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Drone Pilots Experience Same Trauma as Soldiers on the Battlefield, Study Finds

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 A pilot prepares to launch a U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), from a ground control station at a secret air base in the Persian Gulf region on January 7, 2016. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A pilot prepares to launch a U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), from a ground control station at a secret air base in the Persian Gulf region on January 7, 2016. (John Moore/Getty Images)

 

Intelligence analysts and drone pilots experience the trauma of war like other soldiers on the battlefield, an Air Force study found.

Despite being stationed in the United States, far away from the front line, the military personnel that collect intelligence in the fight against terrorist groups, like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, struggle to process their experiences.

While they wage war remotely, their perception over what they are seeing turns out to be just as traumatic as their counterparts on the ground.

Analysts spend hours watching video feeds from drones hovering over violent conflicts, watching troubling events unfold from thousands of miles away. A recent Air Force study found that one in five witnessed a rape over the course of a year, while some reported seeing up to 100 acts of sexual violence or torture, according to NPR.

The sun rises over an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Dec. 16, 2016. The 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron supports the 6th Reconnaissance Squadron as well as the 9th and 29th Attack Squadrons, enabling the graduation of pilots and sensor operators in support of the Air Force's largest formal training unit. Additionally, Airmen with the 49th AMS continuously deploy in support of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
The sun rises over an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Dec. 16, 2016.  (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

 

Some analysts experience more emotional exhaustion after a day of monitoring drone footage than soldiers who’ve fired a weapon, Stars and Stripes reports.

The 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, which contains about 80 percent of the Air Force’s imagery analysts, keeps a team of medical professionals to help with the trauma on their base in Virginia.

Psychologists recommend adding more analysts to ease the psychological burden and rotating them to work on something less traumatic can help.

Read more about the findings on NPR.

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