From his computer console here in the Syracuse suburbs, Col. D. Scott Brenton remotely flies a Reaper drone that beams back hundreds of hours of live video of insurgents, his intended targets, going about their daily lives 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan.
Sometimes he and his team watch the same family compound for weeks. “I see mothers with children, I see fathers with children, I see fathers with mothers, I see kids playing soccer,” Colonel Brenton said.
When the call comes for him to fire a missile and kill a militant — and only, Colonel Brenton said, when the women and children are not around — the hair on the back of his neck stands up, just as it did when he used to line up targets in his F-16 fighter jet.
Afterward, just like the old days, he compartmentalizes. “I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy,” he said. “I have a duty, and I execute the duty.”