I read about how infantry guys in WWII were envious of the Air Force crews because they flew their missions and went back to bases in England, whereas the infantry experienced total war 24/7.
I’m in the infantry, but on detached service to an agency I can’t mention. We sit in a dark room in a secret location and watch screens all day while sitting in cozy leather chairs. I started on surveillance drones, then moved onto the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, then finally the MQ-9 Reapers.
It’s amazing how all those years playing video games trained me up for it, but there was a learning curve because aircraft are different. I got real good, and meanwhile the technology kept improving. When they offered a chance to draw combat pay without leaving Stateside, I jumped at it. I had gotten married by then, with a kid on the way. I could do this, I said. No different than a video game.
Six months into it, I was hit by sudden awareness that this was real, that those little figures I’d seen as targets were actual people, same as me.
I started having the nightmares. Seeing their faces.
Of course by then it was too late. I was making rank and even received a couple commendations. Before too long, I was a flight leader with five drone pilots under me.
Last year, the Colonel approached me with something new. Colonel said he saw my Silent Hill and Call of Duty scores. He told me I was just the man for the job. He’d make me an officer. And again, I wouldn’t have to leave home.
Cybertroopers. Boots on the ground. Face to face with the enemy, just like a video game.