In a recent interview, former US Air Force drone operator Brandon Bryant explains how the drones program enabled him to become a participant in over 1,600 deaths.
In an interview with NBC’s Richard Engel, Bryant recounts his experiences as a controller flying military drone missions, a program that has begun to garner public attention and criticism.
As Bryant’s drone operating career began to wind down in 2011, a commander presented him with a service report that he likened to a scorecard. His “score?” 1,626 confirmed deaths. It was at this moment that he remembers thinking:
“I would’ve been happy if they never even showed me this piece of paper. I’ve seen American soldiers die, innocent people die, and insurgents die. And it’s not pretty. It’s not something that I want to have – this diploma.”
Bryant recounted the story of joining the Air Force at age 19, beginning three years of training in 2005 that would eventually land him at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada after a recruiter noticed his high aptitude scores.
The recruiter told Bryant that, as a drone operator, he’d be like one of the smart guys in the control rooms in the James Bond movies, helping the agents complete their missions.
After several hundred missions, however, Bryant didn’t feel like a good guy or a secret agent.
Saying he “lost respect for life,” Bryant remembers going into the control room where information about wanted terrorists hung on the wall, remarking, “Which one of these f*ckers is going to die today?”
The Veterans Administration has diagnosed Brandon Bryant with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Daily, Bryant explains, he struggles with the memory and regret of his participation in taking the lives of so many individuals as a drone operator, not all of whom he has been convinced were enemy combatants.
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