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Pilots of remote-controlled Predators suffering PTSD

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Interesting article over on Military.com about how some Predator pilots are beginning to show signs of psychological stress even though they’re not technically fighting on a battlefield. The pilots spend most of their time in air-conditioned trailers in front of an array of monitors, piloting the remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from just outside of Las Vegas. However, some are finding it difficult to cope with being able to watch the aftermath of the bombs they drop.

The above video is a declassified video of a UAV mission. From the article on Military.com, it seems that the current-day system used is much higher resolution than the above video, as various Predator pilots say things along the lines of being able to distinguish between men and women and having to watch some pretty graphic and vivid scenes.

Unlike soldiers on the battlefield, the UAV pilots return home after “work” to their families and otherwise normal lives, which can lead to stress as they’re not allowed to talk about their jobs.

Something that’s always stuck with me about PTSD as it pertains to battle is that with World War I and World War II, you didn’t see as much PTSD because, for instance, when WWII ended, soldiers had to slowly make their way all the way across Europe and then finally back to the United States. They had time to trade stories and talk with each other before returning to real life. Then with later wars, like the Vietnam War, you’d have soldiers flown out on helicopters and back in the states in less than a day.

They didn’t have time to process everything that they’d seen and the lack of adjustment time led to stress, so you saw more frequent cases of PTSD. To be fair, that likely wasn’t the only cause of increased cases of PTSD. These were very different wars. At any rate, these Predator pilots are likely feeling the same sorts of emotions – kill all day, then hop in the car and drive home with little to no time to process anything.

Now all that being said, if you look at some of the comments on this article, you’ll see plenty of people – many who appear to be soldiers – talking about how working in an air-conditioned trailer is nothing near being on the field of battle and that these UAV pilots need to toughen up. I’d think that piloting a UAV wouldn’t be as stressful as being shot at in real life, but I’m sure both roles come with their own levels of stress.

I’m not qualified to speak on either subject, as I’m just a Type-1 Diabetic with corrective lenses who’d never be allowed near a military base for fear that I’d wet my pants. Let’s just agree that killing people and/or being shot at, whether remotely or in person, would probably be more stressful than most of us could handle.

Predator Pilots Suffering War Stress [Military.com]

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