Air Force to Help Moral Injury PTSD in UAV Operators

The US Air Force is initiating a program to help “a moral injury form of PTSD” that may be developing in UAV operators:

[UAV operators] watch and listen to an objective for days on end, learning everything about the intended target. Then, when approval is granted for a strike, they watch the results in high-definition, Atkins said.

Fear-based PTSD is something that combat personnel experience, but there is also a moral injury form of PTSD which can affect ISR cryptology personnel, Atkins said. Dealing with, and treating, fear-based PTSD is different than dealing with the type of PTSD that goes against a person’s beliefs and morals.

It is admirable the Air Force has officially identified moral injury as a potential combat ‘wound’, though its unclear why this realization is only being applied to UAV operators. Why would anyone think moral injury was limited to those who control their vehicles remotely?

To their credit, the Air Force acknowledged the role of chaplains in supporting this moral need:

“Chaplains are honored to provide spiritual care for 25th Air Force ISR warriors and their families,” said Chaplain (Col.) Bruce Glover, the 25th AF senior chaplain. “When helping Airmen deal with moral or spiritual injuries of war, we are privileged to be compassionate caregivers as Airmen wrestle with complicated issues involving adjustment, grief, relationships, forgiveness or even shame. We are also committed to work with other professionals providing medical and psychological care for Airmen.”

It is a step in a good direction to help members of the US Air Force — and, hopefully, the military as a whole — deal with the spiritual and moral issues of the combat and killing to which their nation has sent them.