NYT: As Stress Drives Off Drone Operators, Air Force Must Cut Flights

Jason Perry

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From an article in today's New York Times:

By CHRISTOPHER DREW and DAVE PHILIPPS JUNE 16, 2015 CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — After a decade of waging longdistance war through their video screens, America’s drone operators are burning out, and the Air Force is being forced to cut back on the flights even as military and intelligence officials are demanding more over intensifying combat zones in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The Air Force plans to trim the flights by the armed surveillance drones to 60 a day by October from a recent peak of 65 as it deals with the first serious exodus of the crew members who helped usher in a new era of war by remote control. Air Force officials said that this year they would lose more drone pilots, who are worn down by the unique stresses of their work, than they can train. “We’re at an inflection point right now,” said Col. James Cluff, the commander of the Air Force’s 432nd Wing, which runs the drone operations from this desert outpost about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

http://nyti.ms/1cYKGhq

This issue of impact of duty on drone operators has come up before several times on the forum. A common issue raised is whether conditions like PTSD or depression that might be a basis for a combat-related finding or award of a Purple Heart for someone in theater or directly piloting an aircraft should also be a basis for findings for drone operators. I think this is an important issue.
 

chaplaincharlie

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Indian Spring might be a contributing factor. As difficult as 9 deployments were, I'm glad I didn't have to go home every morning after a 12+ hours shift doing stuff.
 

danieldresen

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Personally, if given a chance to put on a uniform again, I think I would be a drone operator. I can understand the psychological implications of controlling a weapon that takes lives but it is also important to have trust in the Intel you are given when carrying out the missions. I want to protect lives from these radical nut jobs in ISIS but I also hate direct confrontation and the sight of blood so drone operator would be a better role but I would think the 12 hour shifts would get to me after a while.
 

Wally3430

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danieldresen...it's a good job. But, it wears you down. Rotating shifts, long commutes, crap bases, super compartmentalization, not to mention watching in HD while the hellfire or GBU you guide in turns enemy into little chunks of meat......over and over and over again. Intel only does so much...the rest of it is on the crew to make a decision. It's no video game. IMHO, I suspect there will be many more on this forum in the future...
 

Wally3430

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Indian Spring might be a contributing factor. As difficult as 9 deployments were, I'm glad I didn't have to go home every morning after a 12+ hours shift doing stuff.
Little known fact...half of the RPA mission is actually downrange. Many folks would volunteer for a deployment simply to get a break from operations at Creech. I did twice. I go back again.
 

danieldresen

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I know that. Met a few drone operators and realize the long hours and strain but it does seem a more worthwhile job than my last one. My last one helped people but it seemed to be a waste of talents. Drone warfare, cyber warfare, working with computers... all seem to be more worthwhile in this age.
 

Wally3430

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I know that. Met a few drone operators and realize the long hours and strain but it does seem a more worthwhile job than my last one. My last one helped people but it seemed to be a waste of talents. Drone warfare, cyber warfare, working with computers... all seem to be more worthwhile in this age.
Definitely tip of the spear job..no doubt
 

chaplaincharlie

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....not to mention watching in HD while the hellfire or GBU you guide in turns enemy into little chunks of meat......over and over and over again...
Predator porn, damages the soul.
 
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