U.S. drone warfare is the topic of an upcoming dark comedy for FX, focusing on drone pilots in Nevada who commute to war and “bomb the hell out of the Middle East”. Although the description doesn’t specifically name the air base, one can only assume the project is centered on Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada where pilots commute from Las Vegas. With the series appropriately titled Drones, the producers will find there’s a lot of darkness to the issue than comedy.
Reports indicate drone pilots are suffering from alarming levels of combat related stress. Creech AFB has counselors and chaplains on hand to support the mental strain of pilots transitioning from video game combat to civilian life. LA Times reporter David Zucchino writes, “The psychological challenges are unique: Pilots say that despite the distance, the video feed gives them a more intimate feel for the ground than they would have from a speeding warplane. Some say they would prefer to be in Afghanistan or Iraq to avoid the daily adjustment from the soccer field to the battlefield.”
An extremely dark moment in piloting drones took place when the American military released a report confessing the deaths of 23 Afghan civilians killed by a U.S. drone strike operated by pilots based at Creech AFB. The strike took place the morning of Feb. 21, 2010 in southern Afghanistan. The drone operators tracked a number of civilian vehicles for three and a half hours, reportedly only seeing military-age men through the real time video feed, though analysts sent computer messages to the operators that children were present. The Air Force personnel responsible for the deadly drone strike were given a reprimand.
Standing along the highway while drone pilots are driving into Creech AFB are anti-drone demonstrators with signs and banners condemning the use of drones for assassination. Creech AFB at one point was the epicenter of drone warfare but with the ever moving industry the expansion of drone bases continues to grow. Alternet.org reports that there is an estimate of 60 bases across the globe engaging in U.S drone missions. In a U.S. Air Force report, there are close to a hundred current and future unmanned aerial sites.
As A.V. Club reporter Sean O’Neal writes about the dark comedy Drones, “it might garner only several thousand protests.” If so, let’s only hope the protests will change public and political opinion and halt the U.S. from waging a Terminator-type assassin war.