Over a decade of conflict has left thousands of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and why President Barack Obama is relying heavily on drone and fighter jet airstrikes to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. However, drone operators responsible for monitoring targets and launching strikes also can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - and the PTSD, depression and anxiety levels of drone operators can match traditional pilots.
"I would go to sleep and dream about work, the mission, and continuously see the people I'd watch on the screen earlier now in my own head repeatedly being killed," said Brandon Bryant, who spent five years operating drone cameras in New Mexico and Nevada. Bryant witnessed at least 13 direct killings, while his squad tallied more than 1,626 combatants.
As medical researchers struggle to address PTSD among ground troops returning home, there is growing concern that drone operators - which continue to be relied upon for reconnaissance and precision strikes - could also face the same type of mental health problems. A frightening thought as drones have also been used in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, with strikes expected to continue against suspected terrorists.