Air Force drone pilots have always had a rough time of it.
With record demand for their services and long hours of staring at a screen waiting to kill someone 7,000 miles away, it’s no wonder that pilot morale might be a little low. Not to mention, they’re the brunt of every other military occupational specialties’ jokes.
To counter this downward spiral of drone pilot dissatisfaction, the Air Force officially launched the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper Culture and Process Improvement Program (CPIP) at the end of August.
“We’re seeing problems in the MQ-1/9 community at both the major command and base levels that can be solved quickly,” said Col. Troy Jackson, the command and control intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations division chief and CPIP officer in charge in a recent Air Force release. “Airmen in this career field are being exhausted with no end in sight; we want to fix this.”
The program, according to the release, is designed to take a “grass roots” approach to the drone community’s problems and fixing them.
“A lot of assumptions were made over the years, and people don’t realize how stressful and overworked the MQ-1/9 field is,” Jackson said. “We’re asking Airmen to do a lot when they’re either not trained properly or not ready for what’s being asked of them, which leaves the Airmen burned out.”
CPIP now has a Facebook page and will soon go on tour to various airfields to interview pilots and family members.
Yet prior to the first CPIP visit, which started Wednesday at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, the Air Force started the first salvo of its morale improvement effort with a WordPress site dedicated to somewhat horrible memes. And while The Washington Post is no authority on memes, a recent Gizmodo post on the CPIP program called the smattering of CPIP-themed images “grim.”
The announcement on the CPIP page that there would be some “funny stuff” received two likes and no comments.
Some of the memes are posted below:
While memes and acronyms might seem like a silly approach to improving morale, the mental health of drone pilots is no laughing matter. In 2013 the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center released a study stating that drone pilots experience mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress at the same levels as those pilots who fly their aircraft into combat.