By comparison, between 11% and 20% of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, including some Air Force crew members who fly conventional warplanes, have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to the National Center for PTSD.
At the very least, the stress leaves drone crews at risk for depression and anxiety disorders, potentially affecting their performance, psychologists say.
Often, crew members don't even acknowledge that they're stressed by combat. After all, they're not directly exposed to combat smells or sounds, or the imminent threat of death — all typically associated with PTSD in ground troops.
Crews who feel stress don't say it's "because I was in combat or because we had to blow up a building or because we saw people get blown up," Ortega said. Rather, he said, they complain of shift work, schedule changes, long hours, low staffing and failure to maintain family relationships.