The medal, which is part of the branch’s Remote Combat Effects Campaign (RCEC), was officially established by former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in late May, years after the Pentagon’s 2013 efforts to recognize drone pilots were harshly criticized by veterans’ groups who believed the award would outrank those given to troops who served in active missions at risk of personal harm.
The Air Force’s release indicates that service members serving “in remotely piloted aircraft, cyber, space and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance career fields, who create direct combat effects from remote locations and lead to strategic outcomes or the delivery of lethal force” will be eligible to receive the award.
Service members in associated fields may also be considered; however, eligibility will be examined on a case-by-case basis, reads the announcement.
Additionally, officials have specified that individuals can earn the RCEC medal for actions committed on or after September 11, 2001, while also being assigned or linked to a combat operation approved by the US Defense Department and having “personally provided hands-on employment of a weapon system that had direct impact on an operation,” among other conditions.
“Our remote operations community makes vital contributions to our national security and the security of our allies,” Gen. David L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, said in a statement. “These Airmen play a crucial role in every campaign we undertake, and this medal is for them.”
The listed qualifying combat operations include: Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Nomad Shadow, Freedom’s Sentinel, Inherent Resolve, Odyssey Lightning and Pacific Eagle - Philippines.