Metro-East News

Roger That: Pentagon rejects idea of ‘Nintendo medal’ for drone pilots

The Pentagon has firmly rejected the idea of giving drone pilots and cyber warriors their own medal, and instead will offer a new “R” device to pin on existing noncombat medals, according to Military Times.

After a two-year review of the once-controversial issue, defense officials decided that creating such a device that may be affixed to noncombat performance awards is sufficient to “specifically recognize remote but direct impact on combat operations,” according to a memo obtained by Military Times.

The memo added that a common definition of “direct impact on combat operations” should be devised.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to sign the memo later this week.

The small pin — a quarter-inch "R," denoting “remote,” that will be stylistically similar to the existing “V,” denoting valor — could be affixed to an array of non-combat medals, for example the Meritorious Service Medal.

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The Pentagon is poised to order the military services to review more than 1,000 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, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.

If approved by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the sweeping review would represent one of the most significant steps in decades to honor troops who have displayed extraordinary courage in combat. The review stems from a study of military decorations and awards that was ordered in March 2014 by then Defense SecretaryChuck Hagel "to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members."

Should even a fraction of the medals under review be upgraded, it's possible that dozens more troops would receive the Medal of Honor for their bravery in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Late last year, the Senate issued a report that found that Gilead Sciences, which makes a cure for a fatal form of hepatitis, is more interested in profits than patients. The cure was invented under the leadership of a celebrated doctor in the Department of Veterans Affairs, but at $1,000 a pill, even the VA can't afford to save the lives of veterans who need it, according to CBS News.

In 2013, Vietnam veteran Zion Yisrael was told he had five years to live. He has stage 4 liver disease, caused by hepatitis C — which has infected as many as 230,000 veterans. Most veterans contracted it in Vietnam where it was spread by battlefield blood transfusions and vaccinations.

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The Marine Corps Times is reporting that the Marine Corps has been ordered to come up with a plan to make its enlisted entry-level training coed, and to make its job titles more gender-neutral following the recent move to open all military combat roles to women.

In a Jan. 1 memo to Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus requested a “detailed plan” on how the service will fully integrate its boot camp and Officer Candidate School. The plan is due Jan. 15 and will be implemented by April 1, the memo states.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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