LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- In the secretive U.S. war of armed drones, the kill chain runs through a highly classified, windowless brick building here.
In the darkened spaces inside, hundreds of young Air Force intelligence analysts work 12-hour shifts, carrying out a controversial strategy of long-distance remote attacks which are reported to have killed thousands of militants -- but are also believed to have killed or injured thousands of innocents.
President Obama's increasing reliance on armed drones to kill terrorist suspects has sparked an international outcry and a fierce domestic debate about the government's assertion of its right to kill in secret.
Virtually unnoticed are those who are riveted to computer monitors here for hours at a time, the fast-paced pressure they endure, the demand for perfection and the constant risk of error in this new form of warfare: digitally-enabled high-altitude strikes managed from thousands of miles away.
Theirs are the unseen faces of Obama's drone war, a generation of Americans who are every bit engaged in combat even if they are not ducking incoming rounds and their fatigues are not soaked in the sweat and dust and blood of Afghanistan.
The human stress, senior commanders here acknowledge, is "extremely high." (read more)