Military cyber warriors and drone operators can now unlock the ultimate achievement from the comfort of their desk chairs:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that for the first time the Pentagon is creating a medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations, but do it from afar. “I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said. “And they’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar.” The work they do “does contribute to the success of combat operations, particularly when they remove the enemy from the field of battle, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight,” he said.

The new blue, red and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to individuals for “extraordinary achievement” related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike other combat medals, it does not require the recipient risk his or her life to get it. Officials said the new medal will be the first combat-related award to be created since the Bronze Star in 1944. A recognition of the evolving 21st Century warfare, the medal will be considered a bit higher in ranking than the Bronze Star, but is lower than the Silver Star, defense officials said.

The timing of the announcement is interesting. One wonders if Chuck Hagel might be less enthusiastic about instituting the award, given his experience in actual combat.

In all seriousness, it’s conceivable that some intrepid counter-hacker might do something so unique and valorous that it deserves this kind of recognition, but a drone pilot?