerial vehicle enters enemy airspace guided by an office-based pilot somewhere many thousands of miles from the actual conflict and launches lethal missiles against detected targets.

To this old infantryman’s way of thinking, that is a great concept. The idea of being able to win wars from the air goes back to WWI and was used to greatest effect in WWII when strategic bombings in Germany and Japan greatly degraded the fighting ability of both those countries and undoubtedly saved tens of thousands of American servicemen’s’ lives. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to those Air Force and Naval aviators who flew over my ground positions and delivered lethal ordinance on my enemies in the hills, mountains and rice paddies of South Vietnam. But for them I might not be writing this.

So keep all that in mind when evaluating my take on this new Defense Department medal for those who pilot the drones. We are going to create a new class of combat award for a group of technicians who through the incredibly complex inter-connections between their U.S.-based control centers in the docile deserts of Nevada or some other undisclosed remote location and the combat zone, are able to provide close air support for our ground troops or air strikes deep within enemy territory. Let’s picture this:

Somewhere in Afghanistan a small team of American soldiers, commanded by an Army captain, occupies a forward outpost. They are so far into hostile country that they must and can only be supplied by helicopter. That means then that they only get the minimum necessities of their needs. They have no running water source so by the time they have been there to attract an attack from the enemy, they have become persistently and continually hungry and hygienically ripe indeed. At 2:00 am on a cold morning they get hit by a large enemy force which has every intention of overrunning them and killing them to the very last man.

They inform their headquarters of the attack and within minutes that headquarters is busy directing an armed drone to assist in their defense. On the other side of the world, some Air Force captain, who slept comfortably at home last night with his spouse in military quarters somewhere in the Nevada desert, and who had a full, hot breakfast this morning, sips his coffee and views the information coming in through his computer. With a few strokes on his keyboard he is able to re-direct the mission of an armed drone hovering somewhere over Afghanistan to the beleaguered outpost which by that time has endured many casualties and is in very real danger of being overrun.

Through damage inflicted on the assaulting enemy forces by both the Hellfire missiles fired from the drone at the command of that comfortably ensconced Air Force captain somewhere in Nevada and the perimeter defense directed and coordinated by the Army captain in command on the ground, the attack is beaten back with but a few American troops killed and several more wounded.

As all the after-action reports are filed and this minor event gets logged into that bottomless swamp of history of American military combat, there will be those singled out for their performance under fire and recommended for awards for valor. Seldom in the history of the United States Army or the United States Marine Corps has there been such a ground fight when some brave soldier or Marine did not distinguish himself with exceptional valor. They, justifiably, should have that valor recognized by a grateful nation in the form of a medal.

But what about that Air Force captain back there in Nevada who entered the proper sequence on his keyboard to launch those Hellfire missiles that did in fact help break the back of the Taliban assault? Did he contribute to the victory? Without question he did. Were his actions valorous in the way we understand that term to mean courage in the face of a lethal threat? Of course they were not. Does he then deserve an award for service and valor in the face of the enemy equivalent to that which those who faced that enemy on the ground under extreme duress and hardship do?

That’s pretty simple to answer for anyone with a lick of common sense. Apparently however, our uninformed, never-uniformed, Commander-in-Chief and his equally uninformed and never-uniformed Secretary of Defense do not possess that lick. In their eyes, the comfortable, coffee-drinking young officer lounging in front of his computer console in Nevada, what airborne troops would call chairborne, is entitled to an equivalent or superior award for valor as those guys who fought it out on the ground. Should there be an award for drone pilots? Sure, but it should be to recognize their technical proficiency not their valor; with one exception: if that drone pilot is operating within some sort of mobile command post in a forward operating area and his post comes under fire in the course of battle, then a ”V” device could be awarded in recognition of that reality, as we now do with the Bronze Star.

Doesn’t this fiasco say it all about how clueless liberal Democrats are about the realities of combat?

Crossposted at American Thinker.

Category: Big Army, Military issues

Comments (33)

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  1. SJ says:

    Well said. Same for every swinging richard (and female equiv) in the logstics tail that extends from CONUS that gets the ammo, chow, POL, etc to that remote unit. Can’t fight a war without them. The warehouse guy stateside is a key player in the machine…but he/she doesn’t deserve a Bronze Star + for that. How about the NSA/DIA analyst at Meade that is able to ID where a bad guy is? Critical to effort? Yes. Deserving of a combat award? No.

  2. streetsweeper says:

    Okay, a ribbon I would go for. But a medal that would be higher in rating than the Bronze star for not being in right there, on the ground in harms way? No, no, no. Too many troops have died while physically on the battlefield or otherwise in the performance of their duties in foreign lands.

  3. Gunner3_4 says:

    Thank you for your service.

  4. A Proud Infidel says:

    @1,2, Amen to that, but I think that B. Hussein 0bama & Co. are dead set on inflicting this on us, they aren’t bashful about their dislike of Combat troops and Vets.

  5. Just an Old Dog says:

    I’ll say it again, Army Achievement, ARCOM. NAM and NAVCOM. Military Personnel who master the ability to fly drones, direct weapons, work extra long hours and live with the psychological burden that they are taking human lives need to be awarded for their actions. But since they do it without the sphincter-tightening fear of return fire its not an act of combat bravery.

  6. ChipNASA says:

    23 years in the AF and I have 2 MSMs.
    This crap disgusts even me. I’m ashamed.

  7. kp32 says:

    How about a NAM with a combat VG (Video Game).

    But sir, I had to ‘make’ the whole time.

  8. Robot Wrangler says:

    Seems like its a attaboy to this self entitled generation of special snowflakes. You know the types that got a trophy even though they lost the ballgame.

  9. Reaperman says:

    So if they had to fight off a freak mortar attack on their UAV shed, they likely wouldn’t get as nice of a medal.

  10. Anonymous says:

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  11. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    @8 It wasn’t a trophy for losing, it was a participation award. If you’re going to poke fun get it right!!

    Everyone gets the same award, that way the winners and the losers feel good about participating. Competition is bad we can’t have some kids who eat a hot dog and drink a coke at half time, who are as fat as a steer headed to slaughter, feel bad because they can’t run as quick as the athletic, fit kid who spends all his time outdoors in a state of motion instead of sitting on the sofa eating chips moving his little avatar on the TV screen….chubby losers have to feel good about themselves or we will destroy our culture you insensitive neanderthal…./sarc

  12. Jumpmaster says:

    To be fair, Panetta did a couple of years in the Army from ’64~’66 as an Intelligence officer stationed Stateside. That said, this new award is an affront to all of those that have earned the Bronze Star with “V” device. It is essentially a case of officers creating a prestigious new award for other officers.

  13. DaveO says:

    Drone warfare has a lead lining: the entire kill-chain for drones is divorced from combat. Combat becomes easy – no mud, no sweat, no rage for the fallen, no shoot/don’t shoot morality in play. Especially morality. People, through the lens of drones and computers, become objectified. There is evil in that.

    The next step is for these guys and gals to get proficiency pay in the tens of thousands of dollars. Why should we pay for the skills mastered by an 8 year old?

  14. Poetrooper my old friend… You just don’t get it.

    Our (yours and mine) military is an anachronism.

  15. Poetrooper says:

    @12 Jumpmaster. As six years in the Airborne taught me, the jumpmaster is someone you should listen to. You are in fact correct, JM, that Panetta did serve as a lieutenant in a stateside unit during the same time thousands of us were in southeast Asia earning our Combat Infantryman’s Badges.

    Perhaps it is that perspective that leads him to believe that such non-combat service should be so highly valued.

    I should have researched that point before posting. I went out the door with my static line unhooked…OOPS!

  16. SJ says:

    #15 “I went out the door with my static line unhooked…OOPS!”

    That happened in my unit to the Jumpmaster. He, wrongly, unhooked to clear a problem in the stick and the green light came on just as he was back in position. He forgot to re-hookup and was surprised to see this yellow line thingy hooked to his reserve as he passed through about 700′. Poped reserve and all ended well except for the Art 15.

  17. LCDR M(Ret) says:

    I’m a retired Cold War cryptologist and though I was in several sphincter puckering situations that could and would have ended very badly if they had gone to shit, I never faced a shot fired in even my general direction. I have enormous respect for those of my comrades who have been in combat, survived and then willingly gone back for more.

    Anyway, lots of cryptologist types rack up quite a set of ribbons. There was a joke among us Sailors in the day that all enlisted checking on board NSA should just pick up their JSCM at that time. It was that common for most military to get one no matter what their rank or contribution. It wasn’t uncommon back in the 80’s to see CT E-6’s with 4 or 5 NCMs, a couple of NAMs and a JSCM. Compare that with the “fleetie” who might get a NAM by the time they reach the same rank. Might.

    Through the years, I have come to believe that most awards other than those for valor are pretty much BS. If it wasn’t for the points to help get me promoted, I’d just as soon not have any. I appreciated it much more when any of my leaders looked me in the eye and sincerely congratulated and thanked me for a job well done.

    That attitude towards non-valor awards was firmly set as I watched the HBO series “The Pacific” which was on last year. Powerful series, but the episode on Peleliu affected me the most. The majority of the men who endured that particular stint in Hell came away with nothing more than their lives (no mean feat and for which every Marine was, of course, infinitely grateful). To my mind, anyone who walked across that airfield under that withering Japanese fire deserved an MOH. And most of these men went through the entire war with decorations no higher than a World War Two Victory Medal. Not that they were complaining. I knew lots of WW II vets growing up and not a single one ever complained that they didn’t get an award. Heck, they never talked about the war period. My father refused to talk about his 36 months in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. Just wanted to forget.

    This DSM is a total slap in the face of the concept of awards for valor and the men and women who have won these awards in combat. I cannot think of a bigger insult than placing this award above a Bronze Star in precedence. If my COC tried to give me one, I would categorically refuse it. I just can’t see how this piece of stupidity will stand. If it does, I will have lost ALL faith in the system.

  18. FatCircles0311 says:

    Anyone else notice that drone pilots are never charged by JAG for civilian deaths but grunts on the ground are, even though they were literally just blown up then responding to contact? For half a decade the Corps went out of their way to get a single conviction among an entire squad of grunts. Senators convicting them on national TV without recourse and yet drone pilots smoke civilians all the damn time without a peep from anyone within the DoD.

    What the hell is going on here?

  19. Wigwam says:

    Drones being used as close air-support assets? Not in this day and age. That’s like calling in a single M8 Greyhound for armor support. It can be used for CAS, but with such limited payload it won’t do much especially against a determined attack. Not to mention all the CAS assets like the A-10, Apache, or A-130H that are far, far better suited for these roles. After all, they were built and designed specifically for such a task. Even then CAS is nothing new, we’ve been using artillery for centuries to turn the tide of battle.

    To get out of AA range, drones need to fly thousands of meters above their target. At that high in the sky, it can take a Hellfire missile a few dozen seconds to reach its target. And in an ever changing battlefield, that is far too long to hit a target accurately. Ever wonder why precision guided munitions only hit bridges and other static targets? Because the finicky guidance system can’t ever hope to keep up with mobile ones.

    While the drone operators are in some remote location stateside, you still need someone on the ground to arm, refuel, and repair those drones. Not to mention the controller in the tower who helps land them as well. Unmanned, not independent and automated. Their use is entirely political. Just enough military force to not spark off an entire War while getting rid of a few people the President doesn’t like.

  20. Hondo says:

    Uh, Wigwam . . . the Hellfire was developed as an anti-armor weapons system.

    Tanks and APCs move.

  21. SJ says:

    #18 FatCircles0311
    Your JAG observation is sobering. Grunts have stringent ROE that puts them in danger or jail and a 19 year old has to weigh, in nano seconds, whether to take the shot or get shot. Meanwhile, back at Vegas the drone bubba goes home to hot chow and awaits his/her combat medal.

  22. A_Proud_Infidel says:

    @21, They also get fresh hot chow every day and sleep on clean sheets every night!

  23. Poetrooper says:

    @Wigwam Thank you for the benefit of your expertise. However, this piece was written for a largely civilian readership over at my principal posting site, American Thinker. The combat situation posed was purely hypothetical to demonstrate the larger point of the foolishness of awarding a medal to a drone pilot that surpasses that awarded the ground fighters.

    I haven’t been in combat for 47 years so my technical proficiency in that regard is no doubt inferior to yours. On the other hand, it appears I could kick your butt in reading comprehension skills. Missing the major premise and nitpicking the technical details is not something I think I’d be publicly boasting about. Especially when Hondo makes you look like you aren’t maybe as technically proficient as you think.

    Don’t misunderstand, I like comments, but I like them to be relevant to the premise of my post not just bitching from the ranks.

  24. OldSoldier54 says:

    “That’s pretty simple to answer for anyone with a lick of common sense.”

    As some wag noted elsewhere, common sense does not appear to be that common. Alas …

    There doesn’t appear to be any limit to the depths of nonsense and depravity Obama and his merry campers are willing to indulge in, in their desire to destroy the Republic. I am still stunned that he was given a second term.

  25. Outlaw13 says:

    This award also ranks below the Drone Medal…

  26. Outlaw13 says:

    Well it might help if I put the link in there:

  27. Moose says:

    It’s interesting that the ease with which warfare can be conducted has changed inversely to how much beauracracy grown and stopped it from doing so.

    Though that could also be applied to anything the government is involved in.

  28. Ex-PH2 says:

    If you will recall, a CIA drone crashed in Iran in December 2011. The drone was seized, photographed, dismantled by Iranian scientists, and subsequently sold to the Chinese, who now have a way to improve their stealth technology and use it against our troops.

    It is not particularly difficult to imagine our own technology being used against us by another government.

  29. 1stCavRVN11B says:

    @28 Maybe that drone driver that crashed in Iran will eventually receive a POW Medal?

    Excellent post Poetrooper!

  30. Anonymous says:

    I am that Capt. I agree we don’t deserve a medal with that much significance.

    Wigwam, your wrong the hard points on an MQ-9 are close to that of ur F-16. Reapers have a much longer loiter time as well and they absolutely are used in CAS missions. In the war we fight today the guys on the ground absolutely appreciate what we do. It’s not pretty but it helps.

    Again I completely agree this medal is a mistake but just wanted to correct Wigwam.

  31. Anonymous says:


    Also your weaponeering and threat assumptions are wrong as well

    Just sayin’

  32. Anonymous says:

    And to clear things up ‘drone’ shots are reviewed and if we are negligent or violate ROEs are held accountable for it.

    The problem is they’re half a world away and the information they receive is from a different perspective. A ton of the time I only know what I see through a soda straw and what the JTACs are relaying to me. However, if kinetics are delivered I am held responsible for it as well. Just because you don’t hear about it doesn’t mean it’s not going on.

    Don’t project because you don’t understand the career field. We’re all on the same side.

  33. FatCircles0311 says:

    @32: You’re full of shit dude. I hope I’m projecting enough to interrupt your poor attempt at dismissing the 5 ton gorilla that’s been a problem in the military since forever ,and that is the atrocious accountability and double standard between officers and enlisted. If you rc pilots were being chapter 11 by JAG for civilian deaths people would hear about it. You aren’t which is why nobody hears about it. This ridiculously absurd medal which was created for that same officer group just continues to take a crap all over enlisted recognition.

    You can always count on the good ‘ol buy club that’s for sure.