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PTSD among drone operators

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PTSD among drone operators

Old 13th Jul 2015, 10:50
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PTSD among drone operators

Very interesting article this.

Drone operators risk mental trauma, says RAF commander - BBC News

What stood out for me is the mention of all-year ops:

Wing Cdr Killeen said the potential for psychological and emotional impact on drone operators was "far greater than it ever was with a manned cockpit".

"You've got that resolution where you know exactly what it is that's on the other end of your crosshairs," he said.

"Reaper has that resolution but it's magnified by the fact that we're airborne for hours and hours and we don't do four-month tours."

Instead, he said, it was an all-year-round job, adding: "That's where the greater potential for this [post-traumatic stress disorder] comes from."
I've known a few guys with PTSD issues from overseas ops, and they all say that the lack of decompression time has been part of the problem. With technology making it possible for somebody to go to work, fly a mission and witness some unpleasant sights before going home for tea with the family, it's surely likely to get worse because there will be NO decompression time. Does the RAF need to look into how members of the emergency services deal with trauma on a daily basis and apply similar techniques? And should anybody be doing this on an all-year round basis?

I'm all for doing things that will bring less risk to our service personnel, but the potential for problems in the future is something we must look at now.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 11:38
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PTSD at home is not a new phenomena for the RAF. Plenty of aircrew in WWII flew combat missions and then returned home with their family. Also, many have frightened themselves fartless during a training mission only to return home the same day.

The Mess Bar used to be a great decompression tool, although that seems to be out of favour with the Sport Billies and the blood-alcohol nazis. However, having a couple of pints and a natter to your mates before going home would certainly help (not 'wife beater' like Stella or Wobbly, though!).

The Sqn needs to manage the PTSD and if that means having a few beds and a bar on the Sqn to allow guys/gals under pressure the option to stay over and 'get it off their chests' then that has to be a good thing.

Finally, the days of decompression at AKI during HERRICK were utter nonsense in my mind. After a 4-6 month stint 'on the job' I just wanted to get home - indeed the idea of going on the lash in Cyprus with the lads introduced more problems at home than they might cure in my circumstances! Luckily I managed to engineer a way of avoiding them for both of my tours...

LJ
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 11:47
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I fully understand the risk is there but why turn it into a p---ing contest by saying it's harder than in the cockpit, truth is that each person has their own threshold that means it needs to be monitored individually ( meaning it's down to the person and Chain to manage).
It's certainly helps being detached from the action, and therefore , maybe there are ways to deal with it, how that is done, I hope it is done with compassion.....
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 12:52
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An aside on a serious subject, but the Wingco sounds terribly like Alastair campbell!
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 13:32
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I fully understand the risk is there but why turn it into a p---ing contest by saying it's harder than in the cockpit, truth is that each person has their own threshold that means it needs to be monitored individually ( meaning it's down to the person and Chain to manage).
It's certainly helps being detached from the action, and therefore , maybe there are ways to deal with it, how that is done, I hope it is done with compassion.....
^^^This^^^

There's no need for comparisons. PTSD is what it is for each individual. I know & accept that I can't compare my fireground experiences with combat veterans (and I never would) but out of the 5 guys on my truck, only the driver suffered genuine PTSD symptoms. Whilst I'm lucky, it still took time to rule out PTSD, but we experienced the same life threatening situation.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 13:36
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I don't think you even need to experience an event at first hand to suffer PTSD.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 14:21
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There's a lot of talk about after the fact, I'm hoping it comes as no surprise to an operator exactly what he/she is about to undertake and therefore the necessary prep is carried out. Training, training, training.....7 p's, train hard fight easy....call it what you will. If they are talking about it, I certainly hope they are following up with actions, but I take issue with this harder than the cockpit nonsense, they do a Stirling job, no need to undermine others.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 15:19
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I take issue with this harder than the cockpit nonsense,
I don't know who you're taking issue with, because nobody has said that.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 15:29
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I suspect that the way in which the BBC covered it, particularly on I-player, might lead to people inferring that this is what was being said.

If you look at OC13's position on this, though - from his ACSC research paper, via the article derived from it which appeared in Air Power Review and through other comments he's made - you'll see that the point he has always attempted to make is that certain commentators deny the possibility of anyone flying/operating an RPAS having any sort of attachment to what they see on the ground.


This, of course, is part of a line of argument put forward by some who seek to suggest that 'drone warriors' are, in effect, dispassionate video-game warriors lacking compassion and understanding of what they're doing and which has given rise to the whole 'drone wars' /'killer robots' debate whereby a number of commentators are able to postulate the notion that the 'drone' is a weapon of dubious legality because of the attitude and approach of the operators who are able to kill at will, with complete detachment and without any dangers or stresses.


And I rather think that it is that line of argument which he is attempting to challenge - not to suggest that it is somehow 'harder' than being in a cockpit. The problem, of course, being that the BBC coverage doesn't quite convey this...
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 15:30
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To clarify I meant harder in psychological impact terms.....I just cant understand why he would say this
"Wing Cdr Killeen said the potential for psychological and emotional impact on drone operators was "far greater than it ever was with a manned cockpit".
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 16:29
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A drone operator may have to remain on station with cameras zoomed in on the target they have just hit, and therefore have to witness the immediate aftermath of what they have done. By comparison a fast jet crew would not be able to see everything in the same manner simply because they do not have the equipment to enable them to do so.

That's what OC 13 is saying, I think, and I can see where he is coming from.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 18:53
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For an idea of why this is an issue, Google "confessions of a drone warrior". RPAS pilots get to know their targets in a way unthinkable before; watch their lives with their families and children for days or weeks, watch in close-up the kill, survivors writhing in agony, first aid attempts then grieving relatives collecting body parts. Then home to tea with the missus. It's 100% understandable that there are likely to be issues with PTSD.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 18:57
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Do they get treatment for piles?
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 19:11
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Why does everything have to be a race to the bottom these days? Who's to say whose PTSD is more valid FFS
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 19:13
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 19:28
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PTSD....??

PTSD for drone operators surely means "Pass the sodding doughnuts!"...

Because we won GW1 with so few casualties (and MoD refused to accept 'Gulf War Syndrome'), no-one seems to have given much concern to how those who faced nightly Scud attacks and were ordered to take experimental anti-anthrax drugs, NAPs etc felt after getting back to 'normal' work....where the PONTIs had been safely polishing the chairs for 6 months.

A colleague who'd been shot down in the South Atlantic had similar problems and was marched off to the funny farm until his wonderful wife went down and kicked ar$e at Wroughton.....

Although a generous MoD did tell us "You aren't allowed to wear the medals you were awarded by the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emir of Kuwait".... Thanks, chaps....

PTSD after sitting in a tin box at Waddo? YGBSM!!
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 19:33
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I have an acquaintance who was a "Combat PortaCabin" operative ... I shall try to seek a personal input.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 19:46
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Easy to solve.

Let the Drone Driver do his thing (wearing the obligatory flying suit), then, come the moment of truth, let a trained member of the ARMED FORCES of the UK press the trigger.

Like it or not (and if you don't like it, find another job) the RAF are part of the ARMED FORCES not some part of the hugs and cuddles brigade.

And before someone has a 'go' at me, I have had pointy bang things aimed in my direction and have fired pointy bang things back. Not nice, but that's what I was paid for after signing up to join an ARMED FORCE.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 19:47
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PTSD or piles can affect any of us. Been there, both ailments.
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Old 13th Jul 2015, 19:53
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Hasn't Hollywood made a film about this recently?
Are they not approaching it from the wrong angle? The training before qualifying, and most of all the grading and screening beforehand should rule out people who are simply not suitable. Did they look at this in the grading?
Condition people to it better? If that is even possible.
Shorten the tours? Insert compulsory breaks and further psychological screening?
It must be awful, an awful job.

Think the person who suggested bars and having a few drinks to talk it out a bit is bang on the money. The villages around my way had many working men's clubs which converted into Comrades Clubs shortly after WW1. An awful lot of stuff was talked out by ordinary men over pints among their fellow old comrades. Its old fashioned but to a large degree it actually worked very well.
Nothing at all to do with this but a story. Mother' family lived next door to a harmless chap who happened to be a Army reservist in 1939. He was called up and sent to France, from where he was evacuated at Dunkirk. He was so horrified and traumatised by what he had seen he was immediately discharged and returned home, where he spent five weeks upstairs in his bedroom, lying on his bed, curtains closed. Gradually, he ventured out and back into some sort of normality.
So perhaps conversely an entire break from all military routine and life is also an answer?
But I know nothing. Truly hope these people are well looked after. They're doing this for us.
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