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Crews sometimes see ground troops take casualties or come under attack. They zoom in on enemy dead to confirm casualties. Psychologically, they’re in the middle of combat. But physically most of them are on another continent, which can lead to a sense of helplessness.

“That lack of control is one of the main features of producing stress,” said Air Force Col. Hernando Ortega, who discussed results of a survey of Predator and Reaper crews at a recent conference in Washington, D.C. They ask themselves, he said: “Could I have done better? Did I make the right choices?”

The Air Force is only now becoming aware of the toll — which Air Force psychologists call combat stress — posed by drone crews’ job, even as the drone workload is growing.

Read the rest of David Zucchino’s report from the Los Angeles Times via Stars and Stripes.

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