This episode of The Spear features a story from US Air Force Major Joe “TBar” Ritter. A remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) pilot, listeners might recognize his name and voice from a previous episode, released in 2020. He returns to share a story that took place both at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, where he and his sensor operator, Dylan, were located and in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where the MQ-9 Reaper they were flying was supporting a unit on the ground. Tasked with an intelligence collection mission as the unit tracked a local Taliban chief, an unusual event on the ground caught the crew’s attention.

What they detected forced the crew to confront a difficult question: How could they convince a unit half a world away of what they saw on the ground when the unit’s staff expects its collection plan to be executed? Ritter’s experience, sense of commander’s intent, and ability to frame a solution to his supported unit all come into play, as do the unique and varied capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper.

Listen to the full story below, and if you aren’t already subscribed to The Spear, be sure to do so on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotifyTuneIn, or your favorite podcast app.

Note: This episode was originally released in 2021.