The Air Force has announced the eligibility criteria for the Remote Combat Effects Campaign Medal (RCECM).

The RCECM aims to recognize the actions of non-deployable Air Force personnel in ground combat. It is, in fact, tailored to the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) community, which has been providing key intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and air support to ground elements in known and unknown battlefields.

The Department of Defence (DoD) has set three qualifying factors to determine eligibility for the RCECM:

“1) Was assigned or attached to a unit directly in support of a DoD combat operation as approved by the chief of staff of the Air Force
2) Was serving in a remotely piloted aircraft; cyber; space or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance career field
3) Personally provided hands-on employment of a weapon system that has direct and immediate impact on combat operations
4) Was not physically exposed to hostile actions or at risk of exposure to hostile action”


The RCECM (Air Force).

The combat operations that have been approved by the chief of staff of the Air Force are the following:

• Operation Enduring Freedom, Sept. 11, 2001 – TBD (pretty much everything related to the Global War on  Terror)
• Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 29, 2003 – Aug. 31, 2010 (Iraq)
• Operation New Dawn, Sept. 1, 2010 – Dec. 31, 2011 (Iraq)
• Operation Nomad Shadow, Nov. 5, 2007 – TBD (Intelligence sharing with Turkey)
• Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Jan. 1, 2015 – TBD (Afghanistan)
• Operation Inherent Resolve, June 15, 2014 – TBD (Iraq and Syria)
• Operation Odyssey Lightning, Aug. 1, 2016 – Dec. 19, 2016 (Libya)
• Operation Pacific Eagle – Philippines, Oct. 5, 2017 – TBD (anti-ISIS operations in the Philippines)

In 2007, the Air Force established the Air Force Combat Action Medal (AFCAM) to recognize the increased participation of airmen in ground combat. These Battlefield Airmen include the Special Warfare specialties (Combat Controllers, Pararescuemen, Special Reconnaissance operators, Tactical Air Control Party technicians), EOD operators and Survival Escape Resistance and Evasion (SERE) Airmen.

Some, however, perceive the RCECM as controversial since it doesn’t evolve exposure to close combat.

The Army has the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) for infantry soldiers, the Combat Action Badge (CAB) for non-infantry soldiers and the Combat Medical Badge (CMB) for non-infantry medical soldiers.

The Navy and Marine Corps have the Combat Action Ribbon (CAR) for personnel who have engaged in ground or surface combat. For the past decades, with surface engagements being limited, a vast majority of Sailors have been ‘restricted’ from earning the CAR. Aside from Navy SEALs, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) operators and Corpsmen, it is rare indeed to find a Sailor with a CAR.

The RCECM was established last May by the then-Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson.