WASHINGTON -- They fight the war from computer consoles and video screens.

The troops who launch drone strikes and direct the cyberattacks that can kill or disable an enemy may never set foot in the combat zone. Now their battlefield contributions may be recognized with the first new combat-related medal to be created in decades.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced yesterday that the Pentagon is creating a medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations, but do it well away from any combat zone.

"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 blue, red and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded for "extraordinary achievement" related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. Unlike other combat medals, it does not require that the recipient risk his or her life to get it. It will be the first combat-related award to be created since the Bronze Star in 1944.

The medal will be considered a bit higher in ranking than the Bronze Star, but lower than the Silver Star, defense officials said. It is a brass pendant, nearly two inches tall, with a laurel wreath that circles a globe. There is an eagle in the center. -- AP

Latest videos