Air Force intelligence analysts watching thousands of hours of live video footage from Iraq and Syria are the military's eyes on ISIS that can never look away.
In an exclusive report on the secret work underway at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, The Washington Post followed one analyst, identified only as Courtney, in a grueling 10-hour day characterized by "long stretches of boredom and grim flashes of action" as she helps guide pilots' decisions on when to shoot – "and watches the last seconds of another person's life."
According to the Post, with President Donald Trump likely to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan and maintain a military presence in Iraq indefinitely, "some airmen will spend most of their careers immersed in the war zone, watching an ever-expanding flood of live video."
"Our airmen never get to unplug," Lt. Col. Alison Kamataris, the deputy commander of the 497th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group, told the newspaper.
On the day of the Post interview, Courtney was the first link in a chain that runs from her base in Virginia to the air operations center in Qatar to the drone pilots scattered across the United States, the newspaper reported.
"The targets are chosen by commanders who rely on voice intercepts, satellites, human intelligence, high-altitude surveillance planes, and the analysis of people such as Courtney," the Post reported.
When she types her observations in a chat room monitored by dozens of U.S. military and intelligence officials around the world, even the smallest details can have life-or-death consequences, the Post reported.