Monday, March 11, 2013

Drone pilots and PTSD

Combat Stress Felt Far From Front Lines
Mar 11, 2013
Associated Press
by Lolita C. Baldor

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- The gritty combat in Afghanistan is thousands of miles away.

But the analysts in the cavernous room at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia relive the explosions, the carnage and the vivid after-battle assessments of the bombings over and over again. The repeated exposure to death and destruction rolling across their computer screens is taking its own special toll on their lives.

The military has begun to grapple with the mental and emotional strains endured by personnel who may never come face to face with a Taliban insurgent, never dodge a roadside bomb or take fire, but who nevertheless may be responsible for taking human lives or putting their colleagues in mortal danger.

Now, for the first time, an Air Force chaplain and a psychologist are walking the floor of the operations center at Langley, offering counseling and stress relief to the airmen who scrutinize the war from afar.

Sitting at computer banks lining the expansive room, the Air Force analysts watch the video feeds streaming from surveillance drones and other military assets monitoring U.S. forces around the globe. Photos, radar data, full-motion video and electronically gathered intelligence flows across multiple screens. In 15- to 20-minute shifts, the airmen watch and interpret the information.
read more here
Hagel Will Not Reduce Drone Medal's Precedence
Mar 08, 2013
by Bryant Jordan

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will not alter the ranking of the recently announced Distinguished Warfare Medal, intended for drone pilots that has drawn controversy because it takes precedence over the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart.
In a letter to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the first group to come out against the new medal's ranking, Hagel said he is satisfied with the criteria and placement of the new medal. The medal is intended for drone pilots and cyber warfare specialists whose actions have a direct impact on combat operations.
"I have discussed at length the reasoning and process leading up to establishing the DWM with the [service secretaries and chiefs] and accept their judgment that the award is at the appropriate level," Hagel said in his letter.
read more here