Precedence is how the military ranks its awards, the more prestigious an award the higher that award is ranked as compared to other awards. This affects every individual in the armed services. If you have ever looked at the ribbons that a military service member wears while in service or dress uniform, upon first glance you may have thought, "Wow, that looks like a big hodge podge of random colors bricked together like a lego wall." In fact all of those random colored rectangular blocks are actually rectangular sections of ribbon mounted in a specific order or 'precedence' according to their individual ranking. Each ribbon is unique in its color pattern and is generally, although not necessarily representative of a Medal (refer to the Navy Unit Commendation below). When wearing service uniforms military members only wear their 'stack' of ribbons, however while in full dress uniform they have the option of wearing their full medals or simply the ribbons if they prefer (medals are way more costly to purchase and maintain).
|Medal of Honor Recipient, Dakota Meyer|
Notice medals worn on the right and additional
awards that are only worn as ribbons on the left
Generally speaking the precedence of awards follows as such:
1. Individual awards reserved for Valor (the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross are examples as opposed to awards like the Bronze star which can be awarded for reasons other than valor)
2. Individual awards (wide range of awards corresponding to the level of accomplishment or achievement)
|Bronze Star, although generally presented for valor|
is occasionally presented as an individual award
this is another contentious issue altogether
|Navy and Marine Corps achievment medal|
Presented for individual achievement
a combat V device would signify an act of valor
3. Unit awards (signify membership in a particular military unit that was recognized for accomplishments of the unit as a whole)
|Navy Unit Citation (Unit award is not a medal, presented as a ribbon only)|
|Iraqi Campaign Medal|
And here in lies the original controversy. The "Drone Medal" as originally proposed was set for a precedence level higher than a bronze star and several other medals given for acts of valor performed in combat if awarded with a combat "V" device attached. What is a combat "V" device? A 'combat' V is a miniature gold 'V' affixed to an individual award like an achievment medal (which is not strictly reserved for valor) in order to signify that the award is in fact presented for valor. But back to the controversy at hand. Establishing a medal like the 'Drone Medal' whose precedence is ranked higher than a number of medals awarded for valor in combat just rubbs a lot of people the wrong way.
|Navy Commendation Medal With Combat V Device|
Secretary Hagel made pretty much the best decision possible on this one, virtually all parties concerned are satisfied. Drone pilots will have a range of awards that can be awarded to specifically recognize their accomplishments, and combat awards retain a clearly distinguishable character of their own.
Now if only there were such an agreeable compromise on the defense budget life for Chuck would be a whole lot less stressful.