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Air Force Struggles with New Identity

In its sixty-two year history the Air Force has seen its mission change multiple times as the U.S. has engaged in different types of warfare. With recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the Air Force may be changing its very core identity. Central to the mission and identity shift is the Predator Drone and whether those who operate it can be called pilots. The Air Force has long held fighter pilots in position of honor. However, it is not until Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed Norton Schwartz to lead the Air Force that Predator pilots have received similar acknowledgment for their importance to the Air Force. Schwartz has also shaken the Air Force up by allowing servicemen who have not flown planes to fly the predator drones. This was done in part to meet the rising demand for the Predator Drone missions.

Despite it rise in prevalence the Air Force’s Predator pilots leave some major questions unanswered. What awards does a Predator pilot receive for saving the lives of his or her fellow soldiers? Are the Predator pilots facing “combat”? If a mission goes wrong or a pilot inexcusably kills civilians what legal repercussions does he or she face? The answer to these and other questions will define the Air Force and U.S. and the nature of war for decades to come.

Read more at the Washington Post.


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