Drone pilots at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
'Did We Just Kill A Kid?' — Six Words That Ended A US Drone Pilot's Career
The New Mexico desert gets blistering hot, but inside the small windowless container where Brandon Bryant worked as a drone operator for the U.S. Air Force it stays a cool 63 degrees all year long. Sixty-three finger numbing degrees and Bryant describes sitting with a group of other pilots looking at more than a dozen computer monitors. The crew are directing drones over Afghanistan 6,250 miles away and the screens jump with a two to five second delay, as infrared video sent from the UAVs whips through the air to New Mexico.
When the order to fire on a target arrives, Bryant paints the roof of a hut with the laser that will guide in a Hellfire missile fired by the pilot beside him.
"These moments are like in slow motion," he says to Abé. No doubt, because on this occasion Bryant says a child walked from behind the building at the last second.
Too late for him to do anything else but ask the other pilot, "Did we just kill a kid?"
"Yeah, I guess that was a kid," the pilot replied.
"Was that a kid?" they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.
Then, someone they didn't know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. "No. That was a dog," the person wrote.
They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?
From his mother's couch in Missoula, Montana Bryant talks of his 6,000 Air Force flight hours and says he used to dream in infrared. "I saw men, women and children die during that time," he says. "I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn't kill anyone at all."
Living Under Drones
Photos by William Banzai7...