The DWM will be awarded to honor individuals for single acts of extraordinary achievement, not involving acts of valor, that directly impact combat or other military operations approved by the secretary of defense.
Unlike other combat-related medals, service members may be awarded the DWM for actions completed from either in or outside an actual combat zone.
The action must include hands-on employment of a weapons system, including remotely controlled assets, or any other activity, in any domain, that had a direct and immediate on-site effect on an engagement or operation against a target.
The domain is expansive in scope and includes air, land, maritime, space and cyberspace, according to Air Force Personnel Center guidance.
“In modern warfare, one individual can have a truly ‘extraordinary’ impact on combat operations, whether they are located on the front lines, elsewhere in the (area of responsibility) or half way around the world,” said Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “DOD has authorized the DWM, allowing the services to recognize their members, in our case Airmen, whose single act of extraordinary achievement directly and significantly impacts critical combat operations.”
Though involvement in a combat operation is required, the medal will not be awarded for acts of valor under any circumstances. Actions involving valor should be considered for other decorations.
Valor is defined as “an act or acts of heroism by an individual above what is normally expected while engaged in direct combat with an enemy with exposure to enemy hostilities and personal risk,” said Senior Master Sgt. Diana Gonzalez, the AFPC awards and recognition chief.
The criteria needed to be considered for the medal requires that the extraordinary achievement must result in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from comrades or others in similar situations. The approval chain sets the bar high as to what meets the criteria.
“The approval level (service secretary), in our case the Secretary of the Air Force, testifies to the importance of this award and the importance of the action on combat operations,” Jones said.
For airmen, the final approval authority for the medal is the secretary of the Air Force. One step of the approval chain rests with the commander of air forces in the respective area of responsibility.
For an airman nominated for action taken from outside the combat zone, the commander of Air Force forces will verify the direct impact of the action on the combat operation.
The DWM will immediately follow the Distinguished Flying Cross in order of precedence. Enlisted airmen who earn the medal will receive five promotion points.
Eligibility for the medal is retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001.
Nominations for currently-serving airmen will be processed through their respective chain of command.
“Former airmen who have since retired or separated can contact us for information on how to submit the medal request,” Gonzalez said. “The medal can also be presented posthumously, so family members can query us as well.”
For more information and full eligibility criteria, go to the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil and enter “DWM” in the search window.