A lot of people don't know that many of the pilotless drone missions flown in Iraq and the Af-Pak theatres are actually piloted not from a ground station in the theatre itself, but from an Air Force Base in Nevada. Creech AFB is home of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing which operates many of the Predator and Reaper drones over targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Stars and Stripes has an interesting article about the unforeseen problems this can bring upon families.
Call it combat as shift work, a new paradigm of commuter warfare that is blurring the historical understanding of what it means to go off to battle. And the strain of the daily whiplash transition between bombs and bedtime stories, coupled with the fast-increasing workload to meet relentlessly expanding demand, is leading to fatigue and burnout for the ground-based controllers who drive the drones.The Air Force is working on programs now to help families deal with this odd new kind of combat stress, but this isn't as new as it sounds.
“We have 5,000 years of one type of warfare and only a couple of years of this new kind,” said P.W. Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.” “These guys are simultaneously at home and at war. It may be that human psychology isn’t designed for that. We don’t know yet.”
During the Yugoslavian conflicts of the 1990s, combat air missions were flown over the Balkans from Aviano Air Base in Italy. Many of those missions were flown by pilots who weren't deployed, but were "permanent party" - stationed at Aviano and accompanied by their families on their tour of duty there. I recall reading articles back then about the unique type of stress faced by those pilots.
Technology is a wonderful thing, but it's often a double-edged sword.