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Springhill Group Korea Drone-shocked pilots require counselling/GOOD.IS

Posted Mar 18 2013 6:58am

Springhill Group Korea

The US military has begun to grapple with the mental and emotional strains endured by Air Force personnel who may never come face to face with a Taliban insurgent or take fire, but still may be responsible for taking lives or putting their own colleagues in mortal danger. While they are far away from the gritty combat in Afghanistan, 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. Now, for the first time, an Air Force chaplain and a psychologist are walking the floor of the operations centre at Langley, offering counselling and stress relief to the airmen who scrutinise 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 US 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. Through chat windows, they exchange data, update intelligence reports and talk in real time with commanders on the ground, including troops whose lives may depend on the constant and rapid flow of information they get from Langley. For example, they may provide information that allows a commander to order an airstrike, but after the weapon is launched, the analysts might suddenly see that the insurgents are fleeing or that civilians or children are moving into the strike zone, and by then they are helpless to do anything about it."If you have a 21-year-old playing a video game, when the game is over they start again. Here, if they miss a bad guy, that's what they carry with them," said Air Force Major Shauna Sperry, a psychologist who has just begun working with the air wing. They also often have to go over video of an incident repeatedly to assess the battle damage. "It's not a video game, it's real," said Captain Robert Duplease, the chaplain assigned to the 497th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group. "It's repeated exposure to destruction and warfare. They see it, rewind it, see it, rewind it." The analysts who provide this information to ground troops are stationed at six Air Force bases around the world, including South Korea, Germany and four US bases. The wing at Langley number 1,200 airmen, both male and female, enlisted personnel and officers, but most around 19 to 21 years old.

Springhill Group Korea


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