In my experience, being in the service isn’t much like it is in the movies. Writers have a tendency to romanticize or bromanticize the whole idea of war. Someone’ll put a cherry of honor on that big patriotic sundae, and force feed the masses with it. Do I regret my time in? No. Do I regret what I had to do? Yeah, sometimes.
Our Air Force drone pilots have it worse though. Where being at war takes you away from your family and into a hostile environment, you’re there with your fellow soldiers. That environment lends itself to what you have to do. The talk, the sounds, the full emersion in the way of war prepares you in a way that sitting back at post can’t ever do. You’re in the shit and so is everybody else.
Air Force drone pilots don’t have that. They’re stateside. And the whole things has an Ender’s Game quality to me. Fly the mission so far removed from the thick of it and take out targets from base. When their 12 hour shift is over, they go drive home. No time to deal, no time to get your brain around it. Home to the wife and kids. Home to PTA meetings and Little League. And so they’re leaving the service, unable to cope with the clinical nature of pushing a button and watching the aftermath a world away.
What’s the solution? Don’t have one. But the fact that these men and women don’t want murder (because that’s how it feels to them) gives me some hope. I don’t think we’ll ever get to drone on drone warfare where we all watch from home on CNN, but maybe we will. What do I know?