Years of aiming missiles at people on the other side of the world left Brandon Bryant a broken man.
In an interview with the magazine GQ, Bryant recounts some of the grisly scenes he watched unfold on his monitor as an Air Force drone operator.
In grimly vivid detail, he talks about the first time he killed somebody, in early 2007.
He was sitting in a control station on an Air Force base in Nevada. His three victims were walking on a dirt road in Afghanistan.
After the Hellfire missile fired from the drone struck the three men, Bryant watched the aftermath on his infrared display.
"The smoke clears, and there's pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there's this guy over here, and he's missing his right leg above his knee," he says in the article in the November issue of GQ.
"He's holding it, and he's rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg, and it's hitting the ground, and it's hot. His blood is hot," Bryant says. "But when it hits the ground, it starts to cool off; the pool cools fast. It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on."
Drone program in spotlight
Bryant, 27, has talked about his experiences before -- to the German magazine Der Spiegel and to the U.S. broadcaster NBC. But the publication of his interview with GQ comes amid renewed questions about the human cost and the legality of the U.S. drone program.
U.S. officials say the program is a vital tool in the fight against militant groups such as al Qaeda.
But two international human rights groups raised serious concerns Tuesday about the consequences of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, suggesting some attacks in recent years might amount to war crimes.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports giving detailed accounts of a number of attacks they say the United States carried out in each of the two countries, resulting in the deaths of scores of civilians.
The reports drew from extensive field research -- including interviews with witnesses and relatives of victims -- and called for a series of measures to bring the program in line with international law.
Leaders to meet
The White House on Tuesday disputed the reports' assertions that drone strikes had broken the law.
But the situation was made all the more awkward by the presence in Washington of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who held talks with U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
After the meeting, Sharif said he had raised the issue of drones with Obama, "emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes."
In remarks a day earlier at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, Sharif outlined some of the Pakistani government's objections to the drone program.
"Recently our political parties in a national conference declared the use of drones is not only a continued violation of our territorial integrity but also detrimental to our resolve at efforts in eliminating terrorism from our country," he said.
Bryant's interview gives a different perspective on the drone program.
The GQ article provides a detailed study of his time as a drone operative, his decision in 2011 to quit and the post-traumatic stress disorder that followed.
Bryant says that during his time monitoring drones' cameras and aiming its laser targeting system, he became numb and carried out the job in "zombie mode."
When he left the Air Force in the spring of 2011 -- after nearly six years -- he says he turned down a $109,000 bonus to continue operating the drones.
He was given a document totaling the number of people killed in missions in which he'd participated in some form during close to 6,000 hours of flight time.