Date of Award

6-2016

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation

Department

Doctoral Studies

Committee Chair

Mark A. Friend, Ed.D.

First Committee Member

Haydee M. Cuevas, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Ian R. McAndrew, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Jean L. Otto, DrPH.

Abstract

Remotely piloted aircraft are now commonplace in modern warfare. Enlisted intelligence personnel in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) who support these activities have reported personal accounts of posttraumatic stress and fatigue, possibly due to viewing high-definition, full-motion-video, remote warfare. Rates of mental health diagnoses and counseling are unknown in this population. Incidence rates of 12 specific mental health outcomes were calculated for all enlisted active duty USAF Intelligence Specialists in the 1N1 and 1N0 career fields from 1 January 2006 through 31 December 2010, while considering various demographic and military variables. The incidence rates were compared to RPA sensor operators and aircraft armament technicians that have similar initial and subsequent psychiatric medical standards and occupational scheduling demands as enlisted active duty USAF intelligence specialists, but differ in the viewing of high-definition, full-motion-video, remote warfare. Unadjusted incidence rates of posttraumatic stress disorder among RPA intelligence specialists (n=7,988), RPA sensor operators (n=196), and aircraft armament technicians (n=11,340) were 3.4 per 1,000 person-years, 2.0 per 1,000 person-years, and 1.5 per 1,000 person-years, respectively. Incidence rate ratios, adjusted for age, gender, time in service, and number of deployments, for posttraumatic stress disorder were: 1) 1.34, 95% confidence interval =0.19-9.64, for RPA intelligence specialists compared to RPA sensor operators, 2) 1.83, 95% confidence interval = 1.31-.2.55, for RPA intelligence specialists compared to aircraft armament technicians, and 3) 1.36, 95% confidence interval = 0.19-9.85, for RPA sensor operators compared to aircraft armament technicians. Enlisted RPA intelligence specialists displayed significantly higher incidence rates for substance abuse/dependence, family circumstance problems, and maltreatment related mental health categories, and for all mental health outcomes combined compared to RPA sensor operators after adjusting for differences in the two cohorts. Enlisted RPA intelligence specialists also displayed statistically higher incidence rates for life circumstance problems and posttraumatic stress disorder as compared to aircraft armament technicians after adjusting for differences in the two cohorts. Within the surveillance period, RPA intelligence specialists experienced 1.83 times (p < 0.001) the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder compared to aircraft armament technicians, after adjusting for differences in the two cohorts. The statistical findings indicating increased incidence rates of mental health outcomes within RPA intelligence specialists corroborate the theoretical perspective that modern intelligence personnel within the DCGS may be at a higher psychological risk similar to traditional combat veterans, and will likely experience emotional stress, burnout, and PTSD. Military policymakers and clinicians should recognize that RPA intelligence personnel have increased mental health risk while performed their duties.

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