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Meet the airmen who conduct overseas terrorist target strikes from a room in Nashville

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Posted at 8:14 PM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 21:21:52-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — They are pilots who gather intelligence, conduct surveillance and even strike overseas terrorist targets, but they do it all from a chair in a room right here in Nashville.

The Department of Defense granted NewsChannel 5 access to video taken behind closed doors from the Tennessee Air National Guard base in Nashville, as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., discuss extending unmanned aircraft pilots a benefit usually reserved for combat troops on the ground.

The 118th Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard has dozens of airmen who show up to work in Nashville and pilot unmanned aircraft overseas, all from a room at the Nashville base.

Currently, military service members don't get taxed on the money they make while they're fighting in a combat zone, but pilots like those in Nashville who fly combat missions in unmanned aircraft overseas don't get that benefit.

A bill introduced by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, would change that, saying unmanned aircraft operators experience the same stress and see the same events play out as troops on the ground.

While the Tennessee Air National Guard cannot take a political stance on the legislation, Blackburn says her bill will help pay a debt owed to service members like those in the 118th Wing, who she says are in the fight everyday.