SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance Center Presents: Understanding and Responding to the Emerging Behavioral Health Needs of Military Drone Operators

Tue, Apr 25, 2017 2:01 PM EDT

Service members who experience combat remotely face their own behavioral health risks.  As weapon strike operations continue to reshape our approach to national defense, we must ask whether we are able to recognize and support the behavioral health needs of individuals directly tied to such mission accomplishment through the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA, more commonly known as drones).  These operators engage in a unique form of warfare that provides critical support to the U.S. and allied nations around the world.  They face demands and stressors that are similar to those who have deployed to areas of combat.  They also face unique challenges in that they are participating in combat situations remotely and then transitioning back into civilian settings at the end of their workday.  RPA operators and their families are living in our communities and need our care and support.  There are many strategies that community service providers and peers can use to support the behavioral health needs of these service members and their families.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) Technical Assistance (TA) Center will host a webinar that will provide information about the role of operators supporting RPA missions, the stressors they face, and the behavioral health supports that are available for them.  The webinar will also explore ways to connect SMVF with the specialized supports they need in order to strengthen their resiliency.  SAMHSA’s SMVF TA Center works with state and territory interagency teams throughout the country to strengthen their SMVF-serving behavioral health systems.


  • Review the role of operators linked to RPA mission accomplishment, their skills, stressors, and common characteristics
  • Explore and dispel media myths regarding RPA operators’ behavioral health risks
  • Discuss effective and available resources for supporting the behavioral health of RPA operators, including peer resources, family interventions, and embedded care models
  • Examine the current research findings related to the behavioral health risk and protective factors of RPA operators
  • Consider what can be done in the military and in civilian communities to support and to address the behavioral health needs of RPA operators and their families


A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed. | Regional Administrator, Region I, Senior Lead for the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Population Focus, SAMHSA

Angela Wright, J.D. | Assistant Project Director, SAMHSA’s SMVF TA Center, Policy Research Associates, Inc.


Wayne Chappelle, Psy.D., A.B.P.P. | United States Air Force Surgeon General Consultant and Team Leader for Aeromedical Operational Clinical Psychology

Colonel James C. McEachen, | Air National Guard Assistant to the 25th Air Force Command Surgeon, Headquarters 25th Air Force, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas

Target Audience

Policymakers and SMVF service providers from state, territory, and tribal systems, workforce development and training staff, providers, mental health and addiction peers, military family coalitions, and advocates.

Presenter Biographies

Wayne Chappelle, Psy.D., A.B.P.P. | United States Air Force Surgeon General Consultant and Team Leader for Aeromedical Operational Clinical Psychology

Dr. Chappelle is the United States Air Force Surgeon General Consultant in Aeromedical Clinical Psychology conducting field assessments, consultations, teaching, and research among USAF Flying Class I, II, and III manned and remotely piloted aircraft aircrew, special duty, intelligence, and cyber warfare personnel.  He has 20 years of experience developing psychological screening, occupational health, and performance improvement programs.  His experience as a military psychologist includes deployments to Southwest Asia in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and serving as Commander of installation outpatient mental health clinics for the USAF and Army, as an associate consultant to the assessment and selection of USAF aircrew and as a consultant for the Neuropsychiatry Branch, Aeromedical Consultation Service, USAF School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM).  He has over 60 publications in national and international peer-reviewed journals and technical reports and is a speaker at national and international military and civilian forums.  Dr. Chappelle recently transitioned to the Aeromedical Research Department as Team Leader for Aeromedical Operational Clinical Psychology providing oversight of consultations to USAF, Department of Defense, and allied nation line and medical leadership regarding research, policy, and modernization of aeromedical procedures for sustaining health and human performance throughout the lifecycle of military personnel within deployed and non-deployed settings.  He is principal investigator of multi-million dollar Defense Health Program (DHP) funded research in selection, performance, and sustainment of airmen in high risk/high demand duty positions.

A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed. | Regional Administrator, Region I, Senior Lead for the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Population Focus, SAMHSA 

Ms. Power serves as the SAMHSA Regional Administrator for Region I.  In that role, she represents the Administrator at the regional level in fulfilling the agency’s mission of reducing the impact of mental illness and substance abuse in United States communities.  In addition, Ms. Power serves as the SAMHSA Senior Lead for the focus on Service Members, Veterans, and their Families.  In 2012, she was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).  Prior to her appointment as Regional Administrator, Ms. Power served for over 8 years as Director, Center for Mental Health Services at SAMHSA.  Ms. Power is a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  Ms. Power received her Bachelor’s degree in Education from St. Joseph’s College and her Master’s degree in Education from Western Maryland College.

Lillian R. Prince, M.S. | Program Manager, Occupational Health Research, United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Prince Research and Analytic Solutions, L.L.C.

Mrs. Prince is the Program Manager for Occupational Health Research for the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, as well as a Colonel (select) and career intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve.  She has served at the squadron, wing, group, major command, and Joint level, both as an active duty and reserve officer, with unique experience in Signals Intelligence, Information Operations, Counter- and Anti-Terrorism analysis, as well as Intelligence Education and Training.  Mrs. Prince earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Alabama, and her Air Force Commission through the university’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program (AFROTC).  She completed her Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University (Defense Intelligence Agency).  Her graduate research on the “Psychological Impacts of Vicarious Combat Exposure” led to academic collaboration with the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM).  During this time Mrs. Prince functioned as a USAFSAM study co-director and research process manager.  She officially joined the USAFSAM team as a contractor, in the fall of 2011.  Mrs. Prince continues to serve as a reserve officer with Headquarters Air Force Global Strike Command, Barksdale Air Force Base, Los Angeles.

Angela Wright, J.D. | Assistant Project Director, SAMHSA’s SMVF TA Center, Policy Research Associates, Inc.

Ms. Wright is the Assistant Director for SAMHSA’s SMVF TA Center at Policy Research Associates, Inc.  Ms. Wright is a U.S. Air Force veteran as well as a spouse and caregiver of an Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran.  Her areas of interest include military and veterans’ health policy, the psychological effects of combat, suicide prevention, military families, and caregiving.  Ms. Wright provides leadership for SAMHSA’s SMVF TA Center team, overseeing the delivery of technical assistance to states and territories working to improve their behavioral health systems serving SMVF.  For the past 3 years, she has led and managed a diverse set of SMVF projects related to strengthening the interagency collaboration of governor-appointed military and civilian state teams.  She has served as a facilitator and has presented on the topics of military culture and caregiving.

Prior to joining the SMVF TA Center, Ms. Wright attended law school and worked in firms focused on veterans’ disability law and military health advocacy among other areas of law.  Ms. Wright received her J.D. with a concentration in health law from Saint Louis University School of Law.  While in law school, Ms. Wright served as a staff editor on the Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy. 

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