"They are electronically in the fight in the deployed area every minute," Sperry said. "They make life and death decisions every day, then they go home and have to play mom or dad ... Sometimes things can be depressing for them."
Troops fighting in Afghanistan, for example, only have to focus on the combat jobs they are doing, Duplease said. The airmen, on the other hand, spend 12 hours immersed in the fight, then go home to what are supposed to be normal lives. But they often can't talk about what they did or saw all day because the operations are classified.
There is a slowly emerging recognition within the military that those combined pressures affect the troops who battle the war from afar in some of the same ways that strain forces on the front lines. The most recent public acknowledgement of the issue came recently when the Pentagon created a new medal for remote warfare personnel. But that has caused some resentment among traditional warriors because it is ranked above the Purple Heart or Bronze Star.
The idea to put a chaplain inside the center came from unit commander Col. Mike Shortsleeve and other leaders who noticed that some members of the wing were having problems sleeping and that smoking, alcohol and behavioral issues were increasing. In surveys, airmen also suggested there was a need for having a chaplain in the unit.
According to Duplease and Sperry, moving around the operations center during each day's 12-hour shifts helps get the troops more comfortable with their presence and encourage them to reach out for help. Duplease, who said he also attended mission briefings, said slowly people began to approach him and after about two months, the interactions really began to pick up.
Many of the analysts are as young as 21, and may not yet have developed the ability to deal with the stress. And they worry that revealing their problems could prompt commanders to take away their security clearances or hurt their promotion opportunities.
In response, Duplease and Sperry created sleep classes and counseling sessions, and they have scheduled retreats for married couples and singles to help instill relationship and coping skills. They also are assuring the airmen that to date no one there has lost his or her security clearance as a result of seeking any counseling or assistance.
The success of the Langley program has prompted the Air Force to look at ways to replicate it at other locations around the country.
"We are trying to be proactive rather than reactive," said Duplease. "We want to get ahead of things before become major issues."
Lolita C. Baldor can followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/lbaldor
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.