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Hagel drops controversial medal for drone operators

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday eliminated the Distinguished Warfare Medal, overturning one of Leon Panetta’s last acts in the position.

The award — which had come to be known as the Nintendo Medal — recognized drone pilots and cyber operators.

Now, instead of a medal, individuals will receive a pin that will be placed on another existing medal — similar to a V that is pinned to a Bronze Star to indicate an award with valor.

The medal was established to “recognize the achievements of a small number of service men and women who have an especially direct and immediate impact on combat operations through the use of remotely piloted aircraft and cyber operations,” Hagel wrote in a statement.

Hagel ordered a review of the medal after hearing feedback from veterans groups, Congress members and others. The review “confirmed the need to ensure such recognition,” Hagel said, but “it found that misconceptions regarding the precedence of the award were distracting from its original purpose.

“The service men and women, who operate and support our remotely piloted aircraft, operate in cyber, and others are critical to our military's mission of safeguarding the nation,” Hagel continued. “I again want to thank my predecessor, Leon Panetta, for raising the need to ensure that these men and women are recognized for their contributions.”