Drone guy smells funny (UPDATE)

| December 17, 2012

Scroll for update

A couple of you have sent this Daily Mail article to us about Brandon Bryant, who claims that he was a drone operator in Nevada. the article starts out smelling funny right from the get-go;

Bryant joined the military by accident when he accompanied a friend who was enlisting in the army and heard that he could go to university for free if he signed up to the Air Force.

Ooops, I slipped and fell and joined the Air Force by accident. Sorta like that? And an Army recruiter told him to join the Air Force? But this is the story that is the main thrust of the article;

The hut had a shed used to hold goats and when he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser.

The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.

‘These moments are like in slow motion,’ he told the website.

As the countdown reached seven seconds, there was no sign of anyone on the ground.

Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point.

But when it was down to three seconds, a child suddenly walked around the corner.

The next thing he saw was a flash on the screen – the explosion. The building collapsed, and the child disappeared.

First off here is the totally misleading headline – none of this happened in that story;

Kill a kid

No one ordered anyone to “shoot a child” according to the story in the article, if the story even happened. I’m wondering why someone would want to spend a $68,000 missile to take out a goat shed. One $20,000/year private could have gone and kicked the shed down for a lot less money. I’ve read about folks calling for fire support and not getting it because it was too close to civilians for the anal retentive types who are apparently lawyers, too, to launch. I find it difficult to believe that this mission happened at all without the pilots having eyes on a target that wasn’t a goat shelter.

Of course, he caught the PTSD from taking out goat sheds, but he’s left the military and he’s much better now. Well, for now, I’m sure. So if anyone out there can shed some light on this guy, we’d appreciate it. Some of our readers are asking for a way to confirm the story, and someone out there must know this guy. But there are 15 Brandon Bryants on AKO, some of them are Air Force, so it must be a fairly popular name.

UPDATE: Well, someone did some investigating for us and found that the guy was who he says he was. Not to verify the story, but some folks know him and said he did that job. But, it seems that he’s still in the reserves and supposed to keep his mouth shut about the job, so he’s got his ass in a sling now because of this article.

The folks who called me said that there’s a few seconds delay between the drone and the pilot in regards to the video feed – which makes complete sense. So, if there was anything true about the story, by the time the drone sent the image of the boy in the goat shed, the missile had already impacted and Bryant wouldn’t have time to abort the missile. Again, no one is saying the story is at all true, but that’s a reason that it couldn’t be true.

Category: Air Force

Comments (46)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. RandomNCO says:


  2. NHSparky says:

    I know the pilots have to be officers, what about the sensor operators?

    And yeah, shipping missles to blow the shit out of a goat shed with the ROE we have now? Not buying it.

  3. Chip@NASA says:

    There is *no way* this is real. Daily Fail.

  4. RandomNCO says:

    “…and decided he had to quit.”

    Yes, because the military is all about letting people quit their job.

  5. fm2176 says:

    You’d be surprised how dense some people are when it comes to joining the military. Most people attracted by our “Now Hiring” sign came into the recruiting office expecting a cushy civilian job. The same was true for so-called “Hot Leads” provided by online job listings. One of my first applicants was a young man enrolled in a Master’s program who finally pulled out of the deal when he realized he’d be wearing a uniform.

    Air Force Portal has seven Brandon Bryants, but none appear to be this guy.

  6. Hack Stone says:

    The same thing happened to me, except in my situation, I walked into the wrong bar in Okinawa, instead of my usual place. Still had a cold Orion, so everything worked out alright. Now, if you would excuse me, I need to snap a photo of me with no shirt on. It drives the girls crazy.

  7. LFR says:

    After a little digging I found his Google+ page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/#116519433186841691971

    And his Facebook profile: http://www.facebook.com/Backavar

    He also has a picture of his unit patches stuck to the inside of his car: http://i.imgur.com/Ffepb.jpg

    Not sure if those will help, but this certainly sounds fishy.

  8. Hack Stone says:

    To be fair, there have been documented cases of people who have joined the military by “accident”. I recall an episode of The Flintstones where Fred and Barney were in a line for what they thought were insurance company physicals, but it turned out to be military enlistment physicals. So they ended up in the Army, but transferred over to the space program to get an easier assignment (sound familiar). Anyway, the General loaded them into a rocket ship that resembled a hollowed out log, and shot them into space, but they only ended up crashing into the impact zone for the artillery. Well, luckily, Wilma and Betty were able to work it out so that they got their discharges. Shortly afterwards, Fred and Barney filed claims for service connected disabilities, and they have been collecting ever since. So yeah, this guy’s story seems entirely plausible.

  9. 68W58 says:

    Same thing happened to me-I accidentally walked into a MEPS (thought it was the mall). Then I accidentally took the ASVAB-which I accidentally scored well enough on to qualify for a variety of jobs. I was going to leave but, totally by accident, I ended up going through the medical evaluation where I mistakenly answered a bunch of questions and gave a blood and urine sample-all by accident. Finally I slipped on some ice on my way out the door and accidentally signed a contract that just happened to be sitting on a desk (actually if you saw my signature you would swear that it was an accident) after which I stumbled into the room where some officer was administering the oath of enlistment and I had a spasm which made my right hand raise itself while, at the same time totally coincidentally I muttered the oath.

    Happens all the time.

  10. T-J says:

    Does no one remember the episode of Family Guy where Stewie tricks Bryan into joining the army? Come on people!! It obviously happens. I mean look at all the hi-jinx they had to go through to finally get out! People, this is a problem of epidemic proportions.

  11. FatCircles0311 says:

    Wow. You’d think with all that moto he has on his car’s roof he’d be pissin’ hellfire in his sleep. What a POG.

    He took his facebook down!

  12. Ex-PH2 says:

    How does one catch the PTSD? Is it a virus? Do you get it through having sex? It sounds like a variety of STD, so I’m a little puzzled by it.

    Maybe if I dig around a little bit.

  13. Green Thumb says:

    This guy does not smelly funny; he smells like shit.

  14. Green Thumb says:


    I have had PTSD after great sex.

  15. RandomNCO says:

    Wow, from the looks of that G+ and FB…the guy is a total douche-nozzle.

  16. Arby says:

    He is clearly an enlisted sensor operator. As such, he would never, ever be flying the drone. In the Army, yes enlisted troops do fly the drone, but not in the Air Force. So that claim should be viewed as suspicious. Also, he would not be the one to be pushing the button for any weapons release. 6000 hours in 6 years? I doubt it.

  17. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    everybody’s funny, now you funny too….

  18. Ex-PH2 says:

    @14, please post a spew alert. Thank you.

  19. David says:

    Wiki says a Hellfire’s speed is 950 mph…. 17 seconds would means a launch from a drone orbiting almost 200 miles away. Pretty spectacular for a missile with a range under 10 miles.
    I mean, I know it’s wikipedia and all… but seriously?

  20. Tman says:

    These poseurs are too funny.

    But you gotta give him credit for at least not doing the usual, “I was a Special Forces/DEVGRU/Delta operator” war stories set in the ‘Stan.

    Even REMF’s need their moments of agony, stress, and glory.

  21. Hondo says:

    David: this document from DTIC says the Hellfire has a max time of flight of 35 seconds, albeit when employed in a different configuration (p. 37). So the 17-second figure might be accurate.


    However, like Arby I also have my doubts about the “6000 flight hours in 6 years” claim. The linked article says he was off status for 6 mo for health reasons; I’m guessing about 6 mo training (USAF tech schools tend to be fairly long), with not too much flying during training – say 100 hours. So that leaves 5,900 hrs flying to be completed in about 5 years, not 6.

    For simplicity, I’m assuming 5 years. Now subtract weekends or in-lieu-of days of (he was in the USAF in CONUS, remember), holidays, and 30 days leave/year. That leaves ( 5 x 221 ) + 1 (leap year) = 1106 possible duty days in 5 years.

    5,900/1106 = 5.335 hours flying each and every possible duty day for 5 straight years. That’s possible, perhaps – but I’d personally have to see some proof before I’d buy it.

  22. LFR says:


    I think you might be a little off with your math. I’m going to use the metric system since it’s a little easier but they are correct going off the same wiki article. Max range on a Hellfire is 8km(5mi), top speed is 425m/s (950mph). So, 8000m / 425m/s = ~18 seconds of flight time so it’s not out of the question, either way this whole article still stinks.

  23. SGT E says:

    (950 mi/hr) / (60 min/hr) / (60 sec/min) = .26 miles/second * 17 seconds = 4.5ish miles traveled…so the math actually does work!

  24. NHSparky says:

    Yeah, the math might work, but virtually nothing else does. Okay, who’s got FOIA duty this week?

  25. Hondo says:

    NHSparky: not enough info for a good chance of a “hit”. Presuming the service is correct, you generally need at least firstname.mi.lastname and SSN or firstname.mi.lastname and DOB for a reasonable chance of success.

  26. melle1228 says:

    Said he was in Iraq in 2007 and stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in 2009. Does that narrow down the options?

  27. Green Thumb says:

    He probably does have over 6,000 man hours over six years.

    Just not how you think…

  28. MCPO NYC USN (Ret.) says:

    There are legit enlistment accidents. Mine was.

    I walked into the US Navy recruiting office in Hackensack, NJ and said, “I would like to enlist as a Boiler Technician”.

    The tow Chiefs in the office laughed at me and the more crusty and rachetty old Chief said, “we don’t have a program for that son”.

    The younger one said, “get your freckled face dumb ass out of my office … go join the Army.”

    But I did not back down … you see back then you enlisted in the Engineering Group MM, BT, or EN and depending on how dumb or smart you were … you would recieve orders to your Class “A” School as you graduated boot.

    The Scale:

    Machinist Mate (MM) – Not So Dumb
    Engineman (EN) – Fairly Dump
    Boiler Technician (BT) – Profoundly Dumb

    These idiots had know idea how bad I wanted to steam boilers and did not know I was raised in a family business that specialized in boilers … big boilers …

    So I played the dumb ass through boot and guess what … I got selected for BT “A” School by accident.

  29. NoNameToday says:

    Okay, I just got off the phone with Jonn, so if anyone wants to question me, you can verify with him. I’m a regular poster on here, but I would rather be a bit more discreet today.
    You can hold off the FOIA request. Bryant was assigned to a Predator squadron as a sensor operator. He’s not a total poser. Unfortunately, you will have a tough time getting anyone to either verify or dispute his version of what happened during his service. I know a lot guys who worked with him. They are aware of his article, but that is all they will say. They simply don’t talk about their ops. Unlike Mr. Bryant, they choose to follow the mandates of their security clearances. And even though he is a civilian now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Bryant gets a visit from some OSI agents for not following those guidelines that he’s still bound to even after his service ended.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Just a reminder that an apprentice drone controller could wipe out a typical Elmer Fudd militia camp with a single Hellfire.

    Whilst munching Doritos.

    None of your extended magazines will matter.

  31. Derpy says:

    A lot of the more suspect stuff in the article I believe come from the Daily Mail reporter editorializing the crap out of the original Der Spiegel piece, which is much longer and far better written. Seriously, the story the Mail writer cribbed from is three pages long and interviews a bunch of people – she just cherry picked a few quotes and added her own spin (it is the Daily Mail after all).

    Here’s the original for comparison:


  32. KW Pilot says:

    As always the ones who talk about it the most. Are the ones full if shit. 16 seconds time if flight is about 5.2 kilometers away. Just saying.

  33. WigWam says:

    @30 That’s because Elmer Fudd doesn’t have AA/SAM or GPS Jammers. Remember that Predators have been shot down over Serbia and Iraq. A heavily modded cessna could launch a few Hellfires even the AH-6 can launch two hellfires. There’s nothing impressive about these drones and they won’t ever replaced fully manned technology

  34. ChopIT says:

    ? Nothing can stop the Chair Force…?

  35. rkeen78 says:

    I’ve been out of the loop for awhile, but does the military use Hellfire’s on their drones now? Used to be that the military simply did surveillance and only the CIA equipped theirs with weapons with weapons.

  36. Art says:

    I can understand how one would feel guilt at having killed a child in a collateral situation. But that is the big difference between us and them. We do not purposely target children, and WE feel guilt when they are harmed.

    That said, there will always be situations like this, that is why war is hell.

  37. tom scott says:

    I really like the photo in his facebook. Is that kaffiyeh (sp) a sign of Palestinian endorsement?

  38. DaveO says:

    So the Navy has an MOS for making water boil. Martha Stewart will be so proud!

  39. Mike H. says:

    @38 Yeah, sometimes it gets up to 800 degrees F. Almost hot enough for coffee.

  40. Dylan says:

    I love the careful skepticism in this post. “Hmmm yes, the U.S. Military would never kill a kid!”. You were this discerning about WMD in the run-up to the Iraq war, of course. Right?

  41. NHSparky says:

    DaveO–several, in fact. The only difference is what we use to boil said water.

    And Dylan? GDIAF.

  42. Brandon Bryant says:

    It is funny how people say I’m full of shit but I’ve never EVER been confronted to my face about stuff. I’m here to answer the tough questions and possibly clarify things for you all.

    Also, stay away from the dailymail

  43. TheCloser says:

    The other guy in Montana didn’t confront you? I am amazed.

    I say you’re full of shit. Come to Colorado and I’ll say it to your face.

    What was the dwell time for the drone when this occurred?:

    “As the man died his body grew cold, said Bryant, and his thermal image changed until he became the same color as the ground.”

  44. NHSparky says:

    Said it before, say it again–funny how the guys who worked with you say you’re full of it, Bryant, but you claim everyone else is lying.

  45. FC2 Dewclaw says:

    @44 What was the dwell time for the drone when this occurred?:

    “As the man died his body grew cold, said Bryant, and his thermal image changed until he became the same color as the ground.”

    Yeah… I call bullshit on that one as well.

    I did almost three years in Iraq and Afghanistan as civ contractor teaching/installing RAID surveillance force protection systems. 2 years as the in-country Lead. I would be considered an SME on all parts of the RAID program. It uses the same FLIR camera that’s mounted on the Apache and the drone systems. I can tell you from first hand experience that when Mr. Haj and his shitstain buddies would lay IEDs, you could see the heat differential in the GROUND disturbance (where they dug the hole) for more than an hour. We did just that on an IED planted outside FOB Kalsu, and it allowed us to track the bad actors to a farm house nearby (which was soon visited by the QRT and SOI). So, Bryant… I can say with a great deal of certainty that if you watched a body cool to background temp on a FLIR, you were sitting there watching that screen for a long stinking time. Like, the drone would probably would have had to RTB due to bingo fuel state-long stinking time. In other words, you are so full of shit it’s not even funny. Your just another fucking loser hoping that some idiot left-leaning betty lets you in her pants because your a conflicted, reformed “warrior.” Please go play in traffic at your first opportunity, you scum sucking twatwaffle. You make me sick.