05 November 2007

173rd Airborne UAV platoon reaches 1,000 hours safety milestone

U.S. Army Sgt. Ronald F. Williams, (center) a generator mechanic from Chicago, Ill., Army Sgt. Anh M. Huynh, (right) an electronic technician from Philadelphia, Pa., and Spc. Nathan W. Johnson, (rear) a unmanned aerial vehicle operator from Garland, Maine, all with Bravo Company, 173rd Airborne Combat Team UAV platoon, together work on the Shadow UAV following a mission October 17, here at Forward Operating Base Fenty, Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gregory J. Argentieri)

Jalalabad, Afghanistan - “We’ve got battalion commanders sitting in their tactical operations centers, wherever their area of operation is, getting video from our aircraft flying overhead,” said Army Sgt. John C. Fenter, standardization and UAV operator for the platoon out of Bamberg, Germany. “They can see nearly instantaneously what is happening in their area with their eyes.”

The Shadow UAV is a small 375-pound, rapidly deployable, aircraft designed to be the commanders’ “eyes in the sky.” These complex systems include air vehicles with modular mission payloads, ground control stations, launch and recovery equipment, and communication equipment.

“The Shadow UAV is a highly effective system designed for tactical purposes,” said the Texarkana, Texas native. “My unit and our equipment are set up for the purpose to be able to jump with the brigade as it moves forward in a mobile war.” ...

“The maintainers own the bird, and the operators borrow them to conduct their missions,” continued Fenter. “This crew has had zero incidents due to maintenance, and has not put down a bird at all. We know they're not going to give us a bad bird.” ...

“We do two types of missions; we do an intelligence gathering mission or an operational support mission,” said [Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph] Cuevas, UAV operator and platoon sergeant from Pomona, Calif. “A good intelligence case just happened where we were given information from a source that individuals were spotted digging on the side of a road, trying to cover stuff up, including their footprints. It was very suspicious behavior, and was discovered to be an improvised explosive device.

“An operations support mission is when we have troops going ‘outside the wire,’ and the Shadow is airborne,” added Cuevas. “The Shadow UAV is having a huge impact on this war.”

Commanders using the Shadow get the biggest possible intelligence picture and one more tool to preserve lives, added Fenter.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jeremy R. Squires, (front), Army Sgt. Anh M. Huynh, from Philadelphia, Pa., (center) and Army Sgt. Ronald F. Williams, (right) from Chicago, Ill., all with Bravo Company 173rd Airborne Combat Team, Special Troops Battalion, work to get the Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle off the runway October 17 at Forward Operating Base Fenty, Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan. The 173rd UAV platoon was just awarded for excellence after reaching 1000 hour safety milestone. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gregory J. Argentieri)

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