As the U.S. launches more airstrikes in Iraq, some question the strategy and safety of the operations.
NBC 7 spoke to a recently retired F-18 fighter pilot who was stationed at MCAS Miramar. For years, retired Marine Capt. Leo Melendez flew the same type of aircraft being used in the strikes.
He’s been deployed as a pilot to Southeast Asia numerous times and was also deployed to Iraq as a military advisor serving on the ground.
Melendez said there are fewer risks for American troops in airstrikes compared to ground operations.
“It’s still exposing some of our troops out there, but it's a minimal exposure. We have a large impact on enemy forces or whoever the target is,“ he told NBC 7 on Friday.
In these kinds of conflicts, Melendez said, the U.S. typically starts with airstrikes because we are able to do them right away with aircraft carriers strategically placed around the world.
There has been criticism.
The retired Marine captain admitted, in the air, it's more difficult to identify targets and there's always the risk of hitting civilians.
“But, we have professional aviators and planners and services across the board. This is what they do. This is what they do every day, day in and day out,” he said.
Melendez said that training helps minimize the number of civilian casualties, but the risks are always there.